New Zealand Semester, Academics | Earlham College
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New Zealand Semester


The New Zealand semester program is an interdisciplinary off-campus opportunity with an emphasis in environmental studies. The program includes courses in Environmental and Cultural Issues of New Zealand, an internship experience, and a faculty seminar. New Zealand's unique biogeography and cultural dynamics make it an ideal location to examine the complexity and interrelatedness of environmental problems and challenges. With a combination of academic coursework and experiential field study, the program immerses students in the landscapes and communities of New Zealand's North and South Islands.

The program involves academic coursework in natural and cultural history and modern environmental issues as well as experiential learning in the form of service learning, outdoor education excursions such as hiking, canoeing and sea kayaking, and an emphasis on self-reflection and community-building. Just as environmental problem-solving cannot be reduced to one field of inquiry, the New Zealand semester purposefully engages students holistically and encourages the development of multiple ways of knowing and learning. It is open to all majors and all fields of study.

Program Location

The program will begin on the North Island of New Zealand, where the town of Whanganui - located on the coast of the Tasman Sea - will be our home base. We will engage and immerse ourselves in the natural, geographical and cultural history of New Zealand. Expeditions to key parts of the South and North Islands will be central to the program.

Living Arrangements 

Students will stay in a community setting at the Quaker Settlement in Whanganui for three weeks. Students will then move to live in a local household for seven weeks. Living with a family provides an opportunity to engage with others on a daily basis. There are also several excursions that provide opportunities for immersion in the New Zealand natural landscape and for building community among the group participants.


Click here to apply online for the New Zealand Program.


Program Courses 

The courses will explore the variety of ways environmental issues are variously constructed and contested within both formal curriculum (schooling) and informal curriculum (culture). Students receive 18 semester hours of credit for completing the following courses:

  • Environmental Issues of New Zealand (4 credits): This course will explore the unique geology, biology and ecology of New Zealand, including examination of a variety of terrestrial and coastal-marine ecosystems. A previous course in Biology or Geology is recommended. This course fulfills a Natural Science Division General Education Requirement.
  • Faculty Seminar - Environmental Literature and Film of New Zealand (4 credits): This course will explore environmental literature and film about New Zealand, in relation to a wide range of social, cultural, and environmental issues. It will also explore connections between these forms of environmental imagination and approaches to specific environmental issues and problems, such as climate change. This course will be taught by Scott Hess and fulfills a Humanities Division General Education Requirement.
  • Cultures of New Zealand (4 credits): Drawing from both historical and contemporary frames of reference, this course explores the intersecting themes of culture, identity, and place in the New Zealand Context. This course fulfills a Diversity-International General Education Requirement.
  • Field Study Seminar (3 credits): The field study seminar is designed to give students an immersive and experiential sense of place in New Zealand. Students will be placed with a local agency, organization or school in Whanganui in an effort to integrate theory and practice in the program by engaging with local residents on matters of importance to them.
  • Environmental Perspectives of the South Island (3 credits): This course involves a three-week study and travel immersion on the South Island. Using a case study and comparative approach, students will be introduced to several key environmental issues and topics including marine ecology in Kaikoura, mining and hydropower on the West Coast and disaster recovery in Christchurch. This course fulfills a Social Science Division General Education Requirement.
  • AWPE (2 activities): Several outdoor expeditions are planned including a canoe trip on the Whanganui River, a backpacking excursion on the South Island, and a multi-sport experience in the Marlborough Sounds. This course fulfills a Wellness General Education Requirement.

Pre-Departure Course and Post-Return Course

Students accepted to the New Zealand Program are required to participate in Cross-Cultural Explorations - Pre (1 credit) prior to departure and Cross-Cultural Explorations - Post (1 credit) after they return. Pre-departure sessions are designed to prepare students for the cross-cultural experience and will include readings, activities, films, lectures, and discussions with former participants of the program. A weekend retreat is part of this course. Students and parents will receive a Handbook of important information prior to the program. Following return to campus, students will participate in a 7-week course that will guide them in processing, analyzing and building upon their off-campus experience. Credit for Cross-Cultural Explorations - Pre is dependent upon successful completion of the semester program.

Academic Programs



The cost of the program is equivalent to one semester of on-campus tuition, fees, room and board. The program covers academic and educational costs, room and board, cultural events, and required group excursions while students are on the academic portion of the program. Students on financial aid may apply their aid to one Earlham or Earlham-approved off-campus program during their college career.

Additional Costs

Students will need to plan for additional money to cover other program costs such as roundtrip airfare, passport and visa fees, personal equipment/clothing (group gear is provided), personal expenses, and costs incurred during independent travel periods.


Students are responsible for arranging their own flights to and from New Zealand.


Undergraduate students in good standing with the College may apply. This program is geared toward students with an interest in environmental studies and environmental sciences. Students on academic probation or disciplinary probation are not eligible to participate. Majors from all disciplines are welcome. Selection will be conducted by a student and faculty committee. There are no pre-requisites but Bio III, Eco-Bio, or a similar introductory environmental course is strongly suggested.



Students and faculty share stories and photos about the New Zealand experience.

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