Nico Granito studies abroad in New Zealand.

Life Changing Experience in New Zealand for Penn State Schuylkill Student

Culture, academics, food—Nico broadened his horizons on a whole other continent.
By: Susan C. Andrews

Five months was not long enough to take in the beauty, culture and splendor of New Zealand. Nico Granito, a senior business major at Penn State Schuylkill, knew he would be in for an amazing study abroad adventure, but his expectations were exceeded many times over.

He spent his first days experiencing the “postcard syndrome.” From the north, he saw beautiful mountain ridges that seemed to go on forever. From the south, he saw mountains so stunning that he could not look away.

The gorgeous terrain was not all Granito explored. He completed three courses while in New Zealand at the University of Victoria: Internet Marketing, Innovations and Change, and Italian. Two other Penn State students made the nearly 9,000 mile trek with him.

Granito’s classes enhanced his overall travel experience. “My Innovations and Change class was more like a world culture class. I collaborated as part of a team of seven with students from Portugal, Uganda, Rwanda, France and the Netherlands via conference calls to develop sustainable initiatives in a small city in Rwanda.”

Outside of class, he found the pace of life much more laid back than his life in America. “The lifestyle of New Zealanders is very easygoing. I also found them to be a very friendly, welcoming people. The quality of life is of great importance to them,” Granito said.

The stay in New Zealand has affected his future life plans as well. “I plan to work in hotel management, which will allow me to fulfill my desire to travel more extensively in the future.”

The trip also served to fulfill a dream from his childhood. He is an avid fan of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy of movies filmed in New Zealand. “Growing up, my dad was big on trivia games during dinner. He would pepper myself and my siblings with questions about the ‘Lord of the Rings’ books and movies.”

Emphasizing the phenomenal fresh food in New Zealand, Granito said that the most difficult challenge for him was reducing his portion size at the dinner table. “There is an abundance of seafood, cows, chickens and sheep in the country. In fact, the sheep outnumber the people 40 million to 4 million.”

At Schuylkill, Nico is a member of the cross country team, so staying fit is important to him. While away, he played basketball, soccer, and rugby.

“It was easy to exercise in New Zealand beyond my many hiking trips. Our hike to Roy’s Peak in the South Island overlooking Wanaka’s lakes was breathtaking. I struggled to take in the immensity of the ocean view.”

Granito also shares the value of sustainability with New Zealanders. “In the small town of Wellington, the people are dedicated to exploring ways to uncover more green energy, including geothermal energy from underground.”

Granito misses just about everything from the New Zealand trip. “I even miss the savory pies that you could buy anywhere from gas stations to local markets,” he said. “From lamb and mince pie, to cordon bleu, to mac and cheese—the variety of savory pies was expansive.”

But as is the case with most places, it’s about the people. “It’s not about watching television or playing games in New Zealand. It’s about interactions among families and between friends,” he explained.

Family and family genealogy is also the focus among the Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people in New Zealand. “They are the funniest and most heartwarming people you will ever meet,” he said.

Besides suggesting people disengage more often from their phones, Granito highly recommends visiting New Zealand. “It’s life changing. I cannot possibly describe the transformative effect this trip has had on me.”