Although it may lack the hustle-and-bustle of big cities, Palmerston North, locally known as ‘Palmy’, is a rural area centrally located on the North Island. The school that I attend here in Palmy, Massey University, is home to the only Veterinary School in all of New Zealand, which attracts students from all over New Zealand and the world! Due to the fact that Massey is a vet school, the university owns its own dairy, sheep, beef, and deer farms and research facilities. For part of our orientation session to the university, Massey allowed the students to visit a few of the dairy and sheep farms, as well as a windmill farm! While traveling around the spacious farmland area and visiting the different farms, I began to feel a sense of alleviation as my nerves about being on the other side of the world gradually decreased.
I grew up as a ‘small-town country boy’ from a rural town back in the United Stated, surrounded by a ton of farmland and scattered neighbors. As a kid I had always heard country music playing and would always wander around the farm observing the cattle, and other animals on my family’s farm. To me, the site of open fields, gorgeous summer breezes, and farm animals will always remind me of home; they will always take me back to the stress-free, not-paranoid-about-the-future, childhood days. Having my surroundings in Palmerston constantly remind me of those days immediately created a homey-feeling.
Although it does feel like home, Palmerston North, and New Zealand in general, is definitely different than the United States; mostly due to the cultural influences of the Maori (natives of New Zeland), and their legends. One of the most inspiring truths behind Palmerston North is the meaning behind the region it lies in, Manawatu. ‘Manawatu’ is a Maori word derived from two individual words, Manawa, referring to heart, and tu, which describes something that comes to a halt. During part of our orientation session here in Palmy, we heard a tale of ancestral stories that described how when the ancestors came upon the Manawatu River, their hearts stood still at its beauty. I don’t doubt the ancestral tale; Palmerston North and the Manawatu Region are incredibly gorgeous and I’m glad that I have this incredible place to call my home away from home.