Auckland Inspires

Vanderbilt swimmers recap first leg of program’s trip to New Zealand

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — It’s been nearly a week since the Vanderbilt swimming program departed for an international education trip to New Zealand, but the impact on the program’s student-athletes was immediate.

In addition to competing against New Zealand’s national team, the Commodores participated on a safari tour while visiting numerous sites in the largest city in the country, Auckland.

Throughout the trip student-athletes from the program will document the team’s journey.

Journal entry No. 1 — May 25 — Gray Almasi (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Our first day in New Zealand, we flew in over the islands after our long flights and were amazed at seeing just what the country had to offer us on this trip. Going throughout the day we explored the city of Auckland on our own and experienced the feel of a big city in an entirely different country. The city was similar to the cities we know at home, but the people were different. There was a definite cultural difference with the people in New Zealand, such as their mannerisms and how they interacted with us as guests in their country.

Having a global perspective as an international student-athlete makes me appreciate all the opportunities I have been given in my life both before and while at Vanderbilt. With this being my second international trip with Vanderbilt Athletics, I have now been incredibly grateful to have been immersed in two different cultures that I would have never thought to experience on my own.

It is also very important to have a cultural immersive experience to be allowed to experience the way others live around the world. The cultural differences in every corner of the globe you explore carry with you for the rest of your life and can even be adopted into your own everyday life at home.

The cultural experiences that New Zealand has to offer Vanderbilt swimming will be something we carry with us the rest of our lives and spread to others. 

Journal entry No. 2 — May 26 — Trinity Tran (Katy, Texas)
The team activity of the day was the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari Tour. This tour explored the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, which is considered one of the most abundant and diverse marine wildlife parks in the world. To have an immersive and interactive encounter with the marine wildlife in New Zealand with my teammates is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is to be embraced and appreciated.

With the safari lasting four and a half hours, it was a time to be with my team, the environment, and other tourists. With no distractions to take away from being present in the moment, I was able to connect and surround myself with the people and water. On this tour, I was able to interact and grow closer to my teammates because we were all in the same place at the same time experiencing this unique and extraordinary adventure. It was a beautiful and breathtaking moment to watch the marine wildlife up close in a new country with the people that I am surrounded by the most.

I am, and will forever be, grateful for the memories and friends that Vanderbilt swimming has given me because I would not have had any of these precious moments anywhere else.

Journal entry No. 3 — May 27 — Megan Ciezczak (Naperville, Ill.)
On May 27 the Vanderbilt swim team had a meet against members of the New Zealand national team. It was a traditional meet lineup, and we ended the meet with combined relays with two Vandy swimmers and two New Zealand swimmers. We were able to meet other swimmers from across the world which was a unique and amazing opportunity.

After the meet we had a great team brunch and then headed to the Takapuna Beach where we were joined by a Vanderbilt alum and his research colleagues. They showed us around the beach and taught us background on the Māori culture that we were able to experience. We did a Karakia, a prayer to spark spiritual guidance and protection. We learned about the ecological history of the region as well.

After we went to the All Blacks Experience where we were able to get an inside look at the famous international rugby team. This experience taught us a lot about teamwork. Being immersed in their team culture was really powerful for our team for the growth and togetherness it brought us. After this experience we headed to a rugby game between the Blues and Hurricanes, which was such a fun time.

Learning about the culture in New Zealand around rugby was really unique. Everyone is united together through this sport. This day was jam-packed with different types of activities and events, both educational and cultural. This gave me so much knowledge about other cultures while learning more about myself and connecting more with my teammates.