On Wednesday 8 March the McGuinness Institute hosted a group of American students from the SEA Semester programme. The SEA Semester programme is a Boston University accredited study abroad system that invites undergraduate students to take part in a variety of ocean-oriented research projects. The students embark on a voyage of scientific and cultural discovery sailing around the coasts of New Zealand and have been moored in Wellington after spending 12 days at sea travelling from the Bay of Islands. They will also visit Dunedin and Lyttleton. Aboard the ship, the students engage with two programmes. The first is a scientific exploration of oceans and the impact humans have on the environment and the second is a cultural exploration of New Zealand, with topics ranging from nuclear power to comparisons between Māori and Pākehā mapping.

The students visited the McGuinness Institute to discuss the integral manner in which the ocean is embedded in New Zealand culture. They also asked questions about the operations of the Institute’s workshops and projects. The students sparked thought-provoking discussion with their questions around policy development and about how issues differ across geopolitical areas and socioeconomic groups in New Zealand.

The SEA Semester students share questions and answers at the McGuinness Institute office

Following the discussions, the students were invited to wander around the Institute’s library collection and chat with the staff. The diverse interpretations and knowledge the students had on New Zealand history, policy and culture were very insightful and we were appreciative of the interest these students shared with us in New Zealand’s sustainable future. This is the second time students of the SEA Semester programme have visited the Institute. They first visited in March 2016 to participate in our OneOceanNZ workshop (read the blog post about the day here). We always enjoy hearing a range of perspectives on our ocean and culture from around the world and look forward to continuing our relationship with the programme.

The event fits broadly with our ForesightNZ project, with conversations developing out of shared concerns for the unpredictability of the year ahead, and the necessity of incorporating hindsight, insight and foresight into how we manage disruptive and cataclysmic events in the future. We thought the Māori proverb ‘ka mua, ka muri’ (walking backwards into the future) was appropriate for the event, as it balances the importance of knowing our history with the importance of preparing for the future.

To see progress updates from the group about their journey around New Zealand, visit their blog here.