This summer, a group of Friends School athletes got the chance of a lifetime. The group, led by Head of School Christian Donovan and Athletic Director Kara Carlin, embarked on an unforgettable journey to New Zealand to see the Women’s World Cup. The mission of the trip: to broaden their horizons beyond the field by immersing themselves in sports, culture, art, and history in a country known for its stunning landscapes and rich heritage.
The highlight of their trip was undoubtedly the Women's World Cup games. The group’s first stop was the New Zealand vs. Norway opening match, where they felt the pulse of international soccer in Eden Park Stadium, New Zealand's largest sports stadium with a capacity of 50,000. Next up, the students got to see history being made when New Zealand won their first-ever World Cup Match - on home soil with 47,000 fans. The excitement didn't end there; they got to witness a clash between giants as they cheered on the U.S.A. vs. Vietnam. Last, but certainly not least, the group got to see the Switzerland vs. Norway matchup in the slightly smaller Waikato Stadium.
This trip, however, was not just about sports. The students had the chance to connect with New Zealand's natural beauty and observe the country’s commitment to ecological preservation. They rolled up their sleeves and joined the Whua River Ecological Restoration Program, planting trees, spreading mulch, and pulling weeds. They also ventured to Sanctuary Mountain, a haven for many of New Zealand's most endangered species. Here, they witnessed the dedication of conservationists and the resilience of wildlife, learning valuable lessons about the importance of protecting our environment.
Their adventure continued as they explored the Wai-o-tapo Geothermal Park, with bubbling mud pools and colorful hot springs. The Mt. Ngongotaha Skyline Gondola offered breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, and the students enjoyed the opportunity to take in the beauty of New Zealand from above.
The city of Hamilton in the Waikato region was another stop on their journey, where they spent time sightseeing and soaked up the local culture. They marveled at the blend of tradition and modernity that the vibrant city had to offer.
For the fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings, no trip to New Zealand would be complete without a visit to Hobbiton. This enchanting village, made famous by Peter Jackson's cinematic adaptations, transported them into the magical world of hobbits and wizards.
As the 10-day trip drew to a close, the students returned home with more than just memories. They carried with them a broader perspective on the world, a deeper appreciation for sports and nature, confidence, and newfound friendships. Their journey to New Zealand had truly transformed them, leaving an indelible mark on their hearts and minds. Athletic Director Kara Carlin said, “We witnessed some of the world's most talented athletes competing on the soccer field, and we had the privilege to explore the natural beauty and culture of New Zealand. I know the student-travelers all left the trip with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for the world we live in.”