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UWC-USA graduate travels while taking college courses

Rhiannon Griffiths’ freshman year took her far beyond books and lectures.

As a remote learner, Rhiannon ‘20 spent four months traveling 10,000 miles around her native New Zealand while attending Lewis & Clark College as a full-time student. Her travels took her to Hobbiton, where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies were filmed; Stewart Island, which offers one of the darkest locations in the world to view the night sky; and to the oldest tree in New Zealand – a 1,250- to 2,500-year-old giant kauri in the Waipoua Forest.

“It was nice to get to see my own home and connect to New Zealand,” she said.

Rhiannon received a full scholarship to study at the private liberal arts university in Portland, Ore. COVID forced all classes to go online.

The 20-year-old environmental studies major spent the first semester studying from the family home in Nelson and working two jobs. Due to the time differences, she took classes from 3 to 10 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and worked from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at a go kart track. Rhiannon also worked a fish and chips shop.

She saved enough money to buy a 24-year-old Toyota Hiace minivan equipped with a bed, kitchen, toilet, and desk. Rhiannon and her cousin installed a solar panel to charge her laptop and phone and she used a mobile hotspot for WiFi.

She spent two months on the South Island and two on the North Island.

Rhiannon would drive two hours a day and go sightseeing. New Zealand offers small parks with free camping for self-contained vehicles like her van, which she nicknamed Daisy. Rhiannon tried to remain in rural areas, around beaches and find lesser-known spots for hikes. She also visited with family and friends.

Rhiannon will attend in-person classes at Lewis & Clark this fall, and depending on the COVID situation, will spend the spring semester studying in Cameroon in central Africa.






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