Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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A Returner’s Thoughts

When I first got on a plane to travel to New Zealand from my home in Idaho, natural disasters never crossed my mind. The biggest thing I worried about was if I would get lost in a country of 4 million people and 40 million sheep (I have absolutely no sense of direction). I’m not sure if natural disasters are happening more frequently due to some scientific conundrum or if I just noticed the rest of the world more when I left the borders of the United States.

When the earthquake in Japan shook the world in March, I was camping 20 meters from the ocean in New Zealand. We didn’t know what had happened exactly but we knew that there may be a destructive wave travelling towards us that we couldn’t run from. Looking back, I was not nearly as scared as I probably should have been but hey, I made it just fine and the ocean in New Zealand seemed to hardly notice the earthquake thousands of miles away.

After this experience, I wrote a poem titled “By the Ocean”:

A mighty ocean could swallow you up.

Away from me.

Always drifting by.

A sadness.

Like the old man whistling away demons

Always waiting for affirmation


I will wait for you.

In a beat up folding chair with hands clasped, I will wait for you.

Peering out, and through, I will wait.

Never alone.

For hope, like far off whistling, waits with me.

Through every natural disaster I experienced, whether I felt the tremors of aftershocks in Christchurch or the fear for those loved in Japan, I was surrounded by a whole country of people who wouldn’t give up hope. I learned many things in New Zealand, but I think the most important was to trust in grace, in people, and that hope always exists.

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