The World Leisure Congress Field School 2023 “Multiplicities of leisure: seeing through other lenses”, a unique event blending education with cultural immersion, was held in the beautiful city of Dunedin from December 7-11, 2023. The event brought together 15 students from WLCE Vancouver Island University, Texas State University, and Western Sydney University, offering them an extraordinary opportunity to explore and learn. Resonating with the congress’s theme “Learn Well, Live Well,” it aimed to enhance inclusion in leisure. It provided a learning experience to deepen students’ understanding and commitment to the leisure needs of underrepresented groups. They engaged with the local Māori and Pacifica communities, the queer community, and with those working to support the leisure needs of people with disability issues, participating in various community-driven leisure activities. Special thanks go to Prof. Dr. Stu Hayes, from the University of Otago, for putting together such an amazing programme for the visiting students, as well as to the Field School participants for their commitment and for sharing their learning experience with all Congress delegates during the event.
The students had the opportunity of experiencing the Māori culture. They embarked on an enlightening cultural journey visiting a Marae – a traditional communal and sacred place that serves as a focal point in Māori society in New Zealand- where they were welcomed with a traditional powhiri ceremony and taken on a Pa Tour. This experience provided them with a deep understanding of Maori customs and heritage, fostering a greater appreciation for New Zealand’s indigenous culture.
In a collaboration with local street artists, the students participated in a Hui (gathering in Māori culture) and a street art tour. This activity not only showcased Dunedin’s vibrant street art scene but also allowed the students to engage with the local artistic community. The interaction with the artists offered insights into the role of urban art in expressing community values and identity, with special focus on the role of feminism and women artists.
On the next day, the Fire and Ice Waka Ama Club introduced the students to Waka Ama, a traditional form of outrigger canoeing. This experience connected them with New Zealand’s maritime heritage and provided a hands-on approach to understanding the significance of water-based leisure activities in local cultures.
An essential part of the Field School was volunteering with OPERA (Otago Peninsula Eco Restoration Alliance). This activity highlighted the importance of leisure in fostering social responsibility and environmental consciousness. The students actively contributed to ecological conservation efforts, gaining practical experience in sustainability. In addition, this gave the opportunity to students to visit the natural reserve and see penguins and seals in their natural setting.
Another of the main lines of work for this Field School was Accessibility in Leisure. The Living Well Centre hosted a session on “(In)accessible leisure”, emphasizing the need for inclusive recreational opportunities. This session shed light on the challenges and solutions in making leisure activities accessible to all, regardless of physical or other limitations.
Following this activity, the students continued working on promoting diversity and inclusion on leisure and recreation activities. Pride Pledge conducted Rainbow Awareness training for the students, an initiative aimed at creating a more inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community. This training was vital in educating and sensitizing the students to the diverse spectrum of sexual and gender identities.
A significant highlight was the Street Art Workshop, led by local artists. The students not only learned about street art works though the Otago University campus but also collaborated on a co-created mural. This mural, inspired by ideas from the field school students and painted in the Otago Business School, stands as a legacy to the fusion of academic learning and creative expression.
The World Leisure Congress Field School in Dunedin was more than an educational trip; it was a comprehensive journey into New Zealand’s cultural, artistic, and environmental landscapes. It offered the students a unique blend of learning, leisure, and community engagement, leaving a lasting impact on their academic and personal growth.