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Undergraduate Spotlight


Undergraduate Spotlight: Derek Allmond

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Undergraduate Spotlight: Derek Allmond

Derek Allmond, a senior in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, spent a semester studying abroad at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. While there, Allmond primarily studied Māori language, which he says gave him a greater appreciation for indigenous and less spoken languages. As European settlement and colonization spread through New Zealand in the 19th century, the Māori people were forced to assimilate, causing the use of their language to slowly decline. In recent years, there has been an effort to revitalize and preserve the Māori language across New Zealand.

What track are you studying in CEE?

I was in the system track, but recently switched to the new Course 1-12 Climate System Science and Engineering major. The majority of my research and interest at MIT are more geared towards climate and sustainability as opposed to transportation and infrastructure.

Where did you grow up?

South Carolina.

Why did you want to study abroad?

I applied direct enroll through MISTI. University of Auckland was on their list of already pre-approved direct enroll programs, and I always wanted to travel to New Zealand, other than being a big Lord of the Rings fan, I’m very interested in the culture and way of life. More recently I started getting into learning more about the Māori culture.

What insights about language have you gained from your experience in New Zealand?

Learning Māori this past semester gave me a greater appreciation for Indigenous and less spoken languages. It also emphasized how important language preservation is, especially since language is a key aspect of culture and cultural identity.

What general insights have you gained from your experience in New Zealand?

Living in New Zealand reminded me of how diverse the world is both linguistically and culturally. I enjoyed interacting with individuals from places and cultures I have never been to, met anyone from, or heard much about in my East Coast bubble.

After learning about the efforts in New Zealand to preserve indigenous culture, are there any steps the United States can take in preserving our own Native people’s language and culture?

I learned more about Hawaiian culture and language while in New Zealand than I have in the U.S., so I took two main things away from this: 1) from my experience and in my opinion, the U.S. needs to do a better job at offering courses about Indigenous North American (and Hawaiian) culture and language and 2) from my experience and in my opinion, the U.S. needs to do a better job with teaching individuals in K-12 about unique qualities and cultures of each state to some degree to gain a better understanding of who we are as Americans both on a large and small scale.