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A Semester In New Zealand…and Bombyx

Written by: Alex Freericks, Rockies Regional Coordinator

In Spring 2015 I decided to register for a semester abroad in New Zealand. I had been debating it for a few years and finally decided to pull the trigger and commit. I chose to go to New Zealand because it is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. And now I am currently studying Natural Resource Management at Lincoln University, located just outside of Christchurch, New Zealand. In addition to attending classes, I am volunteering at Lincoln’s Early Childhood Learning Center working with preschoolers, and traveling as much as I can. This country is breathtakingly beautiful, and continues to amaze me. I have been kayaking, backpacking, hiking, swimming, and much more. I hope do see as much as I can of this country before my time here is through.

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During my time abroad, I have had the privilege to connect and travel with some amazing people from all over the world. Each person has a unique and interesting story to tell.

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One person in particular, Magdalena Rauter, has a story that inspired me. Magdalena, age 24, was born and raised in Austria, where she spent her summers hiking and exploring her backyard and her winters shredding up the mountain on both skis and snowboard. And she started her own company, Bombyx, crocheting hats and headbands for family and friends. She has been successfully running her own business for 3 years now while juggling being a student, athlete, and world traveler.


Alex: Tell me about yourself, where are you from, etc.? Magdalena: My name is Magdalena and I am from Austria. I originally grew up on a mountain with my sister and brother. There was nothing around so I think I could say I grew up in nature. Because of this I have a strong connection to nature and I like spending my time outdoors. I am studying Natural Resources Management and Ecological Engineering in Vienna, and that is what brought me to New Zealand for a semester.

Alex: Why choose New Zealand? Magdalena: I always wanted to visit New Zealand and I picked a program to specifically go to New Zealand. New Zealand is a partner University besides Prague with my university in Vienna. Prague is so close to Vienna you can go there on a weekend, it’s only a 4 hour drive, so I wanted to get into the New Zealand program. I did, and I am finally here, and it’s great.

Alex: What’s been your most rewarding experience here? Magdalena: Every time I get to go somewhere and see something new. Every time I get a chance to get away from the things I have to do and realize there is so much nature around, just seeing the mountains and spending time there, as well as going to the ocean because it is so close. I think its pretty rewarding that you have the freedom and can do whatever you want to do in your free time.

Alex: Tell us about your company. Magdalena: The company started off pretty, I wouldn’t say by accident, but I wanted to try and make hats for myself instead of buying them because I could choose the colors I wanted and could make the exact size because sometimes they just don’t fit or can be really expensive if you buy them. So I started making them close to Christmas and I figured I should just make hats for all my family. They liked it so much that I uploaded some pictures on Facebook and I made up a random page that wasn’t professional. I just put pictures up there and my friends told me they looked really cool and wanted me to make them some so did it. I started making hats for people. In October 2012, on my birthday I registered the company and made it official.


Alex: Why did you name the company Bombyx? Magdalena: It’s a stupid story about a name that sounds similar to my family’s surname. So my friends called me and my sister by that nickname. For whatever reason, I looked up what that word would possibly be like in Latin and ended up naming the company “Bombyx” and cut out the “mori” which in its length is Latin for silk moth, so I chose to use that as a name and the logo fits just perfect.

Alex: Tell us about what inspired you to start your own company. Magdalena: What inspired me was not depending on anyone. I feel hats are pretty fashionable, but also comfortable – especially in Austrian winters, which can be pretty harsh. I like to be self-sustainable or self-reliant. Its not that I am making a huge amount of money doing it, I just like to do it for people and make them happy. Sometimes friends tell me to make whatever I think that would suit them and I would just give it a try and that mostly works out really well. I just like the feeling of doing something good for others while also enjoying doing it for myself.


Alex: How have you juggled being a business owner, athlete, student, and traveler? Magdalena: I think that as long as I keep it down to a certain level and do it for myself that’s fine because those are all things I like to do. The organizational stuff really keeps me on my toes at the end of each year. I struggle with that part of the business a little but as long as I try to keep everything sorted and keep everything written down (what to buy, how much money to spend on this and that, the fees you have to pay and insurance). Its all part of the business and it comes down to organization. Once you get the hang of it you’re fine and get used to it. I think the other things just go hand in hand because you can do sports while traveling, you travel because you want to do sports, and you meet new people as well and that’s pretty cool.

Alex: What outdoor activities do you enjoy doing. Magdalena: In winter, definitely snowboarding and skiing. I started to ski pretty early, I was around 3 or 4 years old I would say. I tried snowboarding at the age of 8 and got back into it when I was 12. I kept snowboarding from age 12 until now. I just bought skis last year and I am really looking forward to going home to ski and snowboard. I try and do both depending on who I go with because it can be hard to be the only snowboarder in a ski group.


I have done snowboarding competitively for a while during school. I did boarder cross, and some small mini big air events. It was not that competitive because there were no girls at the time when I started. I was either the only one or there were like 2 or 3 girls but they would just jump straight over the kicker. It was not so much fun but I’m pretty sure there are more girls now engaging in the sport.

I like ski touring as well, it is a rewarding outdoor sport and it also brings my whole family together. It’s a cool sport to do and it doesn’t cost much money. I sometimes long board but it’s more to get from A to B quicker, especially when I am running late for Uni (haha). I started bouldering while I was here and got back into yoga, which I feel is very important in order to find your balance in life. I played volleyball in school. In the summer I like to go hiking at home or fishing with my granddad. I just really like to go outside and enjoy nature. I grew up on a mountain, so sometimes I just go into the forest and sit there for a while, listen to music or do nothing at all.

Alex: Anything else you would like to share about yourself or the company? Magdalena: Yeah, I hope that it keeps running the way it is. I think doing something good for other people while doing something that I enjoy myself as well is pretty rewarding.

Alex: Thanks for your time! Magdalena: Thank you!


Photo Credit: Raphael Sperl

If you would like to follow Alex’s journey, you can find her on her blog. You can follow Bombyx and keep up with Magdalena on Facebook, here.

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