Why did you choose this program? Part of it was a sense of adventure, part of it was the convenience of an English speaking country, but most of it was to explore and challenge myself in a place that I've always felt a calling to. It only takes a brief look to see that New Zealand is a beautiful place with friendly people and filled with culture and nature. It was exotic while at the same time being a place that I thought I could connect to.
Describe your favorite class(es) abroad. I took one on Service Learning (basically community and volunteer work, the class was created in response to the massive earthquakes and the wonderful student response in an effort to keep up that mindset) and that was a great glimpse into the locals and life in the surrounding areas. We took trips and worked with our hands and met wonderful people. It wasn't glamorous, but that's reality and that was more insightful than I expected. I also took a Land Journeys and Ethics class which let me take trips and make close friendships and see the country in all its beauty. Absolutely glorious. I got to run down slate slopes, sleep under stars and make fires and orient myself with only a compass.
What was the housing like on your study abroad program? I lived in student apartments. Who we lived with was apparently random. A couple of us roomed with local Kiwis, others with Americans etc... I roomed with a guy from Chicago, Singapore and Russia, so quite the variety but it was totally fine too. We were all within one complex so it was easy to visit each other and go to campus, because it was only a five minute walk. Nothing fancy, but it had everything you needed and was a great social environment.
What advice would you like to give to future study abroad students? Well do it. Obviously. Second is be yourself and don't be afraid to do things or spend money (that's what it's for, right?) because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Also just pay attention. Keep your eyes open and you can learn limitless things from how people eat, race relations, media, sports, social structures, art, language etc... that will give you a broader perspective on the world and yourself. That sort of thing is invaluable and makes you into that "worldly" person. Just soak up everything and make sure to befriend locals. It'll be easy to talk to Americans but there's so much to be gained from mixing with the surrounding culture.
What’s your best memory from your time abroad? Climbing a mountain and seeing sights that just blew me away. I love the outdoors. I live in Indiana, though, so New Zealand was just another world - Oceans, mountains, pines and palm trees together, new birds and fish and colors like you'd never imagine. Myself and two friends from the program did a Great Walk in Abel Tasman, an adventure that took us 4 days and around 35 miles. It was just an adventure, surrounded constantly by beauty, other friendly hikers and great times. I'll never forget those things.
What was your biggest surprise about the location, culture or other aspects of your program? The little things. Being in a western, 1st world country I can easily make a lot of connections to home. And because of that, I think, I could see the little nuances in the differences. Things like how friendly people are, or views on the environment, how food is different, politics, driving on the wrong side of the road etc... It's all eye opening in ways I didn't expect. It puts so much of my home world into perspective. It will be the million little things that you can never expect or accurately describe to others that are surprising and fulfilling.
What do you know now that you didn’t know before you went abroad? Too many things to fit on here? Most importantly, how fun it is and how do-able it is. You can travel and survive. You can do that and love every single minute of it. I want to go back, I want to see new places, I know I've got this itch now and it's awesome.
What do you wish someone had told you before you left? Our adviser Eunice was so on point. She told us everything we needed to know and more. Had she not been there, might have been a little lost and had more for this question, but she was just beyond helpful and so accessible that I never had to worry. I'm glad I was told to bring good hiking pants and boots. Maybe the biggest thing would be to leave room for gifts to bring home!
Discuss: “Going abroad vs. staying on campus.” Going abroad = Travel + campus living. These are college kids you're going to be with and around PLUS in a crazy cool new place. Your friends will be there and there are things like Skype. But it's like being on a campus but every single thing is shiny and new and exciting. Nothing is boring and for better or worse you'll have to come back eventually! So it doesn't hurt to try and it seems like it's a good bet to say you'll love it!