Bring up the idea of study abroad in the States and most students imagine making their way through numerous countries of Europe and traveling to a different destination every weekend. So, when I tell people I will be studying abroad this Spring and they follow up with the inevitable question asking where I am going, my answer of New Zealand often brings initial confusion. They always ask why I chose that country, since it’s not a common choice. I even had one person ask me where it was on a map. I take pride in choosing a country that may be a bit nontraditional for study abroad, because it’s the perfect fit for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Europe. I went once as a kid with my family and it is a continent rich with beauty and history. However, whenever I take trips, I’d much rather experience than see. By that, I mean that I’d choose the zip-line tour over the museum or the local coffee shop over the tourist hot spot. When I’m abroad, I want to truly immerse myself in the local culture by living my days as a local. Europe seems to have a culture you see through museums and monuments. New Zealand feels like a culture you experience.
Being able to attend a school of locals at the University of Canterbury in a country where I speak the native language, I don’t imagine I’ll feel like an outsider for too long. While I will definitely travel and see all that New Zealand has to offer, I will study the culture by taking a class on Maori tribes and watching rugby games, experiences that I personally connect a lot deeper with than sightseeing. And, as I explore the country, I’ll try any outdoor recreational experience I can, from surfing to scuba diving to skydiving. They’ll be moments only capable of being captured by my heart, instead of a camera.
Since I will be a directly admitted student to the University of Canterbury, I expect to still live a very “college” life. I hope to make friends in my campus apartment and in my classes. I hope to get involved with clubs that interest me. I hope to continue my major studies of Statistics. I’ll take my weekends to explore the country, but also to attend sports games of the university or go out to eat with locals. With five months abroad, I’ll have the time to experience everything I want, so I won’t let a second go to waste.