New Zealand: A Short Reflection On A Month Well Spent

Submitted by Abigail Cooper on the 2020 winter session program in New Zealand sponsored by the Department of  Communication…

Reflecting back on the month I spent studying abroad in New Zealand, I am filled with appreciation and gratitude for the world around me and the way I get to experience it. I have had countless opportunities to do and see amazing things while here and I am so thankful for each and every experience New Zealand has given me. In reflection, I would like to talk about two stand-out moments I had while living abroad that really influenced my overall experience here, those being the time I realized the impact of time zones while in Auckland and the time I made a new friend in Queenstown.

Way back at the beginning of January, my study abroad program had just begun and we were living in a hostel in Auckland, New Zealand. Being the very start of the program, everything was still so exciting and new and I really had not even had a chance to think about my life back at home. Then one night, I had some Indian food for dinner that really did not agree with my stomach, and so instead of exploring Auckland with the rest of my peers, I spent the night in bed feeling sick. I remember feeling so alone and I wanted to be able to call home to my parents or my friends, but since it was about 8:00 pm my time, I knew it was 2:00 am at home and no one would be awake. This was the first time that I needed to talk to someone, but literally had no one to call. I ended up just reading for a while and then going to bed, and I felt a lot better in the morning, but I remember feeling a sense of helplessness and homesickness that I had never really experienced before. This stands out in my mind as the first time I felt the impact of being so far from home, something that I am sure everyone who has studied abroad before can relate to. In hindsight though, I am proud of myself for pushing past the loneliness, taking care of myself for the night, and learning to be a little more independent. This is something that study abroad taught me that I am very thankful for.

Now flashing forward to the beginning of February, another notable experience that I had just a few days ago was rooming with and meeting a new friend while in Queenstown. Four girls from my program and I decided to visit the South Island for the weekend, but the room we were staying in housed six people, meaning there was a random girl assigned to our room as well. This is something we had never experienced before, since the other hostels had always just housed people from our program and no one else. We were a little nervous about this heading into the weekend, but now looking back I am so happy with how things turned out. The girl who was assigned to our room is named Louisa and I quickly learned that she is from England and is travelling for her gap year between high school and university. I made it a point to take the time to get to know Louisa and make her feel included and comfortable within our room and she actually ended up spending Sunday afternoon with our group while her other friends were at work. She thanked me multiple times for including her in our plans and I felt really happy that I was able to make her experience better just by being friendly to her. We now have each other’s contact information and plan to stay in touch, something that I am really happy about.

Overall, both of these experiences taught me about myself and how I can handle situations to make them turn out the way I would like. I learned skills in relationship building and individual responsibility, and really this just starts the conversation on what study abroad has taught me. I am unbelievably sad to leave New Zealand in just a few days, but could not be more thankful for the time I spent here. Thank you also to IGS for the scholarship that helped make my study abroad dream come true! I could not be more grateful.