My experience studying abroad in Auckland New Zealand was completely different than what I expected. I went in to the experience very timid and feeling unsure about my decision. Study abroad is very popular at my university, but most people go to a few cities in Europe with a large group of fellow students. I knew right away that this was not an experience I wanted to have. I want to put myself out there and challenge myself. The concept sounded great, but the idea of going 19 hours from home, knowing absolutely no one, was terrifying. I constantly questioned my decision, asking myself if I should have gone abroad with ten of my best friends instead.
After a cancelled flight made my anxiety that much worse, I felt surprisingly welcomed when I got to New Zealand. Thankfully, IFSA had arranged a late bus for me to take me to orientation. I was immediately captivated by the energy of the country. Everyone was so relaxed and friendly. When people noticed, usually right away, that I was American, they made it a point to ask me why I was in New Zealand and ask me if I liked it. The people of New Zealand almost felt responsible for making me feel at home. This continued to be a common theme during my time abroad.
Something really special about my abroad experience was that I got to live with all kiwis. The four of us lived in an amazing flat so close to the city. Once again, like all Kiwis before them, they made it a point to make sure I loved New Zealand. What started out as three almost-representatives of the country ended up being three of my best friends. While living with them, I was completely immersed in New Zealand culture. We shopped and cooked together, so whatever a normal Kiwi ate was now what I ate. They allowed me to ask a billion questions about the country, and clarify strange slang that I had heard the day before. We would watch the local news together every night, and they showed me the best places to go out in the city. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t escape kiwi culture, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
This made me consider several times if this country could be my permanent home. I continued to soak in every experience and all of the culture and realized that I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. If everything goes as planned, I hope to move to New Zealand after graduation to work and then eventually figure out graduate school. New Zealand and the people I have met showed me the importance of slowing down and embracing every moment. Also, who doesn’t want to constantly be surrounded by beautiful beaches, mountains, and volcanoes?