Alumni Spotlight: Kaitlyn Dowding

Originally born in New York, Kaitlyn moved to Arizona with her family only a few months after she was born. She attends the University of Arizona, where she majors in Public Health and is greatly involved in her church.


Why did you pick this program?

I picked the program at the University of Auckland because it was different. Out of the almost 300 students at the University of Arizona going on an exchange for the Spring Semester of 2015, I was the only one who chose New Zealand. I have never done the “norm”, so going to a country most people don’t even know exists, sounded intriguing and exciting and let me tell you the country did not disappoint.

What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?

The one thing I always say now to those wanting to go abroad or thinking about it is “GO, don’t think, just go.”

Going abroad is a chance of a lifetime that many young people do not have the opportunity to do, so if you have the chance, go and explore.

The United States is nothing like most countries and that is what I came to realize when I went to Brazil for a few weeks in 2013 and when I was in New Zealand for the past year. Going abroad literally broadens your horizons, as cheesy as it sounds, and opens your eyes to things that you could never experience in the United States. People are different, food is different, the environment is different, everything is different when you are immersed in another country.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

When you are in a foreign country it is really easy and common to steer towards other Americans because that is “comfortable” and you relate to them the most. But my advice to those wanting to go to New Zealand or anywhere actually is get out of your comfort zone and meet locals and other foreigners. Try weird foods, go on adventures, and when locals invite you to go to the beach or anywhere, GO.

Do not hesitate, take in everything that you can because speaking from experience most things I did in New Zealand I would never have done in Arizona and one of the main reasons I fell in love with the country was because of the people. So don't shy away, get out of your comfort zone and try new and different things.

What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?

Asking anyone who just spent a semester or a year abroad to tell just ONE story is hard. There are so many stories I can tell, from bungee jumping into the water to swimming at night in the middle of the ocean to hiking beautiful ranges to seeing the most beautiful beaches in the world to having late night conversations with people who have impacted my life in more ways than one to the moment I decided to stay in New Zealand and call the country home, the stories are endless.

New Zealand has showed me more than my 20 years in the United States ever did. The people, the food, the culture, the nature, everything has made me fall in love with the country. I came to realize some opportunities can be explained while other opportunities have to be experienced, and New Zealand is a country that individuals need to experience on their own. There are not enough words in the human language to explain the beauty of the nature, the way people are, or the lifestyle that is lived. New Zealand is something else.

Don’t get me wrong moving countries, traveling across an entire ocean, sounds daunting, well is daunting to say the least and trust me it is not easy. I will be honest I was/am terrified, but I know New Zealand is home. That is where I want to be and need to be. So speaking from experience I know traveling, going to an unknown place is scary, so scary, but let me tell you it is SO worth it. The memories made, the lives impacted, the chances taken, are so worth it. So if you are considering going abroad for whatever amount of time, 3 weeks, 5 months, 1 year, whatever it is, go knowing you will be okay and when you look back 10, 20 years from now you will be able to say "I did that!".