Alumni Spotlight: Corlis Fraga

Take a salamander catching, quite corner of Connecticut girl with a big imagination and mix it with an ever present wanderlust. That's Corlis in a nutshell.

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Why did you choose this program?

Would you believe me if I said finding this program started with a deck of tarot cards, a scrying crystal, and a world map? Well, it did. That and a random desire to go to the closest place to middle earth that I could find. It just so happened, once I took the initial steps of interacting with my university's education abroad office, that ISA was the first third-party program that could make such an abroad experience a reality. With a desperate desire for a change, I jumped towards ISA.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My home university helped point me towards ISA. All I knew at the time was that I wanted to go to New Zealand, so getting introduced to a third-party who could make it happen was quite a leg up. They also processed my requests for getting course credit. That way I wouldn't have to worry about my classes not being transferable to my home university.

The ISA program did a lot in answering my numerous questions and in settling any fears I had about whether or not I'd make the right deadlines, if the forms I filled out were correct, and whether or not I was a valid applicant for financial scholarships.

Don't get me wrong, I did plenty of paperwork and planning on my end. Especially in getting my VISA and plane tickets, selecting classes that would work well with my degree, and ensuring all forms were submitted on time (as well as payments). But ISA was an added comfort since they put up with my slew of pestering nervous questions.

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

Abroad, the classes will be graded differently or perhaps even more thoroughly than you're used to. The important part is for you to strike a balance. Do your best but don't get so wrapped up and nervous about doing things wrong that you don't explore. Messing up is 100% okay. Necessary, even. The point is to learn, enjoy, and grow as a person.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

You're talking to the queen of college hermits. My average day (in-between the epic things like horseback riding up Battle Hill or taste-testing at the Wellington Chocolate Factory) may seem mundane to many. But there are wonders in the small day-to-day things, too.

During a uni day I'd wake up early, usually before my roommates, and mix up a cup of instant coffee with breakfast. Then I'd walk from 'The Cube' (the+ housing complex where the international students are housed with the new uni students. I lived on the top floor, and you'd bet I could feel the wind sway the building) to Massey University. I'd complete my day's classes, with a good coffee break just before lunch, and once done I'd head back to the Cube to put away my stuff. From then on, it depended on how much homework I had to get done. I'd work a bit longer, cook, talk to my roommates, etc.

No matter what was going on, I would conclude my day with a walk down to the water. Sometimes, I'd take Cuba Street where I'd meet all sorts of characters and see people walking about. Other times I meandered. One way or another I'd make it to the ocean and get to look out at the white sailboats and the water that had so many emotions of color depending on the weather. For a girl who had spent most of her life in swampy, mosquito filled woods, it's certainly a sight to behold!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was that my experience wouldn't bring change. That it wouldn't be all transforming and adventurous. I am pretty much the human manifestation of a tortoise. I can get shelled up and quiet. All at once, I wanted to be different.

I'm still the girl who loves sticking her nose in a book and taking long walks with no destination in sight. I'm still quiet and strange and often in my head. But I'm not JUST those things. By going abroad, I learned that it is important to love not just the environment. It is also important that you love you as a person in that environment. I'm still the tortoise. Going abroad just helped me appreciate my shell.

The thing about going abroad is that you may change locations, but you don't change who you are. By going to New Zealand, I got to see movie-worthy scenery, met people from all over the place, and experienced how capable I was in caring for myself. Most importantly, I learned to better love me.

What are some things that you regret while abroad?

  • I never tried whitebait or the NZ green lipped mussels.
  • I didn't go to the bottom of the South Island nor see glow worms.
  • Having to lug a power strip ~18,000 miles in total because the voltage is different in NZ, and trying to use a US power strip blew out the apartment's electricity twice before I realized what was going on.