Alumni Spotlight: Esther Hope Lovelady


Hope is an adrenaline junkie! She is always looking for the next big adventure. Her goal is to travel to as many countries as possible in her lifetime.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose ISEP because it seemed like the best option, and it gave me several choices in the country that I wanted to be in. Other programs I looked at didn’t guarantee that I could go to my country of choice.

This one also had been recommended to me by my school’s Study Abroad Director, and I even talked to a representative who visited my school. This program seemed like it knows what it was doing and could get me where I wanted to go. I couldn’t find many bad things about the program so I went for it, and I’m glad I did. They helped me have an experience of a lifetime, and I’ll be forever thankful.

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

ISEP was extremely helpful. They didn’t set up my housing but they did provide it through the program; I just had to apply for it, and they showed you step by step how to do it. They had a lot of paperwork but it was pretty well laid-out and easy to understand, and it told you step by step what you need to do before, during, and after your trip.

My home university, Berry College, was also helpful in the process of getting abroad. Both the professors and the International Studies Director helped me figure out a plan for classes and how to still graduate on time but have time to have fun abroad.

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

I would 100% recommend this program to just about everyone. The only downside is all the paperwork. It is laid out well and easy to understand but there is a lot of it; it can get overwhelming. I tell all my friends who are trying to study abroad now that the paperwork can be frustrating and overwhelming but that they just have to take it day by day. If you can just split the paperwork up and do it little by little, it is not as bad. Once you get to your destination, you realize it was all worth it.

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

To be completely honest, there was no average week. Each week is different if you want it to be. This program gives you free range to do what you want, and it’s amazing.

For the first two weeks I was there, classes hadn’t started yet so we had orientation. I met lots of friends, and we went to the beach even though it was winter. When classes started, it was a little more restrictive because I tried not to miss a lot of class but we still had time to go on some short day hikes or study on the beach, have cook outs, movie nights, and explore the city.

We tried to make the most of our time in New Zealand because it was truly amazing. On our weeks off of school, we went on bigger trips to the South Island and camped up north.

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

This is going to sound kind of silly, but one of my biggest fears of going to New Zealand all by myself was that I just wasn’t going to make any friends. I was incredibly nervous and scared that I would show up on the other side of the world all alone and not really make any friends and end up being alone away from everyone and everything I know.

This fear quickly disappeared after I arrived. The first day, I thought that fear was going to be true because no one else was there yet. I was also extremely jet-lagged, tired, and slightly emotional because of it. However, the second day everyone else arrived, and I quickly became friends with so many people I never would have imagined I’d be friends with. We were all so different yet we all got along and became amazing friends.

I personally think studying abroad surrounds you with people you normally wouldn’t surround yourself with, but it really opens your eyes and teaches you to appreciate the differences between people and cultures.

This trip brought me several lifelong friends that I can’t wait to visit again one day.

Just a bit more advice.

Get out of your comfort zone. If you choose to live in a different country, you are not always going to be comfortable. Whether talking to strangers, trying new food, or doing something fun and extreme like bungee jumping (which you MUST do if you’re in New Zealand), you need to get out of your comfort zone.

One of my favorite parts of studying abroad in New Zealand was when I and a group of other Americans took a ten-day trip to the South Island and travelled around the whole time. I can assure you this trip was not comfortable. We had five people in a five-person car with our entire luggage and stayed in the cheapest hostel we could find. Also, it was so much colder down on the South Island than up in Auckland, and I hate the cold.

However, despite all of the discomfort that accompanied this trip, it was still so amazing, and I loved every minute. While we were down there, we saw the most amazing views like glacier carved lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains. We bungee-jumped and explored a new city. This trip showed us another part of the amazing country we were living in for 5 months, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Just remember that getting out of your comfort zone can lead to some pretty astonishing experiences.