Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program because I wanted to go abroad for a year, but found the vastness of that decision intimidating. I didn't study abroad in college, and the task of navigating abroad travel entirely on my own was daunting. InterExchange program provided structure and guidance to my trip. I likely wouldn't have gone abroad at all if I didn't find something like this.
InterExchange is perfect because they provide logistical help and structure without imposing any limits. I have tons of freedom but don't have to navigate logistical stressors on my own.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
The program provider was there from the beginning to answer any questions I needed answered, and even to answer questions I didn't know I had!
Before I left, a representative was available via email and phone to answer my questions about cities in New Zealand, public transport, car costs and availability, food, packing tips--no question was too small. Most importantly, the representative called me before I left to let me know that I would need to get a year's supply of my prescription medication from my doctor before I went abroad. That was something I hadn't thought of, and something that would have been disastrous if I hadn't known to make those preparations in advance.
Ultimately I had to make all preparations myself, like booking flights and accommodation after the first week, but InterExchange prompted me along the way and gave helpful instructions for other things like how to set up a bank account.
Once I arrived in New Zealand, the InterExchange office became a great resource for recommending hostels, promoting all sorts of job opportunities, and giving travel recommendations. I also signed up for the welcome week, which was a great way to make friends and start out my year abroad on a confident note. During that week, we toured around the northern part of the North Island and saw the best sights to see. It was great not to have to navigate the beginning of my trip--being in a new country on the other side of the globe was overwhelming enough at first--and this week of travel ignited my passion to see the rest of the country.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
My main piece of advice is to be gentle with yourself. Being in a new country is overwhelming, and it's okay if at times you're unhappy. It takes a while to settle in to a new place. Try not to feel like if you're not doing something exciting at all times - you're wasting your time abroad. Sometimes you need to take a minute, or a few days, to breathe and settle into a routine. Try to hold onto activities that make you feel like yourself--reading, writing, drawing, running, whatever it may be.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
The best thing about this program is that an average day or week can look however you want it to look! I know people I met during the welcome week who have jobs giving kayak tours, working on farms, who bought bus tickets and are traveling the country still.
I'm currently living in a very tiny town on the South Island working at a bookshop and a café. Most days, I have quiet mornings during which I work on writing fiction and poetry, which is exactly what I wanted from this year. There are opportunities for hiking, making new friends, watching the sunrise from all sorts of locations.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I began my experience abroad shortly after graduating from college, so it's the first time I'm completely in charge of my schedule and my responsibilities, like finances. I was afraid of becoming overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities of adulthood while also trying to navigate myself within a new country and culture.
InterExchange helped with a lot of this--helping me set up a bank account, answering questions about buying a car or what cities are most affordable. I took things slowly and continue to ease into it. I've started my travels by living for a few months in a small town where I'm less likely to get overwhelmed and where things will start to look familiar more quickly. After my time here, I plan to branch out, travel more and live in busier places. I'm trying to take the transition in sections, and it's working!
What did you like the most in the program?
New Zealand is more beautiful than I could have imagined. During the InterExchange welcome week, we kept visiting places and thinking we would never see a more beautiful sight, and then half an hour later we'd turn a corner and somehow see an even more beautiful view. One night, we went kayaking and saw bioluminescent algae that glows in the water like stars. Even during stressful times, the beauty of the place makes the visit worth it.