Alumni Spotlight: Natasha Clare

Natasha is a Media Production major at Buffalo State College. She loves cinema, photography, sociology, creative writing and learning languages, so a summer interning in New Zealand was the perfect study abroad match.

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Why did you choose this program?

I started by looking at overseas summer programs offered by State University of New York. There were other programs in different countries that appealed to me as well, but National Expedition and Internship with Massey University stood out. Massey's online brochure listed all four available internship tracks with descriptions of what to expect from both the two weeks travel period and internship period.

I was excited by the promise of getting to meet and workshop with professionals in the fields of arts and entertainment. I was even more intrigued as well at the opportunity to gain relevant work experience while overseas and earning course credits to transfer back home. Ultimately I wanted the internship opportunity most of all, but guaranteed credits helped in making the decision easier too.

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

Massey University's NEI program took care of accommodations for the entire program duration, and all interns were given an internship placement. For the two week expedition, breakfast was also provided. Massey University offered airport pickup upon arrival as well, scheduling two shuttles at different times to take students to their first accommodation. Before arriving to New Zealand, a pre departure orientation course was made available online on a stream website.

On my own, I had to organize airfare, any excursions outside scheduled group activities, groceries and outside dining, bus fare for the internship, funds to do laundry (coin operated), and buying a New Zealand mobile sim card and service (optional, but I chose to purchase these for the internship portion).

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

I want to give the advice to take everything as a chance to learn. While there may be course assignments or internship tasks, or group outings and activities that are less interesting to you than others, that doesn't mean you can't challenge yourself to see it from a different perspective. What can you get out of a cultural site talk for example, or having to work through a group project or presentation? If you see an internship task as unimportant, can you maybe either: ask yourself what seems insignificant about it, or, complete it, but then relay your thoughts to your supervisor to better influence the scope of future tasks?

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

There truly never was a very typical day in the program. Certainly, for the expedition portion, I can say to expect to pack up and leave an accommodation every night or after two nights to get on the bus to a different location again. However, for expedition, I might also say that unpacking and repacking was one of the only predictable elements of so much travel and activity.

For interning in Wellington, that part became more relaxed and free to independent exploration -- however, I personally had an internship at a creative house of collaborative space. I started my internship actually on a weekend and worked up into Tuesday that following week on sets for a series of commercials! If you're in the Creative Expression and Digital Media track of NEI, I'll have to argue this is the track to be most prepared for the unexpected to happen.

Still, Wellington is a good size city that isn't so large to be intimidating or chaotic, yet still contains many places and events to go have a look at. I was only living in the city for four weeks, but I definitely ended up having favorite spots to hang out on weekend nights, and knew exactly where to get the best bubble tea, etc.

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 think one of my biggest fears was just an apprehension over whether I'd get along with anyone or not, especially my internship site partner.

At home in New York and throughout much of life, I'd never been one to have a large social circle or many people that I feel comfortable around. To overcome this, I observed and chose carefully who I could trust, yet tried to be amiable to everyone in the group at the same time, and open to new exchanges and outings with different sets of people. Additionally I made an effort to have conversations with Massey faculty who were present on expedition with us, and then with my advisor and internship course coordinator in Wellington. Having these informal exchanges did really help to ground me as a student wanting to learn but also just as a person.

I did come away with a handful of friends from NEI whom I would like to keep in touch with and wish the best for in their academic careers and long term goals. As different as I and my internship site partner are, the two of us did share some similarities and got along great overall.

What was something that surprised you about study abroad?

I can't say this enough. I'm totally shocked that with my reserved persona I had so much fun socializing in a hostel setting with travelers outside the study abroad group. I really never expected to be able to open up personally to all the people I did, and to be received with warmth and understanding in return. I think that was one of the greatest take aways I gained from studying abroad--living in a hostel setting. To be clear, NEI had its own wing of rooms. Yet, I found that beginning to take interest in residents who were often in common areas on the ground floor helped me to break out of my shell the most.