Alumni Spotlight: Laura Nickerson

Why did you decide to study abroad with TEAN in New Zealand?

Laura: When I started considering studying abroad I noticed my school did not offer much in terms of exchange programs so I attended the study abroad fair to look into some programs. While I was there I talked a bit with different programs but TEAN really stuck out to me because their representative were super nice and eager to answer any of my questions. I also thought their prices seemed reasonable, they had schools I was interested in studying at, and the Fiji trip definitely didn't hurt!

Laura exploring the jaw-dropping landscapes of Dunedin!

There really were not that many programs at my schools fair that offered New Zealand programs so I think I had about three options if I remember correctly. So I took the pamphlets home and checked out all their websites and it was pretty easy to decide on TEAN. They organize all these orientation activities in Fiji and Auckland before our semesters start and had tons of information available before deciding to commit to anything. Before even choosing to go they had tons of contacts you can talk to ranging from TEAN alumni to their employees which was really nice to have.

What made this experience unique and special?

Laura: It's pretty impossible to sum up my experience I had while studying abroad, but it was definitely the most amazing semester of my life! New Zealand as a country is an amazing place, the whole attitude was totally different than in the US and people were so helpful! Some unexpected moments I had included almost running out of gas out on a peninsula on the North Island. My friend and I pulled over to recheck our map and decide if we needed to turn around to find a gas station or to try and make it to the peninsula. Before we knew it a guy that passed us pulled over to make sure we were okay! He offered us some directions to both our destination and the gas station after reassuring us we had enough gas to make it there. Then the day before that we were in a rush in Wellington but got turned around when we cut through the gardens. Another guy asked us where we were headed, walked us to the right street, and pointed out the right way for us. It's just something that pretty much never happens in the states and it was awesome how kind everyone was.

Of course the country is absolutely gorgeous but the people really make the experience. The people I met there became my family and created a home away from home. Hiking all day to the top of a mountain is always going to be breathtaking but it can only get better with a couple of good friends.

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, academically, etc.)

Laura: When I came back from my semester abroad I realized that I was a totally different person. Before decided to travel abroad, I never imagined actually jumping out of planes, hiking mountains, or fighting a river current in a cave for seven hours. I came out of the experience much more eager to explore and willing to say yes to any adventures I can find. It also really opened my eyes to how other people see us as Americans and it was awesome to meet so many people from different countries.

Academically my semester was totally different than what I was used to in college. I attend an art school in the US in a large city so it's not exactly your typical college experience. We don't have a campus and classes are all related to the arts. When I attended Otago I got to live that University life with a campus, large lecture halls, and heaps of student activities! Although some of the classes I took were the most challenging I've taken yet, they were also my favorite because the material was so different.

In regards to my future, it did make me question the plans that I had. I'm actually hoping that I can make it back there after I graduate to work temporarily! Before actually spending the semester in New Zealand I had never even considered trying to live outside of the US.

Dunedin's scenic rim!

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering interning abroad in New Zealand?

Laura: Honestly? Pack warmer clothes if you go in the winter semester! The flats only have a heat pump and I found myself wearing two or three layers all the time even when I was inside. I ended up buying more sweaters because I didn't pack enough! If you aren't worried about that, then just keep an open mind! Always be eager to try new things and meet new people. It'll create memories and friendships you'll cherish forever.