Why did you pick this program?
When my plans to study through National Student Exchange in Hawaii fell through, I thought, what's another similar place I could go? Ultimately, I landed on New Zealand and got very lucky because AIFS was the only study abroad program my university offered with a New Zealand option.
What is the most important thing you learned abroad?
That it's important to be actively perceptive when you're living in a new country. It's pretty easy to go about your life and not notice things. Living in a place for four months while studying abroad isn't always long enough to truly get to know a new place and culture.
The more perceptive you can be, the more you will learn. Always be looking for the little quirks of a new place, even if they speak English and it's a Westernized country. Keep a journal of the things you notice and write stories for your future self! Go out of your way to get to know locals. Join clubs through your university and ask questions about how things are done in the country you are visiting.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Stop thinking, start packing. If you're nervous about it, then it's a sign of a positive challenge. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone, even if your comfort zone is a cup of tea and a movie at home, you can do that in another country!
You will grow so much by challenging yourself and getting on that plane. If you come home and decide it wasn't an experience you loved, at least you know living abroad long term is not for you and that is okay.
What was the hardest part about going abroad?
Building friendships and creating a network is hard when you go abroad and don't know anyone. It really takes time to build relationships with people, so if you're feeling lonely in the beginning and you're not connecting with people quickly, don't be discouraged - it's normal! Give it time and be positive because I promise you will end up with some amazing friends. Don't be afraid to travel on your own as well, people do it all the time.
What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?
This trip is so meaningful to me because it completely changed the course of my life. After studying abroad in New Zealand and falling in love with Wellington, I decided to travel more. I traveled long term around Southeast Asia, where I continued to fall in love with long term travel and learning about new places.
Eventually, I moved back to New Zealand where I now work and live full time. The path my life has taken after studying abroad is one I could never have imagined. I think the future can lead me anywhere and I won't be too shocked about the outcome! I have grown to be more perceptive and accepting of others.