I honestly don't even know where to begin talking about my semester abroad in Dunedin, so I'll do my best to fit everything in here.
I'll start by saying my time abroad through BCA was the by far the most life-altering decision I have ever made. Prior to my time in New Zealand, I had never taken a plane by myself or navigated through airports alone, and I had never even left the country before! After my time abroad, I successfully flew 30+ hours alone and visited 2 different countries; and I CAN'T WAIT to visit more. I've caught the travel bug.
I can honestly say my program director, Ashley Mountfort, was my saving grace every single step of the way. Before I even arrived in New Zealand, Ashley made me feel at ease about the whole process of actually getting there. She answered my (many...many) emails within minutes and was extremely patient and informative. She sent out emails with step-by-step instructions on how the flights/ customs would work, where we should meet when we arrived at the airport, etc. And it only got better after I arrived safely.
Ashley met us at the airport with a bottle of water and chocolate bar for each of us; an absolute saving grace after traveling for nearly 24 hours. She arranged transportation for us to our flats and helped us carry our bags in. She even printed out maps for each of us and highlighted the route to our meeting spot. These were all things that Ashley did which were above & beyond what I expected, and I immediately felt safe and at home because of her actions.
Having a program director as awesome as Ashley made my abroad experience 10x what it would have been without her. Throughout the semester she opened her home and heart to me and the rest of the group. She sent us monthly emails with heaps of info on upcoming events, cheap tickets, volunteer opportunities and activities to do all around Dunedin/New Zealand. She even included secret messages within her emails, and the first few students to respond would win a mini excursion with Ashley to places around Dunedin like bakeries, cafes, and beaches, which she would take us to herself for no charge.
Ashley would plan movie nights and provide snacks for us. She invited us over to her home and cooked us meals, and let us play with her dog and baby (who I fell absolutely in love with!). If any of us needed absolutely anything at all from advice to a ride, Ashley was our go-to.
In New Zealand, I came comfortably out of my comfort zone. I made dozens of new friends and made hundreds of lifetime memories. I don't think I would change anything about BCA except to make sure each group has a program director as incredible as Ashley Mountfort! And possibly to provide a meal stipend to help students manage their money.
Overall, my life has changed for the better after my time in New Zealand through BCA, and I love the person I've become because of it.
Thanks for everything!
P.s. More scholarships to help with the cost of the plane tickets would be great. The flights were EXPENSIVE!! Also, STA was a bit tricky to deal with sometimes.