Below is the winning essay and photo submission for the 2016 study abroad in New Zealand scholarship by for Alicia Cotsoradis of DePauw University. Read her entry and see why she stood out to us!
Why do you want to study abroad in New Zealand?
While it might seem like a sterile white operating room, and a lush, organic green country have little in common, for me they do. For me both of these places hold the opportunities and hopes for my future. They serve as vesicles for self exploration, and they create an energy that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand and my heart race. I want adventure that gives me the same rush as I feel when I’m in the operating room, and this is why I chose New Zealand. I have spent most of my life in either Kansas or Indiana, and the thought of flying half way across the world scares me in the most amazing way possible. My heart beats so fast thinking about entering a brand new country alone, but when my heart beats, I hear the rhythm of the haka. When I start to jitter with nerves, I see calming blues and greens and vast fields and mountains that are dying to be captured in a sketch book. And when I wonder if I will be lonely, I question how I can be lonely when I am surrounded by such a full culture.
I am a junior biochemistry major with my heart set on eventually being a doctor. Every Tuesday I wake up at 6 am so I can hurry to the hospital to see the best surgeries. I have seen a man’s chest get opened and his aortic valve replaced right in front of me. I have seen facial reconstructive surgeries and appendectomies, and with every surgery I become more reassured that this is what I want to do with my life. I chose to study abroad in order to eventually make me a better doctor. My patients will have such a large array of backgrounds, and during this semester abroad I want to work to know cultures other than my own so I can better my empathy skills and set myself up for success. I want to live in a flat with not only international students, but also local people so we can merge our cultures and learn to respect and embrace other perspectives. I want to be challenged during these five months, and I want to be uncomfortable because ultimately, life is not always easy.
Specifically, I chose New Zealand because it represents a culture of imagination and an appreciation for all things beautiful. Between the incredible scenery, the love for adventure, and a culture based on long standing traditions, New Zealand holds all the elements necessary for me to explore myself and merge my science background with more hands on skills that will help me later in life. In New Zealand, I can imagine the time disappearing just as it does in the operating room. I want to let myself get lost in the beauty of this country and I want to come away from this experience with a broader appreciation for the Maori culture.
My life has always been structured and has consisted of constantly working towards my potential career, and while I love this, I fear as I progress down this very structured path, I will lose the passion for this rigorous lifestyle I once had. New Zealand provides an opportunity to slide down sand dunes, surf, and partake in so many other activities that create the same rush of excitement as watching a body get restored on the operating room table. I want to trade in the minutes spent reflecting while I scrub into a surgery for minutes spent reflecting when I hop on a train and watch the beautiful New Zealand scenery pass me by. I want to trade in the hours spent watching the artful cutting of a surgeon for hours spent hiking through rivers and hills. And I want to trade in the adventure I find in the OR for the vast adventure I know I can find in New Zealand. I have spent the last years cultivating my scientific knowledge and preparing myself for the academic side of being a doctor, but I want to spend these 5 months in New Zealand increasing my appreciation for diverse cultures and beautiful landscapes all the while mimicking the thrill of the operating room with the thrill of countless adventures in an unknown land.