My Study Abroad Experience In New Zealand

My Study Abroad Experience In New Zealand

Everyone has a different experience while studying abroad, here's mine!
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Last summer, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand, a place I had always dreamed of traveling to.

During my time abroad, I traveled around New Zealand on an expedition with a group of about 30 people. During my time traveling around, I heard from various professionals in the tourism industry in New Zealand. Afterwards, I had an internship with a nonprofit in Wellington, NZ.

I flew from Charlotte, North Carolina to Christchurch, New Zealand. With flights, layovers, and delays, it took about 30 hours to get there. During my journey to New Zealand, I felt an array of different emotions. I was excited, invigorated, nervous, tired, and a bit annoyed at times (long flights are pretty brutal).

But eventually, I landed in Christchurch. Before landing in Christchurch, we flew over incredible mountains and at that time I got an intense feeling of excitement. I knew I was about to start an incredible journey.

After landing in Christchurch, I grabbed my luggage and took a shuttle to my hostel. It was a beautiful day in Christchurch. It was warm and sunny, which is pretty rare for a day in the middle of winter. During the ride to my hostel, I was talking with my shuttle driver.

We talked about driving on the left side of the road, how it’s common to experience several seasons in one day in Christchurch (the weather is crazy), and bungy jumping. He told me he had gone bungy jumping once and that it’s one thing I definitely have to do while in New Zealand (after all bungy jumping was invented in NZ).

Once I arrived at my hostel, I found my room and met a girl from Scotland, who became the first friend I made on my trip. We had both arrived a day before our program started. The two of us spent a couple hours talking. We also talked with another girl in our room from Canada who had already done quite a bit of traveling in New Zealand.

The next day, more people who were in my study abroad group arrived. There were now four of us. There were a few hours before the program started, so we decided to grab breakfast and get to know each other.

After breakfast, we walked around the city, went to see the famous cathedral that was damaged during the earthquake, and went shopping at the container store. The four of us were looking at postcards at the container store when we saw a postcard of the coast. We asked the lady working at the store how far we were from the beach.

She said it takes about 30 minutes by bus. So, we decided to go to the bus station and catch a ride to the beach. It seems as though I naturally always end up at the beach.

We took a walk along the beach and continued to get to know each other. We were excited that it was warm enough to take our shoes off even though it was the middle of winter in NZ. After spending some time at the beach, we took a bus back to the city. When we arrived at the hostel, we met everyone else in our study abroad group. We all got to know each other and went to dinner. After dinner, we went to a nearby pub to grab a drink and play some pool.

The next day, my study abroad group participated in “The Amazing Race.” During this race, we were divided into multiple groups and were set on a quest to complete each task on a list we were given. Some tasks on the list included trying Hokey Pokey ice cream and tasting kumara chips (a couple of New Zealand staples).

We went into BurgerFuel (which later became a favorite restaurant of my group) to try kumara chips. The employee working was so sweet and talked with us about New Zealand and was so excited for us to try kumara chips, he made them for free. He is now known as the “fry guy” among our group. By participating in this race I was able to explore all over Christchurch, talk with locals, and learn about different traditions.

The town was beautiful, artsy, and very damaged from earthquakes. I learned about how the town is struggling with tourism due to the damage and people thinking there is nothing to do. However, this town has a lot to offer; there is various hiking trails, biking opportunities, beaches, restaurants, etc.

Later, I decided to hike Bridle Path with my new friends. On the bus ride there, it was sunny and beautiful making us super excited for the hike. After we arrived and started the trail, we could not believe our eyes.

The views were already incredible and we were not even near the top. We kept climbing the mountain, excited to reach the top when all of a sudden the wind started picking up. We continued our trek to the top when the wind became extremely strong and the sky was almost black. A storm came out of nowhere and was obviously coming quick. Numerous locals told us to turn around as it was getting really bad ahead.

Our group ended up splitting into three different groups. Two of the groups turned around while the other group continued to the top. The two groups that turned around dodged a heavy hail storm. One group made it to the top and saw the incredible views but got caught in the storm on their way down. Everyone was safe /and had a good time even with the change of pace.

After Christchurch, my group began our “road trip” to St. Arnaud. We did not have a lot of time to spend in St Arnaud.

However, the bus ride allowed me to talk and get to know everyone. I really lucked out and had an incredible group to experience New Zealand with. While on the road, my tour guides pulled off of the road a couple of times to show us incredibly beautiful spots they have found while exploring themselves.

One of the spots was a random place without a name with spectacular views of mountains in every direction and a lake. We were able to wander around the area, take photos, and throw a few snowballs before continuing our journey to St Arnaud. Before arriving, we took one more stop to see a beautiful waterfall.

The sun was beginning to set while we were admiring the falls. When we arrived in St Arnaud, it was already nighttime, so we could not do a lot of exploring. However, a few of us decided to take a walk and we were able to see the Milky Way. This was one of the highlights of my trip. Seeing the Milky Way was absolutely incredible; I have never seen anything like it. I hope I never forget that moment.

The next morning in St Arnaud, we all got up early and stopped to see Lake Rotoiti. This was an incredible spot where the lake was surrounded by mountains. Everyone was amazed by the beauty surrounding us. We were able to see the beginning of the sunrise at this site. Afterwards, our group got back on the bus and headed to Picton to pick up the ferry to Wellington.

The ferry ride was incredibly beautiful. During this time our group spent more time talking with one another. We all were amazed by the beauty of New Zealand. We constantly looked out the window and went up on the deck to take it all in.

We arrived in Wellington after spending a few hours on the ferry. We had the opportunity to visit Weta workshop, where they make props for various movies including Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, etc.

After Weta Workshop, our tour guide took us on the scenic route on the way home to show us around Wellington. We saw a gorgeous sunset as we drove around the city. Everyone in my group was so excited about spending four weeks interning in Wellington after finishing the expedition. We had one night in Wellington before continuing our expedition. We spent the night exploring the nightlife.

After Wellington, we had a long bus ride to Gisborne. The bus ride was about 10.5 hours but at least the ride was beautiful.

During our journey, we stopped for lunch in Napier. Instead of lunch, I decided to check out the beach with a couple friends, which ended up being a black pebble beach. I’ve never seen a beach quite like it. The mountains were in the horizon, the water was aqua, and the waves were crashing.

After the stop in Napier, we continued on to reach Gisborne. In Gisborne, we went to the Eastwoodhill National Arboretum of New Zealand and learned about their marketing techniques and we went to the Tairawhiti Museum.

At the Arboretum, we discussed the challenges that come along with a small marketing budget. The organization has trouble doing effective marketing for their target market without breaking the bank. We were also able to take a scenic walk through the Arboretum and see numerous beautiful trees including Redwoods.

The Arboretum used to be a nudist community where people lived as they pleased. Afterwards, we went to the museum where we saw stunning artwork and learned about Maori culture. After, I had some free time and explored around Gisborne. The was when I decided to buy the coolest dream catcher that barely fit in my suitcase (not thinking things through is typical for me). It made the rest of my traveling so difficult, but it was worth it!

The next morning, my group decided to get up before the sun and drive to the beach to catch the sunrise.

Though it was not just any sunrise, it was the first sunrise in the entire world. Gisborne, New Zealand is the first place the sun rises each morning. Our entire group was amazed by the beauty of the sunrise in front of us. We all watched as the sun came up and watched the incredible waves. Seeing the sunrise in Gisborne was one of the highlights of my trip.

After enjoying the sunrise Gisborne, we traveled to Rotorua. During the first day in Rotorua, half of my group took a trip to Hobbiton, while the other half spent a relaxing afternoon in some natural hot pools. I spent the afternoon enjoying the natural hot pools.

The next day, my group visited Te Puia and saw many geysers and learned how they are used for sustainable living. While walking through the area looking at the various geysers, I felt like I was in another world. I could not believe what I was seeing. There were various rock formations and steam everywhere.

The water from the Geysers is used for showering, cooking, etc. Way before this became a tourist attraction, local people and tribes have utilized this area as a natural amenity. The geysers were a little difficult to see due to the gloomy weather (classic New Zealand), but they were fascinating to learn about.

After seeing all of the geysers, I got a see a kiwi bird! The kiwi bird is why New Zealanders are called Kiwis.

They’re super rare to see in the wild. Everyone in my group was super excited to see one. However, we were all surprised by the size of the kiwi. We were expecting a tiny bird, but they are actually about the size of a chicken. After enjoying our time looking at the cute kiwi, we continued our tour and learned about Maori culture, learned to say a few Maori words, and got to see students creating Maori carvings and weaving.

One of the unique features of Te Puia is the balance of tourism and education. All of the money made from tourism is put back into the organization to provide education to students. The students learn Maori traditions including carving, weaving, and tattooing. The goal of this education system is for the students to later teach others traditional Maori activities to ensure growth of the culture.

After visiting Te Puia, I visited Ogo, which is a company created by the inventor of zorbing. Zorbing is an activity where you go inside of a giant ball and roll down a mountain. It sounds kind of lame, but it was so fun! When we went to the Ogo location, we heard the company’s marketing strategies but no one was planning on actually zorbing.

However, after hearing about the company from the owner/inventor, we were sold and almost all of us decided to try it. After signing up, we were taken up to the top of the hill and hung out in the hot tub and enjoyed the views of the mountains and city while waiting for our turn to go. Once it was time to go, we dove into the ball and rolled down the mountain. We all did it in pairs, so we locked arms, slid around, and laughed all the way down. Afterwards, we got in another hot tub at the bottom of the hill, then dried off and got on the bus to head to Auckland.

When we arrived in Auckland, we were all excited to be in a huge city. Once we got off the bus, we all walked around and explored the city.

The next morning, a few friends and I decided to get up early and hike up Mount Eden to see the sunrise. We walked across the city to find the hiking trail and then we ended up taking the most difficult route to the top. We climbed up a steep, wet hill, slipping and sliding, only to reach the top and have a local tell us there were stairs we could have taken (our way was more fun, anyway).

But either way, we made it to the top of the mountain and got to see the sunrise. The view of the city was incredible from the top of Mount Eden. We could see the entire city lit up, a volcano, and the ocean. The sky was bright and beautiful. This was such a cool experience. After our hike, we visited cute little stores and coffee shops around town.

Auckland has amazing coffee and so many vintage consignment shops. While in Auckland, I also learned about marketing and communication strategies from Haka Tours and Tourism New Zealand. Both of these organizations are extremely successful and it was interesting to hear about their strategies and ideas for success. I also went out with friends and was able to watch rugby with locals and enjoy some fun nightlife in Auckland.

After our fun time in Auckland, we headed to National Park. We ended up arriving in National Park right at sunset, so we all hurried off of the bus and went across the street to enjoy the view. It was incredible to see the sun shining on the mountains and countless cows grazing below. This was one of the prettiest places in New Zealand.

The hostel we stayed in felt like a cabin as it was super cozy and in the middle of nowhere. The two professors who led the expedition also decided to cook our group a delicious traditional Kiwi meal. We all had a “family dinner” and spent the evening enjoying each other’s company.

The next morning in National Park, I went to hear the marketing plans for the iconic Chateau Tongariro Hotel. The hotel was stunning with incredible views. I had the opportunity to take a tour through the hotel and ask questions about the marketing strategies used for promoting the hotel. After visiting the Chateau Tongariro, my group decided to go on a hike.

The weather was less than ideal as it was quite cold and rainy. However, we only had one full day in National Park, so there was no way we were going to miss out on hiking. Our tour guide decided to take us on a nice hike to a waterfall.

Many of the trails were unsafe due to the weather, so I was happy our tour guide knew of this particular trail. We all hiked along the trail as our tour guide taught us about some native plants to New Zealand until we reached the waterfall. The waterfall was absolutely beautiful. We all enjoyed the view for a little while then continued our hike.

When we got back to the bus, we were all cold and soaking wet, yet so glad that we decided to go on the hike. This hike was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I probably would never go hiking in bad weather back home, but I was more than willing to do it in New Zealand! It was more than worth it!

After National Park, we traveled back to Wellington, where I spent the next four weeks interning. I was a digital marketing intern for a nonprofit.

Along with two other interns, I ran the nonprofit’s social media accounts, did marketing research, analyzed analytics, and created a campaign. This internship was an amazing opportunity to learn, develop my skills, and adapt in an unfamiliar working environment. Working in New Zealand is so different from working in the states.

It’s so much more laid back in New Zealand and building relationships are more important. The workspace I was in also had a fancy espresso machine and played classic rock, so I was very content. I had an incredible four weeks interning in New Zealand.

When I wasn’t interning or writing papers, I spent time exploring Wellington. I enjoyed walking around the city and going to the Harborside market on Sundays to get fresh produce. A couple of friends and I also hiked up Mount Victoria to see incredible views of Wellington.

My study abroad group and friends we all made in the hostel also went to a rugby game, which was so fun! I also enjoyed drinking a ridiculous amount of flat whites while in Wellington (if you go to NZ you have to get one).

My friends and I also often would catch a bus and head to the coast. We also enjoyed getting brunch on the weekend. The nightlife was also super fun in Wellington. And, one weekend, we went to an island off of Wellington to go hiking. Another weekend, a friend and I decided to take a bus to Lake Taupo. This is where I had the most incredible experience bungy jumping and white water rafting!

Studying abroad and interning in New Zealand was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I learned so much about myself and met so many amazing people. I would not trade it for anything!

Cover Image Credit: Photo by Jeanine Goodall

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If You Give A Girl A Little Brother

You've given her the world.
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I remember back to my childhood, standing at the top of the steps yelling down to my parents "Why did you decide to have another child?" I remember riding in the backseat yelling "Mom, was I not good enough for you?" as my brother threw snow at me .

I remember crying when my mom made us share our first cell phone. I remember playing in a pool at a waterpark, and my dad couldn't play with me because my brother couldn't swim and needed my dad to be with him. I played by myself, thinking "They must have not wanted a girl when they only pay attention to him."

But now, at almost 22, I realized that the best gift God has ever given me was my little brother.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a pain in her ass.

Oh, he'll be annoying. He'll get in the shower just because you said you were going to. He'll start talking every time you do. He'll pull stupid pranks, he'll make you listen to bogus music, he'll make you watch stupid tv shows, he'll smell up the bathroom (and probably smell himself.) and boy, I promise there will be day's you will resent him. But he's just training for living with your husband one day.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a role.

As a big sister, I had somebody copying all my moves. If I did something, so did he. If I didn't eat something, neither did he. If I didn't like somebody neither did he. He was like a little shadow that did everything I did, so I was always motivated to make good choices and make him proud of me.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a rough side.

I wouldn't have done half the things I did if it wasn't for him. Play basketball in the drive way, spend hours on our bikes, spend the summer days in the pool, or down at the park. I wouldn't have learned that it's okay to get in the dirt and have some fun. I wouldn't have played half the made up, imaginary games we played every day. I wouldn't have played with Hot Wheels, or Lincoln Logs, or Leggo's. I would have played with Barbies by myself all day long, and what's the fun in that?

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her the best friend she'll ever have.

In the end, when our parent's both pass away, I won't be alone, because I will have my little brother. When the world gets tough, and everyone turns away from me, he will always be there. No matter where he end's up in life, I know he will drop everything and come running when I'm in need.

For Christmas this year, I bought my brother his first tattoo. We got matching tattoo's on our sides. Our lives our different now, because we're grown up and live on opposite sides of the state. But no matter where we go in life, if we look up, we will be looking at the same sun and moon. We are made up of the same matter, 'made' by the same people, and love each other more than I think we'd like to admit.

Alex is my true other-half.

Give a girl a little brother, and you made her whole.

Cover Image Credit: Abby Engel

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I Took A Trip To Spain And Learned SO Much More Than I Expected To

Did you know that Spaniards have concerts in the mountains?

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My trip to Spain seems like it was ages ago, but it also feels like I got back yesterday. I have always wanted to travel abroad, but I was never really emotionally ready to leave the country without my parents for a long period of time. However, during the summer of 2017, I got the chance to travel to Madrid, Córdoba, Toledo, Sevilla, and Granada, Spain with people that became my best friends.

Going to Spain was at first a big decision for me because I've never really been one that likes to be away from home. I decided that it would be a good way for me to overcome some of that anxiety since college was in my near future, but I was terrified. Of course though, in order to overcome anxiety, you have to experience it first and then learn how to get through it. That's the unfortunate part.

The trip was amazing and so life-changing. We spent two weeks traveling through different parts of the country, visiting museums, and going to school, all while unknowingly learning more about ourselves. The teachers helped us fully immerse ourselves into the Spanish culture, which, if you didn't know, is very different from American culture in so many ways.

The beginning of the trip was when my anxiety was the worst because not only did I have to spend nine hours on a plane, but as soon as we got there I realized that there were no more burgers or sandwiches. The only thing on the menu was croquetas and tortillas de patatas, and when you're jet-lagged and anxious, that's not really what you want.

As the trip went on, though, I got a lot more adapted and the people who I didn't know on the trip instantly became my best friends. I don't know how they couldn't have, given the fact that we snuck into each other's rooms every night in the hotel to tell stories and bond over how crazy it was that we were actually in Spain.

The second half of the trip, we split up into pairs and got to stay with host families, which honestly is the part of this trip that changed me the most. Every morning we would wake up and our mom would have our breakfast of bread and chocolate spread ready for us while she smoked a cigarette, and her daughters would dance to music while getting ready for school. We then would go to a school of our own, walking through downtown Granada to meet up with our teachers.

Besides learning how to speak better Spanish by taking classes at a local school, this trip taught me a lot. I learned that Spaniards really don't like when you speak English in the streets. I learned that they know a lot more about America than we think, and they definitely have their opinions on us. I learned that Spanish people go to concerts in the mountains and eat dinner at 10 p.m., and they wouldn't have it any other way. I learned that it's really hard to translate names of medicine to Spanish pharmacists.

I learned that Americans value hygiene a little more than the people in Spain, but that they have much more simple and loving way of life than we do. I learned that there is so much to see in this world and that we deserve to see it. I learned that it's not about where you are, it's about the company you have around you. I learned that the places that mean the most to you will always be the hardest to leave, but that they will be waiting for you when you come back.

Traveling to Spain brought me a lot of happiness and my family members would argue a new outlook on life too. Looking back on this trip it is hard for me to choose what the best lesson was that I learned, but I believe that it is this: the only person holding you back from doing anything in this world is yourself. So go do it.

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