I do miss living in New Zealand, but I do not find returning to the U.S. terribly challenging; a reason for this could be that I categorize travel and non-travel life separately in my brain. Also, I met or overachieved on all of my goals while in the Pacific. My class marks are A- in Philosophy, B+ in English, and B in History, which meets my personal expectations; a similar performance to what I would expect when not abroad.
Eating American cuisine from restaurants and takeaways I love is fulfilling, and it feels weird that this is the first time in years that I do not have an international trip officially planned. My dad and I are traveling to New Orleans soon, which will be an in-country opportunity to experience French culture as well as a new U.S. state! I fly out of the local airport for flight training and attend several medical appointments related to flying. A “normal” routine is underway once again, however, I have found plenty of time to relax as well. I have been messaging and video chatting with numerous Kiwi mates, some more than others depending on how conversation flows. The next big travel-related thing will come soon enough; until then, I am putting some time towards other goals like the flying lessons and such!
Hopefully reading this blog has convinced you or someone you know to study abroad in New Zealand; you will miss out by not going, and NZ is a perfect destination for such an experience. That being said, I have some advice for you; doing the things below helped make my experience perfect, and will likely have similar effects on yours.
Make friends with locals - don’t just stick with Americans
The single best thing I did on my entire trip was to make friends with locals. It was so rewarding, I cannot even put into words how much my Kiwi mates mean to me. You will get such a rich experience if you get to know locals because they know the culture and are genuinely interested in learning about you and where you come from. I noticed many Americans would just stick together and not be around locals as much; while this may be a comfort zone thing and is totally okay to an extent, I believe that spending too much time around one’s fellow kinsmen will have a negative impact on the experience as a whole. A strategy that worked for me was joining student organizations, putting myself “out there”, and just trying to get to know many people; you will find the ones you connect with by doing this, and before you know it you will have a strong bond with your newfound friends! You may meet people who become more than friends, which I can speak to. I have met wonderful people through student orgs, class, traveling, and even the cat café.
The second best thing I did was travel around. If I wanted to do something, I did it. I saw people who made up excuses not to go somewhere they really wanted to go; if you are truly hesitant then that is fine, but if your heart calls you to say, Samoa, then GO!!! Money can be made back, but time is temporary. Plus, it is a lot easier to get to these places from New Zealand as opposed to the US. I realize that I take this to the extreme with wild experiences like the Island Hopper, but travel offers something for everyone. Not as comfortable with traveling yet? Start with an overnight trip, and work your way up to longer and further holidays. Seasoned world traveler? Take a solo trip; you will get to know yourself really well. Take advice, but at the end of the day go where YOU want... and never let fear hold you back!
Don’t come home with regrets
You are going to question whether you should have handled situations differently while abroad; it is human nature. The important thing is to not regret anything, which builds on my earlier travel point. When picking between Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Wellington, do your research but, most importantly, listen to your mind and heart. Do not be afraid to try new things; not trying is hard emotionally because you will not know what you missed. Want to take a solo trip but are not comfortable? Go for it. See someone you want to become friends or more than friends with? Nothing to lose. Not trying will cause regrets and heartbreak, something I have learned growing up. At the end when you are sitting in the gate lounge at Auckland Airport about to leave the country, you want to think back and be content, happy, with what you have done. Life will work out in the end, so live it up while here.
Thank you for following along as I explored New Zealand. It was an epic adventure, and I hope you get to experience NZ for yourself soon. It is the best country I have ever been to, and it is easy to integrate into and spend a semester (or longer) there. So, go to New Zealand. Meet the locals. Travel. Take risks. Don’t regret, just live. Everything will work itself out in the end.