Hello from the future, my sweet Terriers! It’s currently 10:08am on Saturday, October 4th in Auckland, New Zealand, while it’s 5:08pm on Friday, October 3rd in Boston. Weeeird right? It’s also strange to think that my school semester here ends in 3 weeks, since I started in mid-July, and you guys are only a month into yours. Talk about trippy. (If you didn’t pick up on it, that was an extremely desperate pun because, you know, “trippy,” like I’m on a “trip” since I’m studying abroad. I’m sorry.)
Anywho, I’m not going to write an entire blog entry trying to convince you to study abroad by telling you how beautiful and wonderful the experience is. I’m sure most of you don’t need convincing and I think everyone understands how awesome it is to get to live in any country of your choice for 4 months. However, I do want to share with you the ways in which you can make the most of your time abroad and how you might deal with some unexpected challenges.
Pick where you want to go and avoid tagging along with friends.
This was the toughest one for me. I’ve been obsessed with New Zealand since my senior year of high school—take one look around my apartment and you’ll pick up on the Kiwi paraphernalia lying around. But most of my closest friends are film majors and will be spending their spring semester in LA. Since this is my senior year, it was hard for me to decide to essentially spend my entire senior year without them. I was so close to ditching New Zealand and going to LA in the spring for that reason, even though I have no desire to live and work in LA. Luckily I have the most awesome friends who told me that they would shun me if I didn’t go to New Zealand, because they knew how important it was to me. Yeah, it has been insanely hard without them—especially for someone as sentimental as I am. But I’ve kept in touch with everyone and I know I will see them in December when I head back to Boston. I’ve also made amazing friends here in Auckland, with people in the program, as well as with Kiwis I met through class and my internship.
Do some research and make a list before you go.
Make a list of places you’d like to visit, events that may be happening, or restaurants you want to try before you arrive in your country of choice. I made a list before coming to New Zealand and though I definitely won’t hit all of the spots because I’m so busy with classes and my internship, it’s a good thing to have on quiet weekends when my roommates and I feel like we’re getting lazy. Here are some great websites for travel advice: www.matadornetwork.com & www.lonelyplanet.com
Say YES to everything.
Well, say “yes” to everything within reason. This is something else I struggle with since I usually overthink everything and I consider myself a reserved person. But I made a promise to myself that I would say yes to every opportunity that pops up, no matter how far out of my comfort zone or scared I feel. I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of it so far: I’ve jumped off a cliff into the black sand dunes; I’ve driven on the “wrong” side of the road; I couchsurfed with strangers in Melbourne; I’ve been on some really awkward—and a few nice!—dates with random Kiwis. I plan on backpacking in the South Island by myself and skydiving in Queenstown and maybe getting a tattoo. (Just kidding about that last one.) I realized early on that my time in Auckland is basically a reprieve from my real life in Boston. Who cares if I have embarrassing moments or I make some mistakes? None of that (within reason) will affect anything back home, so now is the time to try new things. I’m proud of myself because I feel as though I’m becoming more assertive and independent, and those qualities are something that will come back to Boston with me.
Save up your money before you go.
As I mentioned, studying abroad is kind of like a break from real life where you get to try all kinds of new things. Unfortunately, experiences can be quite costly. You should really save as much money as you can before you go so you are able to say “yes” to every opportunity. I lucked out a bit because the American dollar is stronger than the Kiwi dollar, so when I think I’m spending $75 on a ticket to Hobbiton, I’m really only spending $58. Yeah, things can be expensive in New Zealand, especially groceries—$4 for a single cucumber!—but after speaking to my friend who studied abroad in London, it’s definitely cheaper overall than places in Europe.
Meet and hang out with locals.
It’s so easy to hang out with your BU group when you’re abroad, and there’s nothing wrong with that. My two roommates and I do almost everything together. However, we’ve also made friends in classes, through our internships, and from going out and about. Kiwis are notoriously friendly and we’ve been lucky that it’s been so easy meeting people. My roommate and I started going to pub trivia every Thursday at The Fox, where we’ve made friends with another team and have beers with them after each game. And today I’m going to a picnic birthday party for a make-up artist I met on a film shoot through my internship. Our Kiwi friends have pointed out cool bars and restaurants we wouldn’t have found on our own, suggested day trips for us to take, taught us the best public transit routes, and introduced us to different neighborhoods around Auckland. Having friends outside of the BU group makes me feel as though I’m really living in Auckland, rather than visiting, and it’s comforting.
Yes, I miss my family, my friends, Boston, and BU terribly. But I wouldn’t trade my experience here in Auckland for anything, because I feel like I’m taking the time to learn how I want to live my life and become the kind of person I want to be. And that’s the true luxury of going abroad, because you don’t have that kind of time in the chaos of real life.