The Exchange Experience: New Zealand

I’ve always been an adventurer, constantly seeking out the newest, coolest place to explore. I think this is why a semester abroad appealed to me so much. The thought of travelling somewhere new while also being able to study a subject that I’m extremely passionate about seemed too good to be true. Thankfully, the University of Ottawa has an amazing Study Abroad program and the options on where to study were almost limitless. After “narrowing it down” to pretty much everywhere on the list of possible schools, I finally settled on going to the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. I have always wanted to travel there and something about a country more populated by sheep than people just spoke to me (am I actually a sheep whisperer? Maybe.)

I sent in my application in January and anxiously awaited the final verdict. When I got the official approval to move to the other side of the world, I was ecstatic! I was also terrified. This was real now. I was actually going to travel to New Zealand for six months, and I was going all by myself. I hurriedly made my way through the last semester of my second year, said a tearful goodbye to my friends and mentally prepared myself to head to the land of the Kiwis. I also had to prepare myself for the fact that school was starting in July because their seasons are backwards.

Two eventful summer months flew by and I suddenly found myself staring at an empty suitcase and a plane ticket that had tomorrow’s date on it. What had I gotten myself into? My emotional state was probably equivalent to Harry Potter waiting to head into the maze in the Goblet of Fire. I was probably going to have to face darkness (it’s winter there), terrifying beasts (kiwi birds), not to mention possibly Voldemort (scary customs officers).

Fast forward to now. I’ve been in New Zealand for more than a month and have realized that any and all of my fears were pointless. I am having the time of my life! Everyone is so friendly and within a week of arriving in the dorms on campus I had already made lifelong friends. I’ve completed multiple weekend excursions and have done my best to embrace the local culture. I also visited one of New Zealand’s finest tourist attractions, the land of the Hobbits. Nestled into the perfectly green, rolling hills, Hobbiton was as quaint and picturesque as I would have imagined. Also, being only 5’3 I was hoping that maybe I could make one of the hobbit holes my new home.

Despite all the positives of the last month, I can’t push aside my original fears completely. Even though they turned out to be unsolicited, it doesn’t change the fact that moving to the other side of the world is a scary thing! I was a nervous, emotional wreck when I arrived, but I’ve now sorted myself out and am ready to take on my next adventure.