The Surprises of a Semester in Auckland, New Zealand

The decision to study abroad came easily, but boy was I surprised at how much work and research it would require. It was exciting to look at the possible places that I could travel to and discover. It came with hurdles like applications, reading the fine print, and sending countless emails to advisors. At times, the thought of entering a foreign country on my own was daunting.

But the moment I left my home, the adventure began and it seemed like all of my hard work was paying off. I was jittery and anxious to see what would actually lie ahead of me. I had planned my every action up until I arrived at the Auckland Airport, and for the most part it ran smoothly. Stepping out of the airport doors into the warm New Zealand air made me excited for what was to come.

Students learning about clubs and organizations at orientation at Massey University
Students learning about clubs and organizations at orientation at Massey University

In the span of one hundred and thirty days, Massey became my home. I eventually created a life for myself with the help of some really great friends. My values were challenged as I decided what I wanted my study abroad experience to be like: a balance of school, traveling and independence. This required me to actively make an effort to make choices that would allow for this lifestyle. It was an adjustment that I had not considered, but was manageable after some practice.

The academic work was different than what I was used to at my home university. There were fewer grades, and the assignments were all essay based- even the final exam. It was a challenge to make the adjustment, as it’s not my learning style, but I think that I became a better writer at the end of it. My professors gave plenty of feedback addressing everything in the essay, even my writing style and word choice.

I spent my mid-semester break traveling with a friend around the south island of New Zealand. Together we stayed in hostels in five cities, exploring what each had to offer. We made time to enjoy the outdoors and visit Milford Sound which is the most beautiful place I visited while abroad. We met dozens of people which we exchanged stories with. Many were international and explained their excitement for coming to New Zealand. The shared enthusiasm was a reason that I loved being a place where people are so friendly and conversational.

Once I returned to the United States, I was shocked to see how many things that I took for granted about being home, such as driving my car, cooking at home, and seeing my family/friends. But at the same time, there are things that I miss about being in New Zealand. I know that I didn’t do everything that New Zealand had to offer, but it’s just a reason to go back!

I experienced highs and lows while in New Zealand, and there are some things that I would change if I had the opportunity to do it over, but I would do it again in a heart-beat. Studying abroad gave me a sense of confidence to be brave and try new things on my own. It is now extremely exciting to be able to announce that I have completed a semester abroad at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand!

Abby Priest is a USAC New Zealand alumna. During her time abroad she served as a USAC Digital Documenter