Gabriel Lamer is a student at Michigan Technological University and an ISA Guest Blogger. He studied abroad with ISA in Christchurch, New Zealand, in Spring 2018.
So you’ve decided to study abroad. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s going to be totally awesome, but do you know where you’re going yet? It’s an important question, but don’t let it bog you down. Everywhere in the world has something unique, so there are no wrong answers. This blog will go into how I chose to study abroad in New Zealand and why it was the right choice for me.
First things first: get your priorities straight. The primary thing I had to think about was the language barrier. I only speak English fluently, and I needed a place where I could learn physics and not have to worry about translation as well as optical interference. Knowing this, I narrowed my top three choices to England, Australia and New Zealand. My next priority was what outdoor activities would be available. I can’t tell you how many fun facts and pictures I looked up about all three countries before settling on New Zealand. Did you know that the first person to summit Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, was from New Zealand? Or that New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote as well as legalize same sex marriage? I digress. The last thing to worry about was making sure that credits would transfer properly. My school’s study abroad office set me up with ISA, and I researched which classes would apply to my major. As a result, I will still be able to graduate in four years, even with an intense program like Chemical Engineering.
At the time of writing this, there is exactly one month left before heading back home. I have been studying at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, and I can say without a doubt that it was the place for me. The South Island of New Zealand has everything you could ask for in nature: from rainforests and fjords in the west to mountains and pristine lakes in the east. On my journeys, I’ve waded through rivers and clambered through caves. However, the beauty of New Zealand goes far beyond nature. We had cultural experiences with Maori people (the indigenous people) including a Hongi (singing/welcome) and learning the Haka (a war dance). I went swing dancing downtown, and celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of an art gallery. The pictures I’ve taken only show a fraction of the adventures I’ve had here. I never imagined I would read The Return of the King while on a backpacking trip around Mt Doom, but now I have the memories from all of these and more.
Above all, I’ve enjoyed meeting people and making connections that will last for years to come. I came here not knowing a single person on the entire continent, and now I can’t even number how many I’d call ‘friend.’ So wherever you go, don’t let anything hold you back. This experience will ultimately be what you make of it. Don’t just dip your toes in; dive in headfirst.
The world awaits…discover it.