8 Years Later: Reflecting on New Zealand

Tristan Pollock is a 2008 graduate of North Dakota State University and an ISA Guest Alumni Blogger. He studied abroad with ISA in 2008 in Auckland, New Zealand. You can learn more about him at https://medium.com/@tristanpollock.

It has been eight years since I studied in New Zealand at Auckland University of Technology through AustraLearn (now ISA). The experience was one of the more impactful moments of my life.

I hadn’t traveled frequently before my semester abroad and never outside of North America. It’s the first time I truly realized how important it is to spend time abroad and with people different from you. During my time in New Zealand, my closest friends were a Swede, a Dane, two Dutch people and other Europeans, Asians, and Americans from other parts of the country, which opened up my mind to so many different cultures and perspectives I hadn’t known in the United States Midwest.

One of my most memorable and mindful parts of my study abroad trip was when I took our two-week fall break and turned it into a solo road trip across the South Island of New Zealand. Not only was it incredibly beautiful, but when you travel solo, you often get the chance to make strong connections with other solo travelers.

After I left Christchurch and bused to Lake Tekapo, I met Suzan from The Netherlands. From her, I learned something that has stuck with me ever since: the gray area. Before our conversations, I never realized how polarizing the US can be, or how far reaching our politics and culture is spread through media to other countries.

I also didn’t realize that not having a gray area perspective and looking at everything as black and white was so different than other parts of the world. What I learned was not only that it’s good to have a gray area, because life and things that happen in it are always on a spectrum, but that is actually who I am. I always see the gray. I see both sides of the story. The answers to questions are often not binary, even if that’s the type of answer we often enjoy hearing.

That experience showed me how impactful travel and spending time abroad with different cultures and people can be. I’ve never stopped traveling. In fact, in 2017, I married the love of my life, Danyelle (who visited me in New Zealand while I was studying), and in 2018, we will take a sabbatical/honeymoon around the world to reconnect with ourselves and the planet. Hope to see you there.

Tristan is an entrepreneur in residence at 500 Startups and artist in hiding. In 2015, he made Forbes 30 Under 30 for his work on Storefront making retail accessible to the most creative people in cities across the United States.

The world awaits…discover it.

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