I’ve been home for two weeks now, and my time abroad already feels like a long time ago. It went by so quickly, but when I look back at photos I realize how much I actually did get to experience. There are definitely still items on my NZ bucket list, but those are for a future trip. For now, I thought I would share some photos of experiences abroad that I didn’t necessarily get to blog about. These include adventures around Christchurch; trips all over the South Island; and even the IES Abroad field trip to Rarotonga, Cook Islands; as well as a quick trip to Melbourne, Australia. I’ll put a little more info in the captions, but I’m hoping the photos do a better job of capturing my experience than any amount of rambling I could do (which if you’ve read my blog, you know is a lot).
I'll admit I was a little nervous about returning home and experiencing re-entry shock, and while I have felt that a bit (on top of some jet lag), it hasn't been as bad as I expected. When I was traveling so much during my time abroad, Kiwis would often half joke that I was seeing more of New Zealand than they had, which made me realize it's easy to take a place for granted or put off exploring it if you live there. Based on that realization, I've been trying to have a greater appreciation for where I live in the U.S., and I've been using the last two weeks to yes, recover from traveling, but also to check out spots that I might otherwise take for granted. The Black Hills don't exactly have the same variety and level of tramping that NZ does, but I realized there are still new things to explore and experience here, even though I've lived here for so long. So get out there and see what your own area/state/country has to offer. What would an international traveler want to experience that you might take for granted? Don't get me wrong, I definitely miss a lot about NZ, but for now, I'm happy to be home and exploring as the version of me who was changed by my months abroad.
Before I sign off for good though, a last few tips for your time abroad and/or in NZ:
- Keep a journal: Even if you just write one sentence a day, this will become an invaluable record of your experience
- Take care of your mental health: Being a psychology major, I would be remiss to not mention mental health at least once. Study abroad is a life changing experience, but some days it can feel overwhelming to be in a new place by yourself, and other days it can feel underwhelming, like when you have to stay in and study instead of going somewhere fun. I am an introvert at heart, so I was careful to give myself alone time to recharge, but I also made sure to do things outside of my comfort zone so that I didn’t retreat too far inward. Before you go abroad, think about what you need to maintain your mental health, and try to be intentional about keeping that up or finding an alternative during your time abroad.
- Just because you’re abroad, don’t expect yourself to be an entirely new person. You will still have off days, and you might still need the support and mental health maintenance strategies that you use at home. And that’s okay! Allow yourself to have those days, allow yourself to reach out to others (on site or back at home), and try to take and appreciate each day as it comes. Time abroad is definitely a privilege and a golden opportunity, but that doesn’t mean every single day abroad has to be the best day of your life.
- Give solo travel a try: I solo traveled for 10 days during break (including my Kepler Track tramp), during my trip down to Rakiura/Stewart Island, and for a week trip to Melbourne, Australia. Travel with friends is also super fun, but traveling solo gave me more freedom to choose when, where, and what to do, and made it easier to meet new people. It also helped me get to know myself and my needs better, and made reuniting with friends on my return even sweeter. Solo travel often put me out of my comfort zone a bit, but even that helped me grow my confidence.
- I generally felt a lot safer traveling solo around NZ than I would in the US, but of course I also took precautions such as trying not to arrive in new places after dark, carefully reading reviews for accommodations and transport etc., booking accommodation close to the bus stop, and staying aware of my surroundings. (I also took a portable emergency personal locator beacon with me on all solo tramps, which is available to rent from the tramping club for a $150 deposit that you get back once you return it). Obviously this was especially important with me being a woman, but everyone who solo travels should take certain precautions, like letting your program manager and your flatmates/parents/other friends know your itinerary. If you’re not sure about solo travel, just give it a try for one afternoon. There are many hikes in the Port Hills that are accessible via the metro, which would be a great way to start.
- The time is now: If you have things you want to experience while abroad, then go for it! At the beginning of the semester it’s easy to feel like “I don’t need to plan that now, I have the entire semester ahead of me” but it goes by so quickly and ultimately I learned the best time to do something was right then and there (or that week). Take the first week or so to settle in, but then get out there and explore. Don’t run yourself ragged or give yourself an impossibly long bucket list, but definitely be open to jumping into new things and traveling within the first part of your semester, and not just at the end when you realize how little time is left. :) There is no perfect trip or destination, just choose something that interests you and go experience it!
Thank you to everyone who has read any part of my blog, from family to friends to future IES Abroad students! I hope you have enjoyed it and/or learned something helpful for your time abroad. Best of luck in your travels and if you have any questions I am more than happy to talk about everything and anything study abroad, especially for Christchurch, NZ. You can reach my IES Abroad oriented email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Anna Marie Riner
Kia ora! My name is Anna Marie, and I am a creative, outdoorsy individual from the Black Hills in South Dakota. This semester, I'm excited to be crossing the globe to New Zealand for some studying, tramping (hiking), eating, birding, interning, exploring and much more.