Well, here I am, the night before I leave for my program in Christchurch, New Zealand, and in another stunning tribute to my ability to procrastinate, I am finally wrapping up the writing of my predeparture blog post! My procrastinatory habits aside, I think my last minute editing of this speaks a lot to how your study abroad experience can sneak up on you. You would think that with all the preparation I’ve been doing for the last year that actually leaving would purely feel like a “finally” moment, but somehow it also feels like “wow, already?!”.
I think this is because, for me, it was sometimes necessary to only focus on one logistical issue at a time (like applying for my visa, figuring out a phone plan, enrolling in classes, buying plane tickets, handling insurance, obsessing over packing lists, etc.) or I would feel totally overwhelmed. This sometimes meant losing sight of the broader picture of actually studying abroad. Preparing so far in advance made study abroad feel like a bit of a vague, faraway concept, no matter how many vivid blogs and videos and books I read about NZ and the study away experience. I also didn’t want my anticipation and excitement to peak too early, especially because COVID sometimes made it feel uncertain whether I would be able to go at all. However, now that all my preparatory tasks are completed, I’m finally looking up and realizing that all my work, stress and time have paid off and there’s a tangible product in front of me: a whole semester studying and learning and exploring across the ocean. The time is now. Even a week ago, when I was sitting at home in SD staring out at the falling snow and contemplating the current Christchurch temperature of 70°F, it felt like I still had a lot of hurdles to clear before I would be ready to leave, which made the departure itself feel farther off. I honestly think there’s still a part of me that isn’t completely aware of what is about to happen tomorrow. Like:
The aware part of me: “Hey so just wanted to make sure you knew, we’re going to be traveling soon.”
The unaware part of me: “Oh cool, like to visit grandparents or something?”
“Not exactly… we’re going to New Zealand.”
“Like over the ocean New Zealand??”
“Yes. New Zealand. Aotearoa. It will be fun.”
“Ohhhh okay, like with a group of friends or family for a week or two?”
“Uh, nope. All by ourselves, for a semester. We’re studying abroad.”
“Like, on a 15 hour plane ride, to a foreign country, through customs and immigration, to live and study for a full semester, knowing basically no one?”
“That would be correct.”
Previously unaware but now aware part of me: “May I ask what possessed you to set this up?”
“Because it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand our knowledge of the world, get outside our comfort zone, grow immensely as a person, and meet new people from all over the planet? Plus, you do have a whole support network there, you just haven’t met any of them in person yet.”
“Hmm. Okay. I’ll consider it.”
“Unfortunately we leave tomorrow morning, so the consideration period has kind of expired.”
“Allow me to process that in silence.”
It’s silly, but that’s kind of what is happening in my brain, and I’m sure some of that disbelief will continue into the first week (and maybe beyond) of my time in NZ. It’s unreal to think that it’s finally happening, that I’ll be there for so long and have the opportunity for so many unique experiences. Unrealness aside, I’m beyond grateful and excited for whatever comes next, and to document a lot of it on this blog. I hope this can be a mix of documenting my own experience, as well as offering advice and insight to those whose study abroad adventure’s are still on the horizon. Tomorrow, I’m off to New Zealand! For now, I wish smooth, safe journeys to all, no matter where you are or where you’re going.
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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.