Christchurch- A Year Later

Exploring Arches National Park in Utah

Kia Ora! When I first got the invitation from IES to write another blog post for “A Year Later” reflection, I fumbled through the student blogger interface and had major flashbacks to late nights in my flat in Christchurch typing away and editing videos. How was that a year ago?! One of the prompts for this new post inquired into how your study abroad experience has impacted what you are currently pursuing, so I suppose a good way to introduce this post is to say that when I returned from New Zealand, I was proud of the extent that we truly explored that country, and also disgusted with my limited experiences in my own country. So a year later, I write to you from Moab, Utah, having just completed my first cross country road trip and where I will be spending the summer working in and exploring every inch of Arches National Park.

Reverse culture shock hit me differently than I expected it to: Everyone tells you that you will come home feeling misunderstood and frustrated, but that you slowly readjust and feel “normal” again. I was so excited to be home for a summer in the Adirondacks and then so excited to be back at school with so many close friends and familiar faces that the misunderstanding and frustration came later, and never really went away until maybe a week ago. I’ll explain:Two primary things came out of my study abroad experience: While abroad, the friends I traveled with always promised we would visit each other and stay in touch. I thought these were well intentioned but untrue claims, however, this group has not only proved me wrong but also become some of my closest friends and most sincere supporters. We have already met up on several occasions including New Years in the Adirondacks and running a half marathon together in Indiana, and as we continue to meet all the friends and families that we talked so much about while we were away, these friendships only grow stronger and are undoubtedly some of the best things to come out of New Zealand.


Our Christchurch crew gathered in Indiana for a half marathon this past March!

Second, people in New Zealand always says “no worries!” (a phrase which has become an integral part of my vocabulary). But it is not just a phrase, it is a lifestyle that is clearly reflected in Kiwi culture in the way that they view their commitments, interact with one another, and enjoy their every day life. Once the excitement of being reunited with close friends boiled down, I was continuously perplexed by how my life at school was such a sharp contrast to the no worries attitude. Meaningless projects and fake problems were treated with an astounding lack of urgency and priority, and the lack of critical thinking combined with this notion of superiority became truly disheartening to be surrounded by all the time.

I am not trying to preach, I still have a lot to learn and living right is a constant process of trial and error. But you learn best when surrounded by genuine people who have learned the most important lesson there is: we know nothing, but we have the obligation to keep asking questions and to make every place and person we touch better than we found it. It means asking how people are and actually caring about the answer, it means picking up trash or taking time to look at the sky. It means living life to the fullest, being honest with yourself, and being honest with others.

The prompts also ask for advice, so here is mine. If you are considering going abroad, stop considering and do it. We live in a globalized world and to think that we can understand it from the perspective of Americans in the United States is absurd. If you are abroad, save the getting wasted with fellow Americans for home and get out there, talk to people. Jumping out of American-filled buses and taking pictures together at all the popular tourist points is not living abroad, it is living in a bubble. Finally, if you went abroad, stop looking back on it all the time. I say this because this was a real challenge for me, but I am learning that it is a part of me and always will be, and you cannot enjoy the present and future if you are constantly thinking about the past.

On a final note, I will say that I have really come to appreciate IES Abroad for how organized they were in every step of the way, and if I were still an undergrad I would definitely consider another international destination with this organization. But regardless of that, any abroad experience is what you make of it, so use every single moment. I could not be happier with my experience in New Zealand, and it has given me the drive and confidence to keep pursuing adventure and grow in a way that is meaningful to me instead of revolving my priorities around others’ expectations. Cheers mates!