New Zealand Spring 2010
Allison Woods ‘11
Arcadia: Victoria University of Wellington
Wellington, New Zealand
It is almost impossible to think about my time abroad last semester without having a huge smile come across my face or even sometimes beginning to tear up. Although it seems like such a cliché thing to say, my semester abroad changed my life more than I could have ever imagined. While I was so excited to go to New Zealand, I really had no idea what to expect. Moving from a small liberal arts college in a small town to a large school in the middle of a city was quite a change. I spent the beginning of the semester just getting used to being woken up at 6 a.m. by the city life. I also had to acclimate myself to large lecture halls and tons of people everywhere. Although the city life was a new and exciting experience for me, my travels throughout New Zealand were what really changed who I am today.
Immersing myself into the real kiwi culture of camping around the country, sky diving, and tramping (known here as backpacking) through the New Zealand bush became my real passion. I have never in my life seen such beautiful scenery and met such interesting, intelligent, and kind people. The friends that I met and traveled with taught me a lot about friendship and compassion for other people, but also helped me to realize the person that I would like to grow to be. Not only did our tramping adventures strengthen my friendships with the people with whom I was traveling, but along the way we met so many interesting people from all over the world. Each person had his or her own life story and experiences, most of which blew me away. The remarkable part about this was that I was not only learning about New Zealand culture, but also about cultures from all over the world.
The landscapes were outrageous. I felt as though I was in a fantasyland. We spent days traveling and carrying all of our things on our backs, gazing at the beautiful scenery. It amazed me how little is needed to live, and that has taught me the positive parts about living simply. I could travel for days in the middle of winter with everything I needed in one backpack. The hikes up mountains and along rivers and beaches tested my strength physically and mentally, and made me realize what I am capable of accomplishing. The journeys and the people I shared them with also taught me a lot about the power of positivity. Even when we would start out hiking in freezing temperatures, hail, and fog, we found that as long as we stayed positive, the experiences would become some of the best of our lives.
What started out as a six month opportunity to study in another country ended up as a completely life-altering experience. I expected to study at a bigger university in a big city, but I never expected to meet so many fabulous people who would change my life the way they did, or to go to such beautiful and inspiring places. This made me realize that traveling and experiencing the world and diverse cultures is what shapes who I am, and has made me decide that traveling will be an important avocation throughout the rest of my life. One man that I met along the way said to me that “the key to tolerance is traveling” and I believe that he is correct. Tolerance, and therefore understanding, comes from immersing yourself into a different culture and understanding and appreciating those ways of life. My semester in New Zealand has taught me so much about life and about myself. Even if I had the chance, I wouldn’t change a single part of my experience.
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