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Home Sweet Home

Time December 14th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

Despite being home for nearly a month now, it still feels strange some mornings to wake up in my own bed and not have to walk up a huge hill to class just to grab a flat white after and hang out with Megan. However, coming home was a joy–after so much traveling to get here–to be able to see my loved ones. It almost feels like I was never away from home, except for of course the addition of experiences and stories to my repertoire.

It’s especially weird being at home while everyone else is still in school stressing about finals. It’s kind of nice though to be able to get used to being back in the states. A lot of my friends are still abroad in Europe actually, so I’m appreciative to have the time with my family preparing for the holidays. With the warm weather here in North Carolina, it’s hard enough to get into the Christmas spirit. Seeing some of my friends still on campus makes me particularly grateful for the opportunities I embraced this last semester. Although I love Wake, I would never trade the past four months for any number of days in Winston-Salem with some of my best friends. The two are literally worlds apart, and I’m so glad to be able to have lived both fully.

I almost feel a little bit lost coming back home with no classes, no job, and no plans in the South Pacific. I have classes registered for next semester, but that’s about it.  Right now, I’m trying to focus on transitioning back into life at Wake Forest, as well as enjoying my family and friends during the holidays. It’s bizarre how being in New Zealand was a monumental experience in my life, and now it’s already over and gone. Nonetheless, I have the memories of a lifetime, a greater perspective, and an increasing desire to continue enjoying the world around me–as well as encouraging my fellow students to do the same.

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Preparation for the End of a “Vacation”

Time November 16th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

133 days, four classes, 10 flights, and too many bus trips later, the end of the semester is finally here. With the sun shining and finals over, it is sad to be heading home to a dreary November while my friends are still in school. It is also sad to think that this whirlwind journey is coming to an end. Nevertheless, I am so excited to see my friends and family after such a long time. I have definitely never been away from home for this long. I’m probably most excited to simply sleep in my own bed and have my mom dote after me, despite touting my new sense of independence. It is truly a bittersweet feeling. The excitement and relief of being home will probably wear off before I know it, and I’ll be ready to be back in the South Pacific.

It is almost bizarre to think about explaining my experience abroad. I know I won’t be going back the same person I was when I left. The past four months have given me the opportunities of a lifetime. I doubt I could’ve told anyone I would be bungy jumping and seeing a show at the Opera House last June. Along with all of my exciting new stories, I feel like I am more aware of the world around me, and particularly how my country is viewed by other Western nations. I feel more self-sufficient from living in a city, mostly alone, on the other side of the world from North Carolina. I feel as if I am more prepared to “go with the flow” and an ability to adapt to new educational and work environments. Even experiencing homesickness has allowed me to feel more appreciative of my friends, family, home university, and hometown, as well as allowed me to experience personal growth through independence and self-sufficiency.

When one asks the average student about his or her study abroad experience, it is often focused on the sightseeing and the adrenaline-pumping, but having my own abroad experience has showed me how the opportunity is much more encompassing than the fun photos we see on Facebook. Being abroad provides a perspective you can never understand if you never leave the country you were raised to know and love. At times, it’s scary, and it’s sad, and you are so ready to go home. But as I reflect back on the semester, I think the anxiety and the fear of the situation is part of what makes it so rewarding. Instead of being homesick and retreating to your comfort zone, you have to take a leap of faith in order to really perceive your place in the world. Understanding where you come from and where others come from just makes all the fun stuff in between worthwhile.

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South Island: Screams, Sightseeing, and Breathtaking Scenery

Time November 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

Exam period is still lulling on, but since I had the first week free, I’ve just returned from the beautiful Queenstown. It was only a short flight down to one of the most southern-most points in NZ, but the snow-covered mountains, crisp air, and clear-blue lakes felt like a world away from Auckland. The first day I conquered my fear of heights by bungy jumping…something I never foresaw myself doing. Taking the plunge wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought on a ledge surrounded by the beautiful Queenstown. It was truly exhilarating, and I am so glad I had the experience. If there is one thing I can take from my semester abroad into the professional world is a new found ability to “jump” at opportunities as they come my way, not to mention the incredible experience of independence I’ve gained being 9,000 miles across the globe from anyone I’ve known for longer than 4 months. You can never go wrong by seizing opportunities as they come your way, as well as making opportunities for yourself.

The next day, we ventured down to Milford Sound. Despite a long bus ride and cloudy skies, the sound was truly breathtaking. The fiord (misnamed by Capt. Cook) is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations, and I feel blessed to have experienced it. With windy roads and a scary tunnel through a mountain, the remote location truly makes you feel small and insignificant in the world.

It’s hard to believe the semester is nearly over, but I will be coming home with an arsenal of skills for tackling the “real world” after graduation. My independence and self-sufficiency surprises me everyday. I can plan a trip to Fiji, budget a weekly food bill, and still do well in my courses. I feel organized, and I feel excited about trying new things, meeting new people, and experiencing all that the world has to offer me.

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School’s Out…For Summer?!

Time October 23rd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

Today marks the final day of classes this semester at the University of Auckland. It’s hard to believe finals are just around the corner. I only have one more assignment between me and my much-dreaded exams. Assignments and testing are definitely much different here than at home. There are only 2-3 assignments in each of my papers (i.e. courses) and the final exam. However, lecturers and tutors have made exam contents incredibly clear. All of my exams are essay responses, whereas at Wake I would typically have at least 1 or 2 research essays as finals. The exam period is also three whole weeks long!

Aside from finals, I am looking forward to finishing the semester abroad. I still have a few weekend trips planned–Milford Sound, Wellington, and Paihia. My marks (i.e. grades) seem to be good…thanks to planning ahead and staying on top of course readings, and I think most of my traveling/activity bucket list will be completed. In fact, last weekend I was finally able to make it down to Hobbiton to tour the shire set. That was definitely a highlight of the semester. It felt like another world. I also went Zorbing while we were out of the city, another quintessential NZ experience.

I’m sad to report our final IFSA-Butler activity was also this week. We enjoyed an incredible four course meal at Orbit 360, the rotating restaurant  at the skytower. The food and views were absolutely amazing, and we were fortunate to have Resident Director Sian come up and enjoy great food and the silly superlatives we gave one another. Especially as a first-generation student, I honestly feel so fortunate to have IFSA-Butler programming and advisers like Emily and Sian to guide us through the experience, particularly after meeting another American student who came on her own without a program. Fellow students, certainly fellow first-generation students: do not be afraid to use your program advisers and study abroad counselors for ANY questions or concerns you have about being abroad! It’s a chaotic, scary process, and that’s exactly what they are there for. Trust me…they have already heard it all.

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Experience Weekend

Time September 28th, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

This past weekend, the IFSA Butler Auckland crew headed down to Rotorua for NZ Experience Weekend. Exciting and exhausting, it was a blast! Saturday we spent the morning “riding a giant through the redwoods” AKA mountain biking. Afterward, we went luging while enjoying the beautiful views of “Rotovegas.” The day was topped off with a fantastic dinner at the Fat Dog and a birthday cake for Megan!

Sunday was the true highlight of the trip. We got up early to checkout some hot springs before we went whitewater rafting! It was a blast…I was even lucky enough to be on the raft that capsized going over the World’s tallest commercial whitewater rafting waterfall. Despite being freezing and terrifying, it was a ton of fun! After laughing at the photos and drying off, we enjoyed fish and chips overlooking Lake Rotorua. The weekend was perfect, and we headed back into the city enjoying the scenery along the way. Now, I’m back to major assignments for the next two weeks!

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Back to School!

Time September 17th, 2015 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

Today marks exactly two months until I am forced to leave Auckland and the end of week 7 here at uni. It’s so hard to believe we only have 5 weeks of classes left. At least the weather is finally warming up here as soon as the break ended! Speaking of the break, I spent the second week in Sydney, and it was amazing! I was able to go whale watching, selfie with a koala, see a show at the opera house, and sample some treats at the festival of smooth chocolate. I could not have asked for a better experience!

Being back in Auckland is a bit of a bummer with perpetual rain and impeding assignments, but I’m thoroughly looking forward to Experience Weekend in Rotorua next week. For now, I’m stuck doing laundry and attempting to get back into school mode! Hei konā rā mid-semester break!

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Mid-Semester Festivities

Time September 3rd, 2015 in 2015 Fall, College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

Swept up in the chaos of midterms and preparing for mid-semester traveling, I forgot to post about my current status! It’s hard to believe classes are halfway over, but it’s even harder to believe I just returned from Fiji. Despite the sunburn, it was an incredible experience. The beautiful beaches and welcoming people were quite the escape from rainy Auckland.

Holidays provide a unique chance to meet other study abroad students since we often travel to similar destinations and accommodations. For example, we stayed at the Beach House in Korolevu, Fiji and another IFSA student from Canterbury happened to be there! There were also other students studying in New Zealand from France, Denmark, Scotland, and Norway. There is certainly a pathway that leads a particular type of individual into a study abroad experience–well-educated families, white, higher socioeconomic status, and a history of travel and cultural experiences. This seems to be the case for my particular program, as well as exchange students I have met from other places.

As a first-generation student, I do feel slightly out of place in this experience. I’m not well-traveled, nor am I free from financial burdens. Therefore, it has been difficult to relate to some of my peers. However, I have definitely felt similarly at Wake Forest. This is not the first time I have felt out of place based on my background, yet I think that gives me an advantage in adapting to new social landscapes. If this were my first time feeling like I didn’t belong, acclimating to Auckland may have been a far more difficult task. Being a first-gen student means I am constantly pushed outside of my comfort zone, with only minimal support from an inexperienced family, but that makes adaptation all the more challenging and rewarding. Navigating new experiences only leads to a more diverse perspective on the world, and the better we become at navigation the more insightful we can become.

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Midterms in August?

Time August 14th, 2015 in College Study Abroad, First Generation Scholars, New Zealand | No Comments by

It’s hard to believe four weeks of class have already flown by here at uni. This weekend will be filled with writing essays and studying for exams. The downtime has had me feeling a bit homesick for my friends and family, especially since I just missed my best friend’s birthday and my mom’s is next week. With the time difference it is difficult to stay in touch, but sometimes it makes me more sad to talk to them than if I didn’t. This will definitely be the longest I will have ever gone without being home. It’s not as though I’m a four hour drive from home like I am at Wake.

As a first generation student, I think being abroad has been the hardest for my mom, but she has been completely supportive of the transition. I know Thanksgiving and Christmas will be great when I return home. Other than midterms and homesickness, the semester is still going fantastically. I have trips to Fiji and Sydney booked for the mid-semester break, and I’ve been trying to get around Auckland as much as possible. Last weekend, I went to Devonport with a friend, and we hiked up to Mt. Victoria for some great views and had an amazing brunch.

I’m also trying to stay active on campus–last night I went to a discussion on the current issues in the prison system in Aotearoa. I’m shocked by how often New Zealand compares itself to the United States on current issues. It’s been enlightening to see the influence the US has on other Western nations from an alternative perspective, especially when it comes to popular culture. It’s incredible how I am listening to the same music and watching the same films as my friends from home, albeit a few months late.

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A Whole New World

Time August 3rd, 2015 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

This post is far overdue; I can hardly believe I’ve already been in New Zealand for almost an entire month! It feels like it’s been so much longer than that because I have already done so many exciting things. After plenty of traveling, the first few days in New Zealand were spent at orientation with the entire IFSA-Butler program (including students at unis in Palmerston North, Wellington, and Christchurch). Orientation took place at the Shakespear lodge with breathtaking views and tons of activities to welcome us into a new country. We kayaked, mountain biked, relaxed in hot springs, and learned how to play rugby. The first few days were great. I even met someone from my home university who is in Wellington.

After our stay at the Shakespear lodge, we were able to learn about Maori culture by staying at a marae. We learned a little bit about the different ceremonies and history of the Maori people of New Zealand. The last day of orientation included trips to Mt. Eden to overlook the Auckland skyline, a wine tasting at Villa Maria, and finally moving into our new flats! The first week or two became us trying to get used to our new homes, including a few trips to nearby islands and film festival screenings. The past few weeks have been us trying to acclimate to a new academic arena.

We have just finished our second week of classes. It’s quite odd considering August had yet to begin. Despite the excitement of visiting glow worm caves, ziplining, and planning trips to Fiji and Australia, the reality of uni is setting in. The University of Auckland is extremely different from Wake Forest. Auckland has over 40,000 students; thus, lacking the small, relatively homogeneous campus of Wake Forest University. The class structure is different here. All of my four classes have a two hour lecture and a one hour tutorial once a week. This is slightly more in-class time per week than I am used to, but there are fewer weeks in the semester here. That being said, readings tend to be dense with class time being devoted to covering as much material as possible. It is definitely different, but I do not feel too stressed so far. However, I doubt I will be feeling the same in a few weeks with essays accounting for 30% of my final grade being due. Right now, I am just focusing on staying on top of my work while balancing the adventures in which I am partaking as well as planning for the future. It feels like freshman year all over again!

 

 

 

 

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12 Hours and Counting

Time July 2nd, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In exactly 12 hours, (3 AM ET) I will be waking up to drive 3 hours to the airport. From there, I will be spending the next two days traveling to Auckland, New Zealand. Although we are on the exciting side of my pre-departure preparations, the months leading up to my travels have been all but uneventful.

My home university, Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC has been great to me. It is four and a half hour drive to the small, beautiful campus. People are friendly, Southern, and studious. However, since February, I have been preparing to go somewhere entirely different from my small, private school–the University of Auckland.

In some ways, it feels like freshman year all over again. I’m nervous about making new friends and making sure I packed everything I need. As a first-generation student, adjusting to college life was especially scary two years ago. My parents were definitely helpful in the process, but they didn’t know exactly what to expect. Transitioning to another country is a whole new adventure for us!

Fortunately, my brother spent last year abroad in Germany, so our family is somewhat experienced with sending one of us across the globe. Nonetheless, we are certainly facing a whole new set of concerns. First off, I have never flown alone, especially not internationally. Luckily, my flight out of LAX is with a group from the program. IFSA-Butler has also sent SO many emails and newsletters that I should have no problems traveling (other than sleep deprivation and unbearable excitement).

Undoubtedly, my other major concern is adjusting to a new culture! Acclimating to Wake Forest was an interesting experience. From Jack Rogers to Lily Pulitzer, there is definitely a culture shock that comes with attending a college brimming with old money and overly-accomplished students. I am not sure exactly what to expect at my new university, though I know I will be encountering far more diversity. I am hoping the program orientation will be an effective way for me to meet some of my new “classmates” and truly start understanding what kind of adventure awaits me these next few months.

For my dwindling last day at home, I am going to continue going over my packing list, struggling to contain my nervous excitement, and listening to six60.

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