And the wait is nearly over…
My name is Meghann Gallimore and I am a junior English major. I am beyond excited to spend this spring semester at the University of Otago in New Zealand. I leave Chicago on February 13th and with less than a week to go, the final countdown has really begun. However, while all the difficult parts are done (visa, housing, flights, and class credit transfers) there is still a myriad of little things to do. Like packing. Which I guess is also kind of a big thing, but if I start too soon, I’ll end up pulling half of the items in there back out. Also, my Border Collie, Jazz, has the unfortunate habit of pulling things out of bags and suitcases. So that can wait. In the meantime, anticipation keeps growing, and I’m experiencing some jealousy toward friends who are already abroad in other countries. New Zealand students are currently on their summer break, so I have been filling in an unusually long interim period between December, when my semester at Valparaiso University ended, up until this point.
Ever since I knew that studying abroad was an option in college, my choice has wavered between Australia and New Zealand. After a lot of research and conversations with friends and acquaintances who had traveled to both countries, I decided that New Zealand was the better fit for me. However, that being said, I do fully intend to visit Australia while I am on that side of the world. There is not way that I am missing out on snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef or fulfilling my childhood dream of visiting the Crocodile Hunter’s zoo.
And then there are my reasons for choosing New Zealand. Much of it has to do with the climate and terrain. Having lived in a south suburb of Chicago all my live with occasional visits to Florida and Michigan has left my list of outdoor adventures limited. I am so ready to go mountain climbing, biking, skydiving, kayaking, hiking (or as it’s called in New Zealand, tramping), bungee jumping, and any other number of incredible activities that I otherwise would not have the opportunity to try. I can only hope that the abundance of things to do in New Zealand doesn’t ruin me too much when I return to life in the Midwest.
Aside from the outdoor aspects of New Zealand, there also are academic reasons. As an English major, there is a lot of flexibility with classes so I am able to take a wide variety of classes. Most of them are literature-based, but a significant departure from the American and British literature centered curriculum that we have at VU. I’m particularly excited for the Post-Colonial Literature class, which focuses on texts in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, since that will be something different from what I have been reading for the past three years. I will also be taking a Maori culture class, which teaches us about New Zealand’s native people and should be very interesting. And finally, I will be taking New Zealand film course. I originally came into VU with a film minor, but had to drop it because the classes necessary were never offered. Taking that course allows me to study something I really enjoy but haven’t been able to experience academically in several years. It also will be interesting going from a school of 4,000 students to one of nearly 20,000. Aside from the obvious of classes being larger, there also will be a larger body of students in general to socialize with. Unlike VU, where you cannot walk anywhere on campus without seeing at least five people you know, the larger student body of the University of Otago grants, for better or worse, a greater deal of anonymity. I can’t say for sure which I will prefer; I like the idea of meeting more new people, but there is something to be said for the security of a smaller school.
I also must own up to one small factor that may have slightly influenced my decision to spend a semester in New Zealand. Anyone who knows me in the slightest is probably aware of the fact that I have an unhealthy fondness (some may call it an obsession) with The Lord of the Rings and all other things Tolkien. There is something incredibly appealing about visiting the place where these beloved books were brought to life. And hopefully, they will still conveniently be filming The Hobbit while I am there…
This semester will be a dramatic departure from what I’ve previously known. And I could not be more excited about that. Perhaps fear will kick in later but right now, I’m just ready to begin. While I in no way mean to diminish those people who chose a country in Europe or another older, arguably more historical location, I believe this is the best choice for me. Because who knows if there will ever be another time in my life when I can handle 20 hours in a plane. Or if I will be physically fit enough to climb mountains. Or have the funds necessary to go. All the pieces fit now and I look forward to sharing this incredible experience with you all.