Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Preparing for Winter in the Middle of Summer

My name is Chelsea, and I am a junior ecology major at Susquehanna University. As part of the degree requirements of Susquehanna University, I am required to partake in a cross cultural experience. This is known to us as the GO program. Students have an option of partaking in a GO short (programs that are only a couple weeks long) or GO long (a semester abroad). I originally thought I would complete a GO short, but as I saw some of the other students at Susquehanna plan for their semesters abroad, I started to reconsider my options.

Originally, I was planning on studying abroad in Bonaire. Let me guess, you’re thinking “Bonaire? Where is that?!” Because that’s exactly what I got from almost everyone I spoke with about studying abroad. Bonaire is located in the Gulf Of Mexico near Aruba, right along the equator. The program was research based and focused on marine ecology and at the time I thought it would be absolutely perfect. Warm weather, sandy beaches, beautiful clear water. Sounds like paradise right? However, I was blessed with skin that is super sensitive to the sun. I don’t think there is enough sunscreen in Bonaire to protect me from the sun for a week let alone a whole semester! I estimated that I would probably have severe skin poisoning a week into the program.

So I had to rethink where I would be studying abroad for a semester. I wanted the location to be rich in environmental/ecology/science experiences. I sat down with the GO office and they suggested a few highlighted programs, some of which included Germany and Africa. However, I don’t speak German, unless you count a few words that I learned throughout high school. And, I was required to speak Spanish for the Africa program. So my high school French background did not exactly help me in this endeavor.

My questions were answered during the “Biodiveristy Hotspot” lecture in my Ecosystems class. A world map was projected onto the screen with certain areas highlighted in red. Maybe it was the coffee kicking in, but my eyes focused on the projector screen, particularly on  New Zealand. My professor even showed pictures of when he traveled through New Zealand. And I thought, “that’s where I want to study abroad.” Now when I talked to people about studying abroad in New Zealand I usually get, “I absolutely loved New Zealand! It’s gorgeous! I can’t wait to go back” or “You better take lots of pictures” and a select few “You better take the Lord of the Rings tour!!”

While I am home for breaks, I work at a retirement home as an activities assistant and a waitress. The residents typically ask me how my break is going. In this case, it’s “How’s summer so far?” And I usually respond along the lines of, “It’s going well, but it’s almost over.” And I usually get a sort of quizzical look in response since some of the local high schools are just starting to let out for summer. So essentially every time I work is a reminder of how little left I have to enjoy summer. So I’m trying to enjoy as much as I can in what little time I have left here in the states.

As I previously, my home university requires a cross cultural experience. Thus many of my friends are studying abroad during the fall semester of their junior year. However, I am pretty sure I am the first to leave to study abroad. On one hand, I love that I have such a short summer and that I can go back to an academic environment. On the other hand, I feel like the summer is so short that it’s difficult to squeeze in all of the traditional summer activities (looks like another beachless summer). But then I think, I’m going to New Zealand and will have the time of my life.

While I may procrastinate on my school work, I am definitely not a procrastinator when it comes to packing. In the middle of the Spring semester, I devoted a whiteboard to listing the items I want to take with me to New Zealand. When school ended and I moved back home, I devoted one half of my closet to the clothes I want to leave at home, and the clothes that I want to bring with me. A couple of weeks ago, I took the New Zealand Clothes side and folded the clothes and started packing my suitcase. Now I just have a few last minute items to add to my bag and a bit of reorganization and I’m ready to go.

My IFSA-Butler advisor, Chris Haynes, has been sending us weekly advising emails in order to prepare us for New Zealand. It wasn’t until yesterday, when I received this week’s email about packing that the fact of me heading off to New Zealand really started to set in. It’s literally right around the corner. From that email, I gained two key packing tips in which I found the need to tweet.

Packing Tip #1: Walk around your neighborhood with your luggage. If it wears you out quickly, you’ve packed too much!

Packing Tip #2: Seasons are different in the southern hemisphere.Summertime clothing should not find its way into your suitcase

     I also follow a lot of New Zealand related twitters, including NZ Earthquake Bot. (Side note: if you don’t already know this about myself, I am a huge science nerd) This twitter tells you when, where, the magnitude, and depth of an earthquake in New Zealand. Needless to say, Christchurch has appeared in my twitter feed SEVERAL times. At first, I enjoyed seeing the tweets, and then I realized that is where I am going. I’ve only ever experienced one earthquake: the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that centered in Virginia. During that earthquake, I was at school in Central Pennsylvania working on a bulletin board in one of the academic buildings. School hadn’t started yet and I was essentially by myself when it happened, and I remember thinking, “Wow! They’re doing some intense construction work in this building right now” and I continued working. It wasn’t until one of the professors came down and said to me, “did you feel that earthquake?” that I realized what I just experienced. At first, the NZ Earthquake Bot twitter was exciting, it let me be a science nerd. Then it started to make me a little nervous, I’m going to a place with A LOT of earthquakes compared to where I live now.

Most people planning to study abroad get nervous about being such a far distance from home, from being away from family and friends, and whether or not they will make friends in their host location. For me, I’m worrying about the earthquakes. It’s both exciting and nerve wracking. But I just brushed up on my Richter scale, and learned that the majority of the earthquakes are considered to be “moderate” in terms of magnitude. I am slightly nervous about whether I’ll make friends in New Zealand, but everyone keeps saying how friendly the Kiwis are, so I’m not exactly worried. I don’t know anyone planning to study at the University of Canterbury, but I also didn’t know anyone at Susquehanna University when I was entering my freshman year, and I think I made out okay.

On May 23rd, I  tweeted “Pack for Boston. Pack for New York. Pack for New Zealand.” Well, I’ve packed and gone to Boston, and I’ve packed and visited New York, and now I’m essentially packed for New Zealand.

It’s weird to think that in a little over a week I’ll be boarding the plane to start my semester abroad in New Zealand. I honestly cannot wait!

 

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