Well sadly I’ve come to my final post here as my study abroad experience has come to an end. It’s amazing to think that just over 5 months ago I was boarding a plane and heading off to start a new chapter of my life; a chapter that at the time was completely unknown to me. Looking back now I know my study abroad experience turned out to be the most incredible chapter of my life and I know it will be hard to top in the future as well!
I’ve now been back home for just over a week and I have to say I definitely have mixed feelings. It’s very nice to be home and back with family and friends after 5 months apart, but at the same time I really do miss my home in New Zealand. When I was packing to come home from New Zealand I felt as though I was packing to go on vacation. I felt at home there and strangely felt many of the same feelings and reservations I had when I was packing to go to New Zealand. One of the hardest parts of leaving was not coming to terms with leaving such a beautiful country, but more so saying goodbye to all the new friends I made while abroad. I met so many people from all over the States and the world and it is sad to think I may never see some of those people again. I sincerely hope that I am lucky enough to cross paths with a few friends at some point in the future!
In previous posts I had mentioned that I wondered if I would experience reverse culture shock upon returning home. After being home now for a little while I can say that the adjustment was much smoother than I had anticipated. Not much had really changed at home and I found myself adjusting back to a ‘normal’ routine fairly quickly. As far as reverse culture shock was concerned I don’t think I really had any trouble with readjusting to my life back home.
I still find myself thinking and reflecting on my time in New Zealand and I do believe that living in another country for 5 months definitely changed me for the better. Before going abroad, I found it hard to picture things on a global scale; in fact I had trouble at times picturing things on a national scale. Traveling and living in a new country definitely helped me to think globally and realize that maybe the earth isn’t as big as it seems at times. I also found it interesting living abroad and seeing the influences of the States so far away. Most entertainment in New Zealand, whether it be music, TV, or movies, is American based or greatly influenced in some way by American entertainment. It was very interesting to be able to look at the United States from the view of an outsider. New Zealand is a very small country and is rarely involved in large world affairs. They are by no means a super power and therefore differ greatly from the United States. This definitely allowed for a different view of the States from the perspective of a less powerful and influential country (but by no means less important). It surely was a humbling experience!
There were two experiences I had with locals concerning the States that I think stand out to me above all the rest of the encounters I had. The first encounter was extremely negative. I was riding the metro one day with most of our IFSA butler group when a man called us out for being “Fing Americans.” The entire bus ride the man sat behind me and another student and continuously berated Americans, and us, for anything and everything he could think of (and he wasn’t short on profanity or other offensive comments). This was surely the most negative experience I had abroad. I understand that that man was entitled to his opinion that America has made mistakes before, but I could not believe how ignorant and rude he was to hate every American he met based on a few prior conceptions. The second experience was much more positive. While I was hiking Mount Taranaki with my friend Joel we passed a group of senior citizens on a hike. We stopped to talk with them and found that we were the first Americans they had seen in months. They told us they were always happy to see Americans in New Zealand as they felt Americans don’t travel outside our own country enough. I’ve really thought about what these people had to say that day and realize that I probably agree with them on this point. I think more Americans should take the opportunity to travel and experience more of the world. After my experiences abroad I cannot advocate enough for anyone and everyone to travel as much as possible!
This brings me to my final piece of advice for any college student back in America or anywhere in the world: STUDY ABROAD. There will likely be no other opportunity in your life where you will get the chance to live and study in another country, so take advantage of the opportunity while you are in university; I guarantee you won’t regret the experience. I also highly recommend finding a program such as IFSA Butler to travel with as it is really nice knowing you have support for anything you may need while abroad. It really makes the experience easier and takes away some of the stress.
I still can’t believe I’m home and won’t be climbing mountains or hiking through rainforests on my weekends anymore. Time really does fly and I can’t wait until the day I can return to New Zealand and hit a few of those hikes I never got to do!