1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?
My biggest fear of studying abroad was being alone. I had never spent 6 months on my own before and I had a pretty comfortable life in Santa Barbara. I had many friends and
a long-time girlfriend whom I didn’t want to leave. I also was nervous about not seeing my family for so long. However, after a lot of thought and a little impulsiveness, I decided to go abroad because I realized this was a unique experience that I would possibly not have a chance to do again. I was very afraid of leaving my (ex) girlfriend because we had been together for so long but ultimately it was the right decision because I flourished in my independence. It was challenging at times, especially at first, but as time went on, it becomes much easier to be alone and without her or my family.
2. What do you wish you had done to better prepare before going abroad?
I wish I had connected with people who were currently or previously studying abroad in New Zealand. There were several people who were friends of friends who were there, but I made no efforts to reach out to them. I wish I had reached out because I think it could have helped me know where to travel to in New Zealand. Ultimately, this didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem because I had a plethora of amazing travel experiences. But I think if I had talked to those studying abroad there before, I might’ve discovered things that I failed to discover on my own.
3. What were your favorite classes abroad? How did they compare to UCSB?
My favorite class abroad was the Politics and Media in New Zealand class. I really enjoyed this class because my professor was very compelling and the material was interesting. Most importantly, I learned so many things that I hadn’t known before, and I left with a more nuanced view of how the New Zealand media operates.
Classes in NZ were much different from UCSB classes. I found them to be slightly less challenging and there was also a much different approach to school. Most of my classmates were not too concerned with achieving A’s and were mostly just interested in passing the class. I found the lax approach to school rather refreshing and helpful because it really forced me to make sure I got good grades without the help of my professor or peers.
4. What is one of your best memories from abroad?
Wow, this is a tough question because I have so many amazing memories from my time abroad that could qualify as my best memory. Perhaps the most special time for me was when I was WWOOFING with my French friend for a month after the semester ended. WWOOFING entails working for food and accommodation. We did this at several places but my favorite place we WWOOFed at was in this remote northern town of about 50 people.
I don’t want to disclose the name of this place because I want it to stay remote. We worked for Gary and Debbie on their 27-acre property. The place was about 5 minutes from this incredible bay. We would weed wack and dig up thistles for half the day, and then we would have the rest of the day off to ourselves. Our activities included kayaking in the bay, surfing, hiking around the area, exploring Gary’s property, and finding new incredible beaches. At the end of the day, we would hang out with Gary and Debbie would make us incredible dinners. Without a doubt, the 5 days I spent there were probably the happiest days of my life. At times, this experience often didn’t feel real at all just simply because of how absurdly beautiful it all was.
5. What was your biggest challenge abroad?
My biggest challenge abroad was probably breaking up with my former girlfriend. Before I left, we were very close and serious with each other but being abroad posed serious challenges to our relationship. We tried to make it work but ultimately things ended badly. It was my first bad breakup and it was often quite difficult for me to deal with because I was on my own. Luckily, I could confide in my abroad friends but it often felt like I was burdening everyone with my issues when they had their own to deal with.
I was mostly on my own when it came to confronting my feelings and dealing with the repercussions of the breakup. I was very sad for at least a month but every day got easier. As time went on, I became happier and happier and realized that I didn’t need her in my life to be happy. While it was very challenging to face this mostly alone, I’m happy I did because I think it really helped me grow and become a stronger person.
6. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?
I love how laidback and relaxed the New Zealand culture is. It’s much different from America because everyone is far less intense and focused on money. People there are focused on simply living their lives instead of accumulating material possession like many Americans. I felt this as particularly refreshing. I liked that nobody tried to force themselves or their opinions on me. I think that New Zealand is the real land of the free and allows for much more individualism than the states do.
7. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.
Unfortunately, I didn’t intern or volunteer during my studies. I only worked after school ended when I WWOOFED with my friend for a month. First, we worked at a youth hostel for several weeks. This was incredible because we met so many people from all over the world. In addition to that, we would surf nearly every day because of the hostel’s proximity to the beach. We then continued on to work at Gary’s for about a week. Then, the last bit we traveled staying at youth hostels throughout the country. I loved this whole experience because it was so incredibly freeing from societal constraints. Also, I didn’t meet another American for the entire month we were traveling. All in all, a truly surreal and beautiful experience.
8. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?
The food there isn’t really too different from American food. However, I will miss the abundance of fish and chips restaurants. They were in every city and town throughout the entire country of New Zealand. We loved fish and chips because it was the cheapest meal you could find. I will probably never eat that much fish and chips again.
9. How have you changed since your time abroad?
I think I’ve changed so much since I left. For starters, I am a much more independent and capable person than I was before I left. I improved greatly at handling challenges as they came at me and thinking critically to solve them. I also feel like a more complete and happy person than before. My whole perception of the limits of the happiness has greatly expanded. What I thought was happiness before is incomparable to what I experienced in New Zealand. I learned how happy and content I could be. My entire approach to the world is different now. In light of this difficult year for the world, I was consistently able to find my own personal happiness, something I struggled with in the past. Finding positives in life is an important skill that I am really happy I developed.
10. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?
My advice for prospective UCSB EAP students is to not be so worried about how it’s all going to go. I learned very quickly that life is extremely unpredictable and there are many things you won’t have control over. I would also advise them not to worry so much about the future and instead focus far more on the present. I would suggest leaving your previous world and your phone behind because I think they distract you from what’s really in front of you. When you learn to focus on what’s directly in front of you and take life one day at a time, a world of happiness and satisfaction becomes open to you. And finally, don’t be too worried. Remember how lucky you are to be abroad and try to explore something new every day. I found that to be incredibly gratifying.