I chose to do my semester abroad at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand rather randomly: I applied to go abroad last minute figuring I couldn’t let that opportunity escape.
I often hear people say their time abroad was the best time of their life. That they ‘found themselves,’ however, I don’t share that feeling entirely. Being French, UEA was abroad for me, so I had already experienced the delights and challenges of leaving my homeland and discovering a new way of life.
What New Zealand offered me was very different. Never before had I done so much travelling in such limited time in a single country. There wasn’t a week that went by when my flat mates and I didn’t hike up a new mountain, camp in unlikely places or simply drive around to see breathtaking landscapes. I didn’t learn much about the cultural practices of the country, but I learnt to never say no to an adventure because you don’t know what you are going to miss. Studying overseas made me realize how precious every second is and I made sure I saw as much as I possibly could in the short six months I stayed there. Don’t restrict yourself because of money or coursework: money comes and goes, opportunities like these are one in a lifetime! As for coursework, the world is the best classroom there can be (but don’t fail your actual classes!).
Dunedin is renowned for its student community and its house parties and certainly lived up to that reputation. I made very special friends that I plan on seeing again in their respective countries, which gives me a great excuse to travel! Of course, in between all this travelling and partying I did attend my lectures at the university! I thoroughly enjoyed the modules I took, most of which revolved around Gender, because they were so different from my International Relations course at UEA.
Although I didn’t experience culture shock, I was very homesick at times (for France and England!), especially during the fourth month of my stay. This was nothing new though as I often get homesick in the UK. But I am very lucky that my boyfriend came to meet me in New Zealand for a month’s travel when the semester at Otago ended which helped with the homesickness and allowed me to see even more of beautiful New Zealand. Travelling is best when you talk to people (I say this being quite a shy person myself), ask about places, share your experiences, give and take advice. Talking to people will be the solution to your issues if you have any and no doubt will make your time so much fun! Our month’s travel happened to be during New Zealand’s winter time in July. Talking to people was key to know about the road conditions or activities to do but we didn’t let the weather get to us and you shouldn’t either, in fact the South Island was even more glorious with its snowy mounts.
Maybe I didn’t find myself in New Zealand, but I can say with confidence that I made the most of my time there and it certainly was one of the best adventures of my life. And that’s what I wish for every student going abroad. Push yourselves out of your comfort zone, try everything you wouldn’t do at home and just go wild!
Louise Clayette studies International Relations at UEA