One big difference between studying abroad for a year and a half-year is how you choose to spend your time. With only a half-year, time is typically spent traveling. I experienced this myself during my first semester when I travelled around with all the half-year students as well as this semester when the new batch of internationals arrived. But once you jump into that second semester, the focus changes—at least for me it did. I wanted to spend more time actually at my university and getting involved in a club or organization. And as you’ll soon see, I think it is fair to say I got what I was looking for.
Before second semester started, I searched for clubs at Massey that related to the environment or sustainability in some way. But I was disappointed to find that no such club existed at Massey. And yet, I still really wanted to get involved! So I gave it the old college try and decided to start up my own club, the….. drum roll please… BBBBBbbbbbrrrrrr pish… the Massey University Sustainability Club! I’m sure starting a club at a foreign university isn’t on many peoples’ to-do-lists when they go abroad. Believe me, it wasn’t on mine either. But I have to say, it has been a great experience—much different from the kind of experiences I had first semester.
Getting the club started at Massey wasn’t too hard. All I needed was 10 students, some completed paperwork, and MUSC was pretty much official. I got most of my members on Club’s Day during the first week of the semester. I set up a table on the concourse and gave my pitch about the club to whoever was interested. At the end of the day, I was surprised to find that around 70 people had signed up! A good start I though, but I quickly realized that signatures don’t equate to members. At our first meeting we had around 20 people, but by the end of the semester, only 3 or 4 of us regularly attended. But even though our numbers weren’t so great, the few committed members we did have managed to accomplish a lot.
Our major event of the semester was the Massey Farmer’s Market. It was the first market at Massey University in over 8 years! The motivation behind it was to have local farmers come onto campus and raise awareness about the benefits of buying local/organic produce. A great idea right? Little did I know the amount of planning it took to make it a reality. For weeks leading up the event, I was making phone calls, sending emails, and running in and out of the administrative offices. But in the end, it was all worth it. We had a really great turn out, both of farmers setting up stalls and students/staff coming to buy their produce. Our club even had our own stand to hand out free apples (courtesy of the Massey apple orchard) and a game to give away prizes.
Now with the semester coming to an end and me leaving in several weeks, I’m worried that the Sustainability Club might not be sustainable (oh, the irony!). Not many of our committed members will be coming back to Massey next semester so I’m not sure whether MUSC will continue once I leave. But even if it doesn’t last, I don’t regret starting it up. Study abroad is all about stepping out of your comfort zone, and forming this club was definitely a leap outside of mine.
—Former President of the Massey University Sustainability Club