I’m back in good ole’ Wisco. I’ve been home for about a week and a half… and let me tell you, it’s been incredible. I’ve been spending basically every day with family and friends, been boating a couple times, sleeping in my own bed, drove on the “normal” side of the road with country music blasting… it’s been great.
Now that I’ve settled back in, everything has started to get back to the usual and it’s time to start preparing for the upcoming fall semester. The fact that I was halfway across the world for the whole summer has already begun to start dissipating, making it seem like it happened so long ago already.
At this moment, it almost feels like I’m stuck in-between my New Zealand lifestyle and my American lifestyle, like I don’t 100% fully belong in either place right now and I’m torn between the two. People often asked me, “How was New Zealand?!” and I have no clue how to answer so I just say, “It was really good!” and then follow that with a little extra information depending on the situation. How do you cram all of the experiences of adrenaline accomplishments, daily work struggles, fun times at work, friendships, etc., all into a short paragraph? It’s a really difficult task.
Sitting in my own bed at my home, I attempted to write a list of “things I wish I would have known.” It’s actually harder to do than I thought. Sure, I had obvious ones like “Bring boots and a winter jacket.” Even though it was fifty degrees in NZ, it feels totally different than fifty degrees does here after a long winter. Yeah, I think that knowing some things I know now would have made life a lot easier when I was miles away from home, but I think uncertainty is what makes an abroad experience. Before getting on that flight, you won’t know who you’ll become friends with, what obstacles you’ll encounter, the trips you’ll take, the views that will leave you speechless, until you are living in that moment.
I feel that every day is a new mystery while living and interning abroad, especially during weekend trips. I used to be someone who always had to be organized and prepared, but living in New Zealand really teaches you to just go with the flow and enjoy the moment that you’re in. You learn to embrace uncertainty.
After you return, I don’t think you realize how much you change until you hear someone say something or make a complaint and you think to yourself, “Oh, it’s not that bad. I had to do such and such…” For example my friend referred to a 3 hour bus ride as “long.” Almost every weekend, I would travel to a different city in the north island and most of these bus rides for 4-5 hours both ways. This is another thing being abroad taught me: how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. No one wants to sit on a bus next to a stranger for 5 hours on Friday morning and then again on Sunday, but it’s totally worth it once you get to the destination! You learn to appreciate everything you’re used to at home and while in school and you learn how easy we actually have it.
I could go on and on about how interning abroad can positively shape someone, but I don’t think the list would end, because the reasons are endless. I’ve learned much about youth justice and New Zealand as a country and needless to say, spending a summer there has taught me things that just taking a course at Madison wouldn’t. I’m grateful I had the opportunity and for everyone who made it as amazing as it was. My internship has really motivated me and I can’t wait to get back to work on the beautiful badger-pride, red and white, student-filled campus.