A whole year!?

A whole year!?

This is the typical response I get when I tell people I’m going to study in New Zealand for my junior year. But to be honest, I’ve been asking myself this same question. Do I really want to spend a year away from my friends? My family? From Madison? From everything that I’m used to?

Since all of my future posts will be about my journey forward, I’d like to use my first post to take a journey backwards—connecting the dots of my life to see how, in only a few short months, I will be calling New Zealand my home for a whole year.

Perhaps the appropriate place to start is my childhood. As a kid, I was always outside. At an early age, my parents would take me on walks through the woods by our house. As I got older, I would spend my summer days with my brother going back to those woods to hunt for frogs and turtles. It was great fun! My parents also took me on some very “outdoorsie” type of family vacations. These included camping deep into the forests of Tennessee, climbing through lava tubes in Hawaii, and zip-trekking in British Columbia, Canada. The take away from this is that I’ve loved adventures and the outdoors my whole life, and as you will see shortly, this played a major part in my decision to go to New Zealand.

During my freshman year here at UW-Madison, I was oblivious to many things, including the idea of studying abroad. I focused on what most freshman do; classes, choosing a major, and making friends. It wasn’t until my older sister, who also goes to UW-Madison, decided to study abroad during her junior year that I even thought about the possibility of studying abroad. She went to Ecuador and had a blast! Hearing about all her adventures and seeing her awesome pictures got me hooked. From then on, it was no longer “if” I would study abroad, but “when”.

It was only a few months ago that I first visited the Red Gym to talk about study abroad. I was so excited to finally begin the study abroad process! I had a few destinations in mind— Sweden and Denmark being my top choices and New Zealand being my alternate. When I asked if their was someone I could talk about either Sweden or Denmark, I was disappointed to find that no one was available. However, after mentioning that I had a slight interest in New Zealand, I was quickly pulled aside by an enthusiastic IAP worker (shout out to Meg Harahan!) who just spend her junior year in New Zealand. She told me about the Kiwis (the people of New Zealand) and their laid-back lifestyle and also showed me pictures of beautiful landscapes that tugged at my inner adventurer. Leaving the Red Gym that day, there was no doubt I was going to New Zealand.

So here I am. After months of bouncing in and out of advisor’s offices and filling out paperwork, New Zealand is now my reality. Looking back, I can see how certain events in my life led me to this decision; and I know I made the right choice. And to answer the question of whether I am really going away for a whole year….. heck yeah I am! I can’t wait to meet new people, visit new places, and get myself into unfamiliar territory.

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, once said, “Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many paths to tread”. And with that, I want to invite you, the reader, on my journey as I leave my home behind to tread the paths of New Zealand.