Jack studied in New Zealand on the Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington Program during the Fall of 2015.
If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
By studying abroad, you get a really amazing opportunity to experience life not only through the eyes of the the country you’re studying in but also from all the other international students you’ll meet. It also forces you to be independent and you gain a lot of confidence and a genuine “I can handle new situations” attitude. Plus, you know, it’s a ton of fun.
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
Leave the city I was in more often. I was afraid of running out of money before my experience ended so I sometimes neglected to adventure. Of course, this meant that at the end of my trip, I was able to afford a really amazing and a really lengthy tour of the entire country.
What specific fators influenced your decision to go abroad?
Basically, I just decided to. I thought it might be cool and went for it.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make any friends and that I’d be stuck being lonely. But the University arranged plenty of bonding events and all the other international students were in the same boat I was so they were all amazingly friendly. As always, being in a new location I was afraid of getting lost and being so overwhelmed with things to do that I ended up doing nothing. But with some lengthy Google searching and a handy notebook I was able to plan out lots of fun activities to do and organize a time to do it.
What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
I chose New Zealand for selfish reasons: I didn’t think I could learn a new language effectively and the country is breath-takingly gorgeous. Any study abroad program though will absolutely foster confidence, friendliness, and a global perspective which will help you grow and be a better person in whatever you choose to do.
How have you used the skills you learned abroad now that you are back; either in job searching, or in other activities?
I learned that you really have to take it on yourself to do what you want to do. Don’t wait for someone to deliver it to you, go out and seize it! The friendliness and crisis management are really big ways in which I’ve grown. You encounter lots of small little problems with such a new environment and how you accomplish them can directly relate to how you would solve problems in a professional environment.
Did you participate in any service projects while on your program? How did that enhance your study abroad experience?
I got to do a science demonstration for elementary aged students. It just gave me another cool way to interact with and be exposed to native Kiwis.
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
There wasn’t just one experience. It was an overacrching sense of independence and adventure. Exposure to unique cultures and travel opportunities are what stands out the most.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
- Talk to everyone.
- Take command of situations – you be the one to plan outings. Make a big GroupMe or Facebook group and be the one to arrange things or at least create the forum for other people to do it.
- Don’t stay inside too often – this is a once in a lifetime experience; don’t squander it on Netflix.
- Travel – see as much of whatever corner of the world you end up in.
- Keep a journal – so you remember all your fun times.
- Keep organized – you’re going to be inundated with information and ideas. Keep track of all of it.
- Call your parents – it’s just a nice thing to do.
Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something.
I took a Maori Culture class and there was a marae (meeting house) on campus that served a delicious authentic Maori lunch every Tuesday. I went one day with some classmates and the Maori who were running the event came over and we talked about a great number of things: Maori history, our study abroad experience, the city of Wellington, Maori traditions and language. I learned lots about the vibrancy and mystique of the Maori people and he learned about all of our experiences and our individual views of what we were learning in class. It was a truly global connection and I walked away feeling wiser and lucky. The food was banging too.