Exploring New Zealand with 40 Travel Mates

This post is courtesy of Daniel Winters, ASU Study Abroad alumni. Daniel studied in New Zealand on the faculty-directed program ASU: New Zealand: Culture, Health and Environment during the summer 2016 months. Daniel was also a recipient of the SAO Travel Grant.

What inspired you to study abroad?

It didn’t take much to inspire me to get involved in a study abroad program. I’ve traveled to many different parts around the world for work and leisure, so studying abroad was an experience I’ve always wanted to have. I even chose a degree that required a study abroad experience to graduate so that I wouldn’t miss out on this opportunity.

Tell us about the program you went on.

I went on a global health program that focused on culture, health, and the environment. We had the opportunity to experience the native culture of New Zealand and learn about the history and customs of the Maori peoples. We conducted studies on obesogenic factors in cities and learned about the difference between the healthcare system of New Zealand and that of the United States. We planted trees, moved vegetation and learned about how farming has a big impact on New Zealand’s environment.

How did you pay for your study abroad experience?

I am a United States Army veteran and was able to use the GI bill benefits to pay for most of my study abroad experience. To supplement those benefits, I applied and was given the Study Abroad Office Travel Grant. The rest was paid for out of pocket with savings.

What was your biggest concern regarding study abroad? How did you overcome it?

My biggest concern regarding the study abroad program was going with a group of young students who may not have been as educationally focused as I was. Luckily ,this concern was overcome quickly as our group was extremely respectful, participatory, punctual and excited to learn what was being taught.

How has your international educational experience impacted your life, academically, professionally, and personally, since returning?

My international educational experience has impacted my life in a way that only an international educational experience can. It has had the same effect as my first trip abroad, yet it has provided a greater perspective of the world around me. I continue to search for work that has a global impact, even if it’s done on a domestic scale. The experience has also shown me that I can complete—with a great deal of success—six credit hours of work in three weeks while also traveling with a group of 40 other individuals and still taking in the sights and culture of the country around me.

Describe your favorite memory abroad.

My favorite memory abroad was staying at the Marae (Maori meeting ground). There was a crystal clear lake that we swam in along with a night hike through the forest surrounding the Marae. As we enter the forest and our night vision started to kick in, glowworms started to appear. This was by far the most memorable part of my time abroad.

Describe your future career and how you think your experience abroad has prepared you for that career.

I’m still unclear what form my future career will take; nonetheless, the experience I had abroad allowed me to grow in many different areas that are needed and can be used in any career. I gained experience talking to strangers, learned about other cultures and learned to be more open-minded, discovered more about the way the world works and that there’s more than one way to do things, and I gained the knowledge that even though you are going through a tough time you can find a way to make it out of it. Self-confidence in a group of 40 other travel mates is a skill that is hard to learn, especially in a foreign country.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad?

I wish I would have known how much work it would really be while studying abroad. There were countless hours sitting in a hotel room reading articles and writing papers. This time could have been spent learning through real world experiences and lectures around the cities we were in.

What advice would you give to future study abroad participants?

The only advice I would give is that the New Zealand program has a lot of rewards (hiking, nature, animals, cities), but you will need to put in the work. I recommend getting good at reading on buses, in coffee shops, and at other public places if you want to maximize your experience there.

 

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