Bethany McGinley - 2014 Program Participant

Visiting Kaikoura, New Zealand

Visiting the seals and kayaking in Kaikoura.

What inspired you to study abroad?

I knew I wanted to study abroad before I came to college. My sister studied abroad in London, and she told me that it would change my life. She said that no matter where I went, I would gain an amazing outlook on life from experiencing a different country and making new friends around the world.

Why did you choose to study in New Zealand?

I chose to study in New Zealand, because I did not know much about the country. I was originally looking at the IES Abroad booklet for Australia and New Zealand, and when I read the stories about students’ adventures there I thought that it would be a perfect fit for me. Also, as an avid Lord of the Rings fan, it was a dream of mine to visit Middle Earth. New Zealand’s laid-back style and love of outdoors adventure made me crave trips to Hobbiton, the Waitomo glowworm caves, glaciers, and more.

Resting near Lake Tekapo in New Zealand

Taking a rest after hiking around Lake Tekapo.

What type of housing arrangements did you have in Christchurch?

I lived in the Ilam apartments with three Kiwi roommates and one American roommate. It was a wonderful experience. We had single rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. I was surprised at the spaciousness of my room. My room had a comfortable bed, a desk, shelves, a closet, which included a large amount of space for hanging clothes, as well as shelves and a few drawers. The apartment complex was equipped with a computer room and a large common area where many students went to access the internet, watch television, play pool, and hang out. The only disappointments included not having an oven, having to pay for laundry (unless you have a lucky friend with a washer and dryer), and having to pay for internet.

What is your most memorable experience from your time in New Zealand?

My most memorable experience was meeting my parent’s uncle, whom I had never met before. My grandfather died when I was younger, but I never met his brother. It was a wonderful experience to stay with him and his wife on the North Island for a week. They allowed my friend and I to travel with them around the North Island to Rotorua, Hobbiton, the Waitomo glowworm caves, and Auckland. It was a special experience, because I was the first of their relatives to visit them in New Zealand.

How has studying abroad in New Zealand impacted your life and your goals for the future?

Studying abroad taught me that I could travel the world on my own. Because of my travels abroad, I now want to move to a different country after college. I realized that I want to experience different cultures as much as possible, and I do not have to stay in one place. I think that many people expect American children to stay in America after college, because Americans think that the United States is the best place in the world, but I want to delve into different communities and cultures as much as possible.

Visiting the Hobbit film set in Matamata, New Zealand

Touring the Hobbit on film set in Matamata, NZ.

What tips do you have for future study abroad students in New Zealand?

I recommend packing lightly, and bringing an extra suitcase to bring home your purchases from abroad. I brought an extra suitcase, which made packing extremely easy for me when everyone else was struggling to decide what to pack and bring home. I also recommend traveling as much as possible. You might only be in New Zealand once, so take advantage of it! Classes in New Zealand classes were less stressful than classes at my home school, so I took advantage of my free time by traveling.

Also, if you go to New Zealand during the spring semester, there is a three week-long mid-semester breaks! I took advantage of the three weeks by traveling to Sydney and Port Douglas, Australia, the North Island of New Zealand, and Rarotonga (one of the Cook Islands). Be sure to partake in the IES Abroad mid-semester trip to Rarotonga, because there is nothing else like it. The IES trip provides endless activities and delicious meals to keep you entertained and happy all week long! Even if you can’t travel far, be sure to explore Christchurch and all of its quirkiness.