Alexandra Kazimir - 2013 Program Participant

Volunteer playing with child in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Playtime with a student at a primary school in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.

What made you decide to study abroad?        

Having been exposed to travel at a young age, I’ve always had an inclination for exploration. I often daydreamed about the faraway places I would travel, especially with an older brother who also spent time abroad during his college years. That, combined with a desire to experience a new physical setting as well as cultural environment, made studying abroad an obvious choice. Doing so during college was also very important to me, as I wanted to really get to know a place, rather than serve merely as a visitor or passerby.

Why did you choose study in New Zealand?        

I can answer this quite simply - the land, the geographical richness, and outdoor opportunities found in New Zealand are what drew me to the location. As a lover of the outdoors, the sights and experiences that New Zealand offered were extremely appealing. The fact that the University of Canterbury offered a variety of courses solidified my choice, offering the best of both worlds - academically and environmentally. New Zealand is rich in its biological history and biodiversity as well, which made it an ideal location to take classes for my Biology minor. 

What experience you had while studying in New Zealand stands out in your mind?

One experience that stands out to me was outdoor rock climbing at Castle Hill, a basin filled with limestone outcrops, ideal for bouldering, situated in the Arthur’s Pass Mountain range. Is was quite different from indoor climbing, and presented a challenge wherein I had to adapt my approach to suit the environment. On the particular day I was there, it was sunny, but chilly, a cold wind passing through the basin, meandering through the nooks and crannies of the boulders. At one point, there was a brief squall, bringing a dusting of snow with it, which cleared the low-lying clouds opening back up to a clear, crisp sky. Witnessing the way in which the environment could change, and interacting with the rocks was truly remarkable. I had been to Castle Hill on the IES Abroad orientation trip, and just had to go back. 

Hiking on the Kepler Track in Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand

On the Kepler Track in Fiordland, South Island of NZ.

What was the biggest challenge studying abroad presented for you?

Planning and budgeting for various trips was, at times, quite a challenge. There was so much I wanted to do and see that I had to be strategic and selective. Additionally, balancing that with budgeting for groceries was somewhat challenging, as they were a bit more expensive than in the United States.

If you could go back to New Zealand, why would you grab the chance?        

I feel as though I only scratched the surface in terms of really seeing the country. While I was able to travel throughout the North and South Islands, there is so much that remains to be explored - trails to walk, spots to rock climb, and varied landscapes to wander through. Another aspect that cannot go without mention is the people of the country. Remarkably genuine, hospitable, and laid back, I felt welcomed and comfortable, and drawn to the laid back lifestyle and a culture of appreciation of the beautiful land of the country. I could certainly see myself living there.

How has studying abroad impacted your life?

Studying abroad was, and continues to be, a very impactful experience for me. It armed me with a new perspective on numerous levels - how I view my own country, how varied seemingly similar cultures can be - in addition learning what it is like to be truly independent, and developing the ability to improvise and go with the flow - as often, even the best laid plans, don’t go according to plan.

Would you recommend IES Abroad’s program in New Zealand to other students?

Absolutely! IES Abroad enabled me have experiences I would not otherwise have been able to undertake on my own, such as a mid-semester trip to the Cook Islands, exposing me to another culture and way of life, in addition to being a tropical retreat. IES had a wonderful orientation program as well, which I found essential in bonding and getting to know the other students in the program, as it was small and rather intimate. The on-site staff and our program Director Eunice were wonderful resources and provided support throughout my time there, from assisting with course logistics and paperwork, to advising us on the best place to buy groceries.

The Emerald Lakes in Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand

The Emerald Lakes, in Tongariro National Park on the North Island of NZ. Photo Credit: Alexandra Kazimir

Do you have any advice for future study abroad students in New Zealand?

The best advice I could give is simple in principle, but difficult in practice - be flexible and go with the flow. Things don't always go as planned, and it will take some time to adjust and feel comfortable, no matter where you are. You might lose your way in the woods at night in the pouring rain, and have to pitch a tent, before joining the rest of your classmates in the morning (due to some faulty compass navigation) on a field trip in a wilderness area; your bus might break down, resulting in a missed water taxi, and an unplanned night in a hostel in town. In any case, cultivating an attitude of flexibility and adaptability will serve you well and only enhance your experience.