Haley Rylander - 2014 Program Participant

Castle Hill in the Southern Alps, New Zealand

For IES Abroad orientation, they went to Castle Hill in the Southern Alps for boulder climbing and hiking. The mountains and views were awesome and the boulder climbing was quite an adventure.

What inspired you to study abroad?

I’ve always loved to travel and think cultural awareness is so important. I really wanted to experience living in a different country rather than just visiting because immersion brings so much more insight and changes in perspective.

How did you decide upon studying abroad in New Zealand specifically?

I knew I wanted to study abroad in New Zealand before I knew what University I was going to go to in the United States. I chose University of Canterbury (UC) because it was smaller and personal, and it had many classes in my major. I also wanted to be on the South Island because I love the outdoors, and UC’s location has easy access to countless national parks and beautiful locations.

What were your housing arrangements like in Christchurch?

I lived in the Ilam student apartments. It was great being so independent and the location was really close to both campus and grocery stores.

What was a normal day like as a student in New Zealand?

During the week, I would attend class, have meetings for my internship, study in my room or the common room, go to club meetings and events in the evenings, and hang out in the apartments with my friends. On the weekends, we traveled!

Kepler Track in Fiordlan National Park, New Zealand

Day 2 of the Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park - one of Haley’s favorite memories.

What was the most memorable experience you had in New Zealand?

I walked the Kepler Track in Fiordland National Park – that’s 60 kilometer through untouched mountains. There was pouring rain, a blizzard, fog, sunshine, wild parrots, and the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. The experience made me more independent, confident, and adventurous, and I met some great people on the track.

Would you return to New Zealand if you had the chance?

I made so many friends while abroad, from New Zealand and from all over the world. I would absolutely love to return to see my friends again and just wander the whole city reminiscing on five of the best months of my life! Also, the U.S. has nothing on New Zealand’s fish and chips.

How did studying abroad change your perspective?

Studying abroad completely changed my perspectives on everything, and taught me to think in new ways. It was fascinating to look at my home culture from different eyes, and I was able to really figure out what my values and opinions were apart from my family, friends, and culture.

Would you recommend your program to other students?

Absolutely! Studying abroad with IES Abroad has a lot of benefits. It’s really great to have a group of friends from the outset of your experience, and it made the transition much easier, plus, built-in travel buddies! It was also really nice to have the local program coordinator for questions and advice.

Hakatere Conservation Park, New Zealand

Hakatere Conservation Park - a gorgeous park with incredible hiking and views. Also a major film site for Lord of the Rings!

If you could change one thing about your program, what would it be?

I don’t think I would change anything about the program itself, but sometimes information was difficult to get and frustratingly sparse. More detailed information sooner would have been appreciated – such as orientation schedule, packing list, arrival information, etc.

What important tips can you give to future study abroad students in New Zealand?

Research New Zealand before you get there! There are way too many amazing things to do and see in New Zealand, even in five months, so having some previous knowledge will help you pick and choose and do as much as possible. Also, bring sturdy, waterproof clothing from hiking boots to pants, you will regret it if you don’t.

If you studied abroad again, where in the world do you see yourself going?

If I had to pick somewhere besides New Zealand, I would probably go to South Africa. I’m just intrigued by the culture there and think it would be a really unique experience in a part of the world many people never really think about. Not to mention it’s beautiful and there are safaris!

Visiting Hobbiton in New Zealand

You can't miss a visit to Hobbiton before leaving New Zealand! A really pretty area and a lot to do within a few hours' drive.

When you returned home, did you experience any form of reverse culture shock?

For sure – it took a while to get used to being home again. It was strange to acknowledge the fact that my home university and friends had had an entire semester happen without me. And then there were the little things, like not hearing Kiwi accents everywhere, eating different food, and staying in one place for so long, after five months of traveling every weekend.

If you could go on another IES Abroad program which one would you choose?

I would choose the Freiburg Environmental Studies and Sustainability Program in Germany. I am an environmental science major who can speak German, what else could you ask for!?