Kayla Quinn - 2015 Program Participant
What inspired you to go abroad?
The hallway is crowded with hundreds of ambitious excursionists, voyagers, and tourists. We are always moving; always going forward and the room grows louder with every step, everyone eager with anticipation. It’s hard to hear yourself think. Soon the cathedral hallway ends at a stone arch with a golden feather carved into each side, holding up two giant doors three times the size of any person. The only thing open is a small cutout of the massive doorway, and that’s what we funnel into. It’s like entering a vacuum, people yelling and shouting, and then passing through this archway into silence. The room is packed shoulder to shoulder, everyone with their head raised to the ceiling, all in complete awed speechlessness in respect for the beauty around them. I stayed in that room well after I was supposed to leave, trying to take in everything about the space.
Seeing the Sistine Chapel was the reason I wanted to be an architect, and the reason I feel that studying abroad is such a significant part of any person’s life. I knew as soon as I got there that it wouldn’t be the last time I stepped away from my home in the U.S. I wanted to study abroad to understand the world. There are so many things about life that we are blinded to, that we don’t understand, or that we don’t even know exist. I studied abroad because I wanted to immerse myself in a different culture and to find out something new about the world.
Why did you choose The Education Abroad Network’s program in New Zealand?
New Zealand is one of the most adventurous countries in the world and I am the type of person to stand by and watch as other people go off on unexpected undertakings. When I was looking for somewhere to study abroad, I realized that what I wanted was to be the one to experience the thrill of a spectacular adventure. I chose New Zealand because it was my personal goal to get out of my comfort zone and experience life to its fullest. I wanted to get out of my bubble, to experience something that I could tell stories about, and to enjoy life and learn what other people know.
What was your favorite part about Wellington?
Wellington is a fantastic city to live in with a LOT of character and spirit. There is always something to do! It has more restaurants, bars, cafes, and food stands per square foot than any other place in the world, so you never go to the same restaurant twice. It is also surrounded by water on three sides and sits in between more than a few different mountains. The city is small and walkable, but has A LOT to it; shops, food, museums, zoos, parks, stadiums, theaters, and there are at least a hundred different hikes throughout Wellington itself.
What made your experience abroad unique?
New Zealand turned me into an adventurer. I bungee jumped, horse trekked, white and black water rafted, rock climbed, repelled, kayaked, biked, swam, and spelunking (caving). Five hour hikes became the normal everyday. I hiked across beaches, valleys, and forests, through caves and rivers, over mountains, down ravines, through rain, snow, and sunshine. New Zealand turned me into a wanderer. It make me say “yes” to experiencing new things, trying new foods, and talking to new people.
On my last week in New Zealand when a friend asked me to go on a six hour hike through the woods, I did it mostly barefoot, and when I found the most perfect patch of moss along the hike, I laid on it and felt like Frodo waiting for Gandalf to walk by and have a chat. I have never felt more like a Kiwi than I did at that moment. It explains their relaxed nature, and love for the outdoors, with just a tweak of Tolkien hidden in the magical-ness of the image.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
I chose The Education Abroad Network after a little bit of searching, they looked like they knew what they were doing, and they weren't insanely expensive. The experience I had with them highly succeeded what I had originally expected. They had a local staff member with you the entire time you were abroad, setting up events, checking in on you, making sure your classes, living space, and all around experience was going well.
The program was fantastic and I highly recommend it to everyone going to abroad in the Oceanic region.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I had time to go to Australia or Southeast Asia while abroad. New Zealand was beautiful and I saw almost every corner of the country as well as a good part of Fiji. But I didn't have enough time to explore other neighboring countries while it was cheap enough for me to travel and see them.
Describe a typical day in your life in New Zealand.
My house was located on a terrace, which means it was seated between two mountains, and in order for me to go anywhere, I had to climb at least 80 stairs in order to go. My day only went up from there (literally). I would go to class in the morning, walk to downtown Wellington, and go to a new cafe everyday.
On Friday and Saturday they had night markets with dozens of food stands selling all different foods, while on Sunday they had a farmers market set up in the morning as well as a fish market down by the bay. If there was ever a rugby game on, you could find me at a bar or pub with a few Kiwis watching the game.
During the week, I went to yoga classes, quidditch practice, and tramping (hiking) club. I loved to be outside and went on more hikes than I ever thought possible (if walking up 80 stairs at least twice a day wasn't enough). I would try to get out of Wellington and travel around New Zealand at least twice a month. I realized how similar different countries are; although I tried to do something new everyday, I still went to concerts, movies, bookstores, sports games, and bars. Even if I wasn't doing something completely new, I still tried to live everyday to the fullest.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
Five-hour hikes became the normal day-to-day activity. Everyone was outside all the time, there was just so much to see and do. Beaches, forests, mountains, I hiked them all. And if I wasn't hiking on a trail, I was walking 20 minutes down a mountain into the heart of the city of Wellington. If you wanted to go anywhere, you walked, and it felt great. I walked to farmer's markets on the weekend, to bars at night to watch Rugby games, to museums and memorials throughout the week, even to other mountains to get a view of the entirety of Wellington.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
I lived in a flat 10 minutes away from the university that I went to; it was fantastic. It was two stories with four bedrooms. The best thing about it were my uni-roommates. I lived with two boys, one from Scotland and the other from New Zealand, and a girl from Germany. My program set me up with housing through the university and it was surprisingly excellent. Besides being a terrace (which most of Wellington is), the location was great. It was safe, close to everything I needed, and clean.
What is one thing every student should know before participating in your program?
ALWAYS bring a rain jacket with you. SERIOUSLY, IT WILL LITERALLY SAVE YOUR LIFE! New Zealand has a more rapid change in weather than anywhere else on the planet, and in Wellington you are surrounded by water on three sides, which causes for a lot of unexpected rain storms. It doesn't matter if it's sunny all morning long, it rains quite a bit, and umbrellas are essential the most useless item you could own because of good old “Windy Wellington”.
Now that you're home, how has your time in New Zealand impacted your life?
Going to New Zealand make me into a wanderer, and a “yes-person”. That aspect of my life has definitely stayed with me. I try new things a lot more, and am not afraid to step out of my bubble. Im also outside a lot more. Hiking, walking, biking, the joy of being outside is something you can experience in any country, on any continent. I am also a much more understanding person; I think over situations more and try to understand another person's point of view more than my own.
Would you recommend The Education Abroad Network to others? Why?
The Education Abroad Network is there for you the entire trip without keeping too close and holding you back. There is always someone you can call, email, or even talk to in person if there is a problem.
At one point there was a mistake with my visa and I was afraid about not even being let into the country, but my TEAN family kept me calm and helped me sort out the problem. Everything from money, living situations, to the nearest grocery store, and where to go on the weekends, TEAN is there for you because they have workers in the U.S. and New Zealand. When you leave, you truly feel a part of the TEAN family.