Scott Carney - 2012 Program Participant

ISA Study Abroad students in Wellington, New Zealand

First group photo of program participants after freshly arriving in New Zealand

Why did you decide to apply for an international program?

Both of my brothers had previously studied abroad, so they had instilled into me the importance of immersing oneself into another culture and taking advantage of a special place in life where we are afforded the luxury of time and encouragement for exploration (aka college). From my point of view, in order to become a global citizen, one should encompass learning and living a life perspective outside of an American centrist view. I felt the passion to become better-rounded and equipped to handle potentially adverse situations, which is a common phenomenon in international programs when adjusting to a new culture.

Cutting through the noise is often difficult when attempting to break into the job market once college is over. I was also interested in how international program participation improves resumes and enhances student’s competitiveness as alumni of international programs. Overall, I decided to apply for an international program with a purpose, and that purpose was to fulfill my two older brother’s legacy and participate in an international program, become a global citizen, and increase my competitive advantage in the job market through international experiences.

Why did you choose International Studies Abroad (ISA)?

ISA offers great programs for student seeking an international experience longer than a semester, which was exactly my scenario as full degree student. Throughout the my pre-application process of selecting a program, ISA was the best match because of international business degrees, and they included amenities such as excursions, on-site staff, and airport pickup when I arrived in Wellington! My brother had also studied in New Zealand with the same organization, heavily influencing my decision as well.

Whitewater rafting in New Zealand

The largest commercial whitewater rafting waterfall drop in the world!

What was your favorite part about Wellington?

My favorite part about the location of Wellington is the central proximity within New Zealand, offering easy access to either the North or South Island. Located on the southern tip of the North Island, Wellington has an amazing car/person ferry south the Cook Strait to Picton, the gateway to the South Island. Filled with sightseeing spectacles, such as whales, seals, and snow capped mountains, the ferry ride alone is worth the trip. Head north out of Wellington and within hours of driving, the landscape changes from lush rainforests to arid deserts and deep crystal clear lakes. During the winter months of June, July, and August, shredding Mt. Ruapehu was really cool, especially when surfing the same weekend!

What makes the program you participated in unique?

Full degree programs are unique, in the sense that you will have graduated or completed a degree abroad. I enjoyed how my program placed me into large classroom settings, where I was one of a few Americans. Attending class separate from swaths of Americans was my favorite aspect in Wellington, because it forced me to outgoing and personable when I didn’t know a soul.

How did local staff support you throughout your program? 

ISA local staff devoted time for airport pick up and included excursions before arriving to university. ISA overseas staff were interactive and supportive toward program participants, and in my case, would spend the day surfing with me and my buds at one of Wellington’s local surf spots, such as Lyall Bay. Local staff also made an effort to get the whole group to meet for a nice dinner in Wellington once a trimester. This was a great for me to reconnect with program participants I had not seen since arriving. Almost every weekend I would receive email updates on discounted travel packages or plans from local staff encouraging us applicants to get out and see New Zealand outside of Wellington.

Hiking near a waterfall in New Zealand

Awesome hike to a waterfall

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

One thing I would have done differently was buy a bicycle. Wellington is extremely hilly, apart from down town and the Harbor, making bike riding quite challenging. Transportation is an important aspect of exploring new places and bicycling is healthy, cost effective, and not harmful to the environment. I look back at my experience in Wellington and realize that I can’t change everything, such as my classes or even how long I stayed there, but having a cheap mountain or road bike to cruise surely would have created more stories to talk about later down the road!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

A typical day while studying at Victoria University of Wellington was made up experiences in a different academic setting. After getting settled into to the trimester, school homework in New Zealand is heavily based projects and papers versus daily homework and frequent quizzes. Also, academic institutions in New Zealand are quite different than the U.S. by having trimesters, matching the summer months of December, January, and February.

I stayed involved with several on-campus activities, such as our American basketball club team, which we dominated! Not to take credit, but having played college basketball before attending VUW was quite an advantage. Remaining even keeled between fun and study is challenging while in New Zealand because lots of cultural activities and famous cafes on Cuba Street constantly call out for attention!

What were your favorite things to do on your free time outside of the classroom?

Boards strapped, bags packed, and a full cooler equated to countless surf weekends exploring New Zealand’s beautiful coastline. After reading through my journal I wrote in while in New Zealand, my favorite activity outside the “daily grind” of university would have to be exploring surf spots on road trips in my Subaru Forester. Almost every popular beach in NZ has surfboard rentals, and these are cheap and great places to learn to surf, especially if locals reveal their secrets spots and techniques! New Zealand has several world-renowned surf breaks and Raglan, located southwest of Auckland, is a sleepy surf town that is enjoyable anytime of the year.

What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?

I lived in an off campus flat with two housemates, one from Spain and the other from Canada. My living experience was quite unique because of the scale of international and American students in the neighborhood, which I really liked. The neighborhood also had regular New Zealanders not in uni, which made me feel part of a community, especially when I borrowed tools to change the oil in my Subaru Forester.

My flat had all of the same amenities that you would find in American college housing, plus more, such as free laundry and even a flat screen T.V.! I had the option of living in dorm style accommodations, but I felt the obligation to be break away from authoritative powers within the high-rise housing. In my opinion, cooking my own food and buying my groceries at local grocery stores was one of the easiest ways to get acquainted to the culture.

All Blacks rugby game in Wellington, New Zealand

All Blacks Rugby game in Wellington

How has studying abroad in New Zealand impacted your life?

My program participation has impacted my life by acting as a catalyst for helping others in their journey toward international experiences. While at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, I applied my own experiences abroad at the Office of International Education by advising students on study abroad related topics.

Coming full circle is something that I recently was able to do by spending 28 days in New Zealand over the holidays last year. I rented a Barbie doll SUV and traveled the whole country making pit stops to see old friends and familiar locations.