Spending your fifth and final year overseas in New Zealand
I’m a mechanical engineering major spending my ninth and final semester studying in New Zealand at the University of Otago. It took a lot of planning and hope to get to the point where I am writing this here from New Zealand, since it’s not always easy for engineering majors to study abroad because of all of the required courses. I’m having the greatest semester here, and I’m definitely aiming to finish it strong by focusing on my classes. But, primarily, I’m enjoying what New Zealand has to offer.
Going to Otago is a big change from USD, though. The size of the campus and the number of students in lecture are the main reasons why. The campus is beautiful with lots of Gothic revival architecture and an amazingly large central library. This supports the student body, which consists of over 22,000, students, making the campus very busy as well.
Also, it is the oldest university in the country, and ranked as the top in research. I am actually taking my general education requirements, so I’m studying art, philosophy, anthropology and religion. These are subjects that have nothing to do with my major, but I’m getting the chance to learn about topics unique to the university from some of the top experts in these fields. The professors I have are all fantastic, and while some of my lectures have over 400 students in them, I’ve gotten the chance to meet with each of my professors, and they know me by name.
But, the real fun part of studying abroad is the overall adventure. I’ve wanted to come to New Zealand for at least four years now, because I wanted to meet Kiwis (New Zealanders), go hiking (here it’s called tramping), clamber through glow-worm caves, see Hobbiton, ski at Treble Cone, make new friends, and visit Fiji since it is close by. I have done all that and more, and there’s still even more to do.
I have to say that just about every Kiwi I meet is incredibly friendly and down to have fun. The country they live in is stunning, and it has everything from beaches to mountains, rainforests, lakes, rivers and volcanoes. Fortunately, there are tons of tracks to explore, and I’ve checked out a few.
While this was a poor winter season for skiing, I’m never going to forget what it was like on that mountain peak at Treble Cone, looking at the valley and mountain ranges beyond which was a real dream come true.
The best part of studying abroad for me has been making new friends. There are many international students at Otago. About half are American students, and the rest are a mix from all over the rest of the world. My best friends are from Brazil, and Denmark. Some are my flatmates, and others are people I’ve met through them. Together, we’ve gone on a lot of trips to places like Queenstown, Christchurch and even Fiji. Our different backgrounds mean that we each bring something unique to the table. Because of each other’s open-mindedness, we’re able to bridge funny cultural gaps to have some really awesome experiences, like a Danish Christmas lunch, or a party thrown by Brazilians. We might be different in some ways, but we realize that as people we still need the same things and have the same goals in life.
Going abroad is the best choice I have made in my nine semesters as an undergraduate student at USD. I’m thankful for the help of everyone who made this adventure possible, including my advisors and the study abroad office. As an engineer, it was not easy to make it happen, so my advice is to plan out your years at USD carefully and don’t give up if you have a strong desire to go overseas. Cheers.