From TCU to NZ: A Student Abroad
As a college student, I often find myself in crazy situations that I have never been in before but uprooting my life and moving halfway around the world by myself definitely takes the cake.
A little over a month ago, I first stepped foot in New Zealand. I cannot say that I knew what to expect. Up until now, I had only ever lived in Fort Worth. When it came down to choosing a college, I picked TCU.
Moving here, to Auckland, by myself, not knowing anyone else, this was going to be my biggest adventure yet. Even my wildest of dreams could not have prepared me for how incredible this place is.
I have hiked up numerous volcanos (Mt. Eden, Mt. Hobson, and One Tree Hill), climbed through lava caves on Rangitoto, learned to surf in Raglan, crawled through ice tunnels on the South Island, hiked across Fox Glacier, guided a snorkel group in Motuihe, sipped wine in the vineyards of Waiheke, swam at Hanua waterfalls, paddle boarded in Mission Bay, sailed on a dingy in the Auckland wharf, rafted on underground rivers in Charleston, admired art at numerous museums, and spotted glow worms in the pitch black; all this, and it has only been a month! I even managed to squeeze some classes in, too. (Don’t worry, Mom!)
The days seem longer here. I feel I am able to get more out of them, probably because I am so busy. It is not the typical ‘busy’ like home, though. It is different, and dare I say, better. I do not feel bogged down or stressed by everything I have to do. I am genuinely excited to have ‘busy’ days here. I feel content coming home after a long day, being absolutely exhausted (or as my local friends have taught me, “shattered”). I know that means I am making the most of my time here.
I wish I approached life this way when I was back home – not wasting any time. I wish I busied myself with exploring the city I call home and its surrounding areas: spending time talking to the locals, shopping small, volunteering with organizations, and walking the streets. That is what I am doing here, and honestly, I have loved really immersing myself in Auckland. Quay Street and Ponsonby have some incredible local shops and are perfect areas to walk around in and meet people. Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) is a wonderful organization to volunteer with. They take locals out to marine reserves around New Zealand for them to snorkel in hopes of instilling a newfound appreciation for our marine environments. These things have helped me feel so much more connected to Auckland than I ever thought possible.
I have been so fortunate to spend my weekdays exploring the city and all that it has to offer and my weekends caravanning around the rest of the country. Auckland has been the perfect hub from which to explore New Zealand and Oceania, especially Fiji and the Cook Islands. I have been to so many events, like the Lantern Festival in the Domain, Auckland City Limits in Western Springs, the Volvo Ocean Race at the Viaduct, and the opening of a new exhibit at the Auckland Art Gallery. Auckland is also close to some amazing beaches and hikes. Piha is a nearby black sand beach that is a favorite among the locals. There are plenty of smaller communities nearby to go and explore, Raglan being one of my absolute favorites with Waiheke a close second. And I would not be doing New Zealand any justice if I did not mention the people. The locals here (known as Kiwis) are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met; their welcome truly rivals our southern hospitality.
It goes without saying that things do not always go to plan. That has certainly been true of my time here. However, it is during these times of crisis that I have been so fortunate to meet so many exceptionally kind Kiwis. I have been offered places to stay, numerous rides, the occasional drink, and even a car to drive. I have been so fortunate to have had these helping hands along the way, and I suspect many people have experienced the same generosity because that is just the Kiwi way. I feel like I owe so much to this experience, these people, and this country. I cannot wait to see what the rest of my time here has in store!
This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of Madeworthy.
Makenna Barbara is a student at TCU. She has interned with Briggs Freeman Sotheby International Realty and is headed home after studying abroad in New Zealand. Judging by her photographs, it was a great trip!