Learning on the fly but looking good doing it Past Review

By (Environmental Studies and Geology, Middlebury College) - abroad from 01/05/2013 to 06/23/2013 with

Frontiers Abroad: New Zealand Earth Systems

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a LOT of geology, and I learned how to deal with unpredictability. Field camp, as rigorous as it was, also taught me that I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. It wasn't always fun, but it was a good lesson.

Review Photos

Frontiers Abroad: New Zealand Earth Systems Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

I was responsible for feeding myself, and I stayed with a foodie friend with an AWESOME array of recipes, so I ate very well, even on a budget

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The university put us up in International Student-specific housing, and by chance all my flatmates were also American. Plus, the program I was on meant I spent my first five weeks with 22 other Americans, so they basically became my social life. As a result I spent a lot less time with locals than I originally thought I was going to, but not regretfully. I chose not to seek out a different social life from the one that circumstances landed in my lap because I actually met some really cool people, who happened to be mostly Americans.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I was in Christchurch. I was as safe as a person can be in a city still trying to rebuild from an earthquake. their building codes were quite strict though, and constantly being updated, so I felt secure

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

New Zealand is a very expensive place to live. To feed myself, I was spending roundabouts $90 NZD on food a week, plus costs of internet service on campus and in my apartment, phone service, bus fare, laundry and whatever excursions I would take to ensure I was seeing more of the country than just the university.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $120 NZD on a week without a trip somewhere
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Farmer's Market produce, especially in summer, is often more competitive than grocery store produce. research the best deals you can get for phone service. at UC, on-campus wireless is half the price of the internet at your flat. Hang dry your clothes rather than machine dry. In winter, turn your heater on high and hang your clothes on hangers from your curtain rod. It takes less time than you think.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The group of students I met through Frontiers Abroad
  • every corner of New Zealand is spectacularly beautiful
  • Field work
* What could be improved?
  • professor accountability to deadlines
  • communication between the professors and the students
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? how hard field camp was going to be

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

GEOL 356 - Research Methods

Course Department: Geologic Sciences
Instructor: Darren Gravley; Samuel Hampton
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The course was based on the fieldwork we did in the last week of field camp, and largely built on material we learned in the first four weeks of field camp. Darren and Sam definitely knew their stuff, but they could be quite disorganized and so overloaded with grading they often fell behind in getting things back to students. Both are very good instructors. When you had a direct question to ask them, they would help you find the answer, and refer you to five other sources that could also help you. The difficulty could come in catching them when they were actually available to help. This year was also a guinea pig year for the group projects they did, which ended up being a frustrating process. There was some serious mis-communication in the first few weeks which meant a lot of time was wasted on something that ended up not actually being the assignment. Due dates could also change on a dime. This course had few assignments, as the entire point of the course was two produce two things: a group project on Banks Peninsula, and an individual original research paper. Both were due at the very end of the semester. They were both very big learning opportunities but also a lot like flailing in the dark, because most people had not encountered the material we were meant to be wheeling and dealing like pros prior to their arrival in New Zealand. It was a big project in self-motivation. I had little for the first part of the semester, partially because I was struggling with turning my brain from vacation mode to work mode, and partially because like I wasn't being given enough direction to even know what to do. The end of the semester was the opposite. Once I had direction and the pressure of a due date, I worked as much as I ever have on a major assignment at Middlebury
Credit Transfer Issues: Yes. The Geology department head does not currently find this course to be sufficiently different enough from field camp to count it as a separate course towards the major. I am receiving general credits for both from Middlebury, but only field camp is counted towards my major specifically. I would argue they count as two courses, as Chem 103 and Chem 104 are two courses. You cannot complete one without the other, but they are not the same. But it is not my call to make. If you think you will be short on credits for the major, I would clarify BEFORE you go about what's going to count, and what's not. Research Methods is a required class. Even if Midd won't give you major credit, you still have to take it as part of Frontiers Abroad. If you're short on major credits, use the two week shopping period at the start of the term to pick your electives well, and get them approved before that two week period is up.
Course Name/Rating:

GEOG 202 - Globalisation and New Geographies

Course Department: Geography
Instructor: Ian Hodges (visiting), David Conradson
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This course felt fairly basic in its material, but that may just be a reflection of the courses I had taken prior to this. I took it because I needed a course to count as a non-science ES elective, and there were not very many options. The lecturers, of which there were a few, all seemed to know their stuff, but time constraints and a very broad curriculum meant depth was sometimes lacking. It was interesting in that it took a Euro-NZ-China perspective, which, (as is logical) most US classes do not. It wasn't a bad class to take. I liked doing the research paper because it wasn't a particularly stressful assignment, we were given more than enough time, and they were flexible on topics so I could spend my time learning something I had never even thought much about before. Assessments were two papers and a final exam. I participated a lot in discussion sections, partially because Kiwis are not comfortable talking in class and if the two Americans didn't talk, the class would be spent largely in awkward silence. That in and of itself was a learning experience.
Credit Transfer Issues: Not so far. I emailed the course description and syllabus to the ES head of department and he emailed back approving it as an ES non-science elective. The course will be slightly different next year, as there will be different instructors, so future students may need to submit it through the approval process again.
Course Name/Rating:

Frontiers Abroad Field Camp

Course Department: Geologic Sciences
Instructor: Darren Gravley, Samuel Hampton, John Bradshaw, Ben Kennedy, Brendan
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Field Camp was HARD WORK. At the end, I looked back at what we'd done and said Let's go again! but during camp there were some serious rough patches. We went to spectacularly beautiful places, and the food was generally good. For the most part, there was hot water showers. We also had ten hour field days followed by lectures and homework in the evenings, and it was a true test of one's endurance to keep one's brain and body going for that long, for weeks on end. The instructors all knew their stuff in terms of course material, but their communication/organization skills were not spectacular. Participation was mandatory, and I gave it all I had at any given time, which was some days 110% and other days probably closer to 70%. We were assessed on the quality of our field notes, and several location-specific assignments. The fairness of the assignments varies, as they were graded by a large number of people, instructors and grad students alike, with inconsistent expectations and rubrics.
Credit Transfer Issues: So far, I have not, but I think it will depend on how the paperwork goes through. Hopefully, now that two years worth of students have done this field camp, it will be easy for future students
Course Name/Rating:

HAZM 401 - Introduction to Hazard and Disaster Management

Course Department: Hazard and Disaster Management master's program
Instructor: Tim Davies, Tom Wilson, Mary Comerio
Instruction Language: English
Comments: I loved this course. I took it because I had a thought that disaster management is something I might want to pursue as a career and now I am sure of it. The first half of the course was better than the second. After Easter break, each class was taught by a new visiting lecturer, who did not know what previous lecturers had covered. As a result the information was generally fairly interesting, but at times basic information was repeated more than it needed to be, and as a class the material came to feel disjointed. Some of the lecturers were excellent. The field trip was excellent. Other lecturers were not so good. Assessments were two papers worth 25% of the grade, and a final paper worth 50%. I worked hard on them and was rewarded for it.
Credit Transfer Issues: Though the Hazard and Disaster graduate program is run by the Geologic Sciences department at UC and though I was enrolled in it under the name GEOL 339 (because I was an undergrad and we needed a special enrollment for a graduate class), my head of department did not consider it sufficiently geo-science based to count it as a geology elective for my major. I am, however, receiving a general credit for Middlebury, which counts towards graduation.
Course Name/Rating:

CHCH 101 - Christchurch 101

Course Department: n/a
Instructor: Billy O'Stein, Chris Jansen
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This was not an academically challenging course, but it was not supposed to be. It definitely made use of its context in Christchurch, though we were responsible for getting ourselves to field trip locations, which was often prohibitive for some students who did not have cars. Both instructors had clearly thought a lot about the material they were covering, and that they were still learning as is a sign of a good service learning course. I participated as much or perhaps slightly less than I might've at Middlebury, partially because I occasionally prioritized other work to this course, and partially because I felt doing more work would be of little help to the cause and enabling to those others around me (of which there were many) who were inclined not to expend effort if someone else was going to do it for them.
Credit Transfer Issues: Nope. I took it as my 'local culture' study abroad credit, which is preapproved, and it also counts as one general credit towards graduation