A Growing Experience February 08, 2018

By (Psychology, Trinity University) - abroad from 07/01/2017 to 11/10/2017 with

IFSA: Dunedin - University of Otago

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a lot more independence. By the end of the semester I could live and travel completely by myself, I felt totally self-sufficient. I also met some great people and made connections that will last for a long time.

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.

The classes were not super challenging, but did require some effort. Most of my work over the semester was writing papers. The course load depends on what classes you're taking and what requirements you're trying to fulfill for your home school.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I thought the IFSA-Butler crew there was great! They were just the right amount involved to where I did not feel required to do a lot of things and trips, but I could be involved and take advantage of the opportunities they supplied. I also always knew that if I needed help with anything, I could contact them.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in complex of flats while I was there. It was great being in a complex, because it helped me meet people, but the actual flats were not very nice. They were sort of run down, small (although that was partly nice cause it meant it was always warm inside!), and dirty. The area around the flats was also kind of dirty, but it was nice that there were really only students living around me.

* Food:

I liked being able to go to the grocery store and just making food for myself. The flats come have full kitchens in them, so cooking was not challenging. Campus also had some pretty good restaurants in it, and there were always little cafes and restaurants that were only a few minutes away.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We lived with kiwi hosts and all of the flats around us were uni housing, so all of the non-international flats around us were kiwi students. I was in international flats a lot, so I was around a good amount of Americans and people from other countries (mostly Europe). In class, though, I was surrounded by kiwis, who were all very nice. Just walking around a doing everyday things I'd interact with people who lived there, who, again, were very nice, so I felt that I was fairly immersed. I also took a class about the native people of New Zealand, so I learned about that history, which was very interesting, and a very prevalent topic in NZ.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I got sick multiple times while I was in Dunedin. When that happened, I asked my student coordinator what to do, and she directed me to the university's student health services. I actually think that the health service there may actually have been better than the one at my home school, it was like a full on clinic. They were super helpful, listened to all of my concerns, and answered all of my questions. The only inconvenient thing was needing to walk to the lab to drop of my tests when I got a strep test, and having a pharmacy located about a 5 minute walk away.

* Safety:

I always felt extremely safe walking around Dunedin. I could walk home from my friend's flat at one in the morning and be okay. I would have the campus watch's number open on my phone when I walked at night, but I never once came close to needing to use it. The one safety thing that was a little tricky was crossing the road and knowing which way the cars were going, and leaning to drive on the opposite side of the road and the car. Both of those things are pretty easy to pick up, though.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No

Dunedin was not quite what I was expecting, so it challenged me in a way I don't think another program could have. From this challenge I learned about myself and grew in ways that made me become closer to being the person I want to become. Everyone there was also so nice, and driving around the country was absolutely breathtaking. I couldn't believe some of the sights that I saw. Ifsa-Butler was also such a good program to go through because I feel like they had a very good level of control. The challenge was a growing experience, and it was a good one to have, but given the option, I may have picked a different city in New Zealand. Dunedin was very much a college town, which had some positive aspects, but it also meant that one of the popular activites there was drinking and going out. It wasn't that Dunedin was a bad place, it was just not the best fit for me. Although it was very nice to be able to walk everywhere! And I would definitely stay with ifsa-butler!

Finances

* 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)

Things are pretty expensive in New Zealand, even after converting it back to US dollars. Groceries were a lot, and traveling around could add up. There were ways to make it inexpensive, though. I know people who bought and shared a car at the beginning of the semester, and then sold it at the end. That made getting around easier, and gave them more freedom. Renting cars (which I did a few times) was not super expensive, especially if it's split between multiple people. And doing things like tramps and walks and camping while doing with them is also a good way to save money. I also used a lot of buses to get from city to city, which was fairly inexpensive.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? about $40 on groceries per week, and after that it depended on what I was doing. Sometimes I would barely spend more than that, and other times it would be a few 100 dollars (although that was not very normal, it was mostly between the two extremes).
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Take buses, share cars, camp, share food, have your flat cook together, make your own food more than eating out, find inexpensive restaurants if you want to eat out.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? No

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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 opportunity to travel with our program on some weekends (like the Doubtful Sounds Trip!)
  • How welcoming and helpful everyone is. They really do want to make your experience great.
  • Meeting people before the program starts so that I had some connections before going to Dunedin.
* What could be improved?
  • Providing a list of popular classes that study abroad students have taken in the past would have been helpful!
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish that I had had a list of places that I had researched and knew I wanted to go see. I learned about a lot more places to travel when I got to New Zealand, but I did not quite know where to go the first couple weekends. If I had gotten an earlier start of traveling, I probably could have seen more places/

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.