The first time I felt culture shock came when we had our first day welcoming ceremony. We were greeted with the haka (a traditional war cry, war dance, or challenge in Māori culture). I had never seen it before and seeing the men with tribal tattoos on their face and their tongues out was such a cool experience that I definitely wouldn’t get in Canada.
I took sociology courses in New Zealand and learned more about the Māori culture in these classes. I was the only exchange student in these courses and I loved that because I was fully able to embrace the Māori culture and ask a lot of questions.
I lived on campus with four other students. Two of them were from Sweden and the other was from New Zealand. Every Sunday night we would have “family night” which was all of us getting together and taking turns making food from our culture and sharing it with others. It was so much fun trying new food and hearing stories about why they chose to cook it.
The friendships I made have become life-long friendships!
"Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and trying new things was something I really embraced."
I learned not to be afraid of change. I learned how to dance in the moment and appreciate the process of studying in a new country. I learned that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was and that empowers me to this day!
I travelled to New Zealand for a semester and I left with so much more. I felt more connected to that beautiful country, it’s people, and most importantly, I felt more connected to myself.
I ended up travelling back to NZ in 2017 to stay with a friend I had met during my study abroad semester. I have also visited Europe multiple times to meet up with my friends I had met from the study abroad in NZ experience. I have been to three weddings, in Malmo, Sweden, Stockholm, Sweden and Vienna, Austria. I loved that they were in different languages but the shared language of love and connectedness made all three weddings so memorable. I loved reminiscing on our times in New Zealand and all of our cultural family night dinners and celebrations. These memories I share with my study abroad friends will last a lifetime.
I feel getting out of my comfort zone by studying in New Zealand was really big for me. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and trying new things was something I really embraced.