Standing outside in the autumn sun, I was sweating underneath all of my layers: a long sleeve shirt, zip up hoodie and heavy jacket on top, leggings and snow pants, and one pair of Merino socks and a second pair made of wool inside my boots.
It seemed like an eon passed by the time our helicopter arrived. It landed with a gust of wind and ear-deafening noise, the sort of thing you’d instinctively run away from but instead we ran toward it. Hopping inside, we buckled in, put on our protective ear-wear on and just like that, we were off. The helicopter pilot took us higher and higher, over the mountains and finally landed at our destination: the Franz Josef glacier.
For the next two hours, our guide Tom, an American-turned-Kiwi, led us over the face of Franz Josef, through tight crevasses and ice chambers, all of which would be gone in a day or two and replaced with new ones. The Franz Josef glacier is one of the most active glaciers in the world with the bottom moving at nearly one meter per day and the top at five meters per day (basically light speed in geological time!). Tom explained to us that’s one of the reasons his job is so fun is because the glacier is always different, and thus no two hikes are ever the same.
New Zealand is an adventurer’s paradise. Around literally every corner, there’s a new mountain to climb or some sort of crazy activity that is a pure adrenaline rush (I recommend white-water rafting). Geographically, New Zealand is about as diverse as it gets and that makes for a study abroad experience unlike any other. I mean, where else is the world can you ski down a mountain and surf in the same day? New Zealand forced me out of my comfort zone in a way that’s not even possible in other countries. As the WiFi grew weaker, my new friendships got stronger, as did the confidence in myself and my abilities.
With every new adventure, New Zealand showed me I’m capable of much more than I think and now, having lived here for several months, I’m 100 percent certain there’s no better place to study abroad.