Allie Kolb is from Placentia, California. She enjoys running, going to the beach and trying new foods. Her first big adventure came when she traveled to Indiana to attend AU, and she is currently in the midst of a semester-long journey abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she is studying at the University of Canterbury. She is blogging about her adventures at www.alliegoesabroad.weebly.com.
What inspired you to want to study abroad?
Studying abroad was always a secret dream of mine. When I was young, I would go to the library and spend hours looking at travel books. I’d imagine myself living at all the interesting places I was seeing and wonder what it would be like to meet different people. As I got into high school, the dream was still alive, but I never quite knew how or believed that it could actually become a reality.
I would hear stories about others who chose to travel and I remember feeling envious because I wanted to experience seeing the world, too. One day, I expressed my desire to live abroad to a family friend. He told me that I should absolutely pursue the desire even though it seemed unreachable because of expenses, unwilling parents, and other negatives voices.
He challenged me to believe in my dream. He taught me the power of my mind to block out doubts and negative voices and instead choose to believe that God is able to do anything because he has all the resources. I began the tedious task of researching all I needed to do and know to study abroad. It was amazing to see how God ordered everything together perfectly. Money was provided, my parents opened up to the idea, I was able to get classes transferred and just like that, I was blessed with this once in a lifetime experience. I am so grateful.
Why did you choose New Zealand?
The program that organized my trip, ISA, has programs all over the world, and it was hard to narrow it down. One of the most compelling reasons I chose New Zealand is because it looked gorgeous in pictures! I wanted to use my time abroad to not only study, but to also cultivate my interest in design. So being surrounded by the natural beauty of New Zealand just made sense.
Additionally, I decided that it would be best for me to travel to an English-speaking country. I had already traveled to England previously, so that left the options of Australia and New Zealand. I am happy with my final decision because it is everything and more than the pictures reveal.
What are your classes like? How are they different or similar to what you’ve experienced at AU?
Classes, or what New Zealanders refer to as “papers,” are a lot different than classes at AU. I am attending the University of Canterbury where there are over 16,000 students. So the campus is massive and classes happen in huge lecture halls versus more intimate classrooms. Unlike AU, students do not participate in discussion with the lecturer. If they have questions or need help, students have to attend other sessions called tutorials with a completely different professor. So that has been an adjustment, but everyone is super friendly and willing to help you on campus.
Have you experienced any culture shock? What makes New Zealand’s culture unique?
Personally, I haven’t experienced much culture shock. New Zealand’s culture is much more similar to American culture than I had originally thought.
New Zealanders speak English, listen to the same music and watch the same movies. However, there are conversational differences, especially in the words that Kiwis use that are unfamiliar to me as an American. Some of the unique slang words they say include “cheers,” “chur bro,” “yeah nah,” and “sweet as,” just to name a few. Food looks a little different here as well. They don’t sell turkey anywhere, ketchup is tomato sauce and sushi has cooked chicken in it.
Overall, people are more relaxed here, less involved in outside activities, and there is less of a rush to get things done. New Zealand is home to the indigenous Polynesian people called Maori. The Maori language, food, traditions and beliefs massively contribute to the culture in New Zealand. There are beautiful maraes, or colorful carved buildings where Maori people meet for community, all across New Zealand. There is history, symbolism and art behind everything that they do.
What do you most look forward to in the rest of your time abroad? Do you have any traveling or explorations planned?
I have lots of plans that I’m excited about while I’m here, but I’m also very open to trying anything. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the South Island and hitting as many beaches as I can. We have plans to go hiking around lakes, skydiving—pray for me—and going to a Kiwi farm. I’m in the process of planning a few excursions to Thailand and Australia, which I am also very excited about. There is a lot to see and do and not enough time to do it all.
What do you most hope to bring back with you, as far as your understanding of the world and your place in it?
I hope that my time in New Zealand will be more meaningful than just getting to see beautiful views. I want to be part of what God is doing and see how He is working in the lives of people in New Zealand. I want to come back with a greater understanding of a different culture, a deeper acceptance of people at large, and a broader view of the world. I hope that my experiences will unveil the similarities of people, including their needs, hopes and dreams.
As Americans, I think we are easily distracted in our own busy lives, often forgetting that there is a whole world of people and things happening. During my time in New Zealand, I want to be very intentional to deeply connect with others and to hear their stories. In just the few weeks that I have been here, I have already noticed how unique and individual each person is, with their own history, background and story. Yet at the end of the day, I believe everyone wants to be truly known and accepted. I hope I can be a good friend to someone who needs to be encouraged.
Can you tell me one of your most beloved experiences thus far while studying abroad?
One of my favorite things so far was an unexpected and unplanned hiking trip along the coast of Sumner Beach, up a steep cliff and then down to a private beach called Taylor’s Mistake. The best part of the adventure was that it just kind of happened. It started when myself and a few others were not quite sure what to do during some free time. As we stood debating our options, we randomly saw a purple bus coming towards us and figured a purple bus could only be leading to something good.
We jumped on the bus and got off when the driver told us we had a reached a good hiking spot. We had a few mishaps of going down the wrong pathways, tripping over some sharp rocks and stopping every few minutes to snap pictures, but it was all a part of the journey in getting there. The views were absolutely incredible, unlike anything I have ever seen. The water was so clear, the trees were so green, and the sand on the beach was black. I look forward to more spontaneous adventures like this.