I was never the kind of person that would be classified as a risk-taker. Let’s just say jumping off a ledge 400 meters high probably wasn’t something I would enjoy. Swimming within twenty feet of a shark, albeit a harmless one, wouldn’t have made onto my bucket list. As a freshman, I planned on taking the necessary classes and then entering the professional program in Warnell. For some reason, I became extra-adventurous and decided to study abroad in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji on the Spring Semester program with Discover Abroad, which happens to be housed within Warnell. Before then, I had never been out of the country, but that didn’t make a difference to me. I wanted to travel a third of the way around the world and discover places I had always dreamed about while receiving class credit. Today I’m so thankful I did.
Fast-forward ten weeks from when our group left in January, and I returned with a vocabulary filled with nifty Australian jargon, a heart filled with hopes of returning to the South Pacific, a camera filled with pictures of adventures and kangaroo selfies, and a mind filled with unforgettable memories. I expected to learn the usual study abroad type of things, but after only a few days in New Zealand, I realized there was much more to learn. Here are a couple of the many things I learned that can apply to many situations, not just studying abroad.
First, unfamiliar situations aren’t that bad. I am now able to look at new opportunities through a different and much more positive lens. I was unsure of what would happen during our homestay in Soso Village in Fiji. It is a traditional village with traditions including food, dress, and ceremonies, but I soon realized the value of that. It turned out to be one of the most fun (and interesting) days, although probably after my encounter with the Ledge Swing in Queenstown.
Second, take the time to really stop, absorb your surroundings, and enjoy what’s around you. I have a bad habit of rushing to get somewhere, such as when I’m walking trails. After walking lots of trails to waterfalls and lookouts, I can say some of the most interesting creatures were seen away from the best view. One of my favorite places we visited was Lamington National Park in Australia. Koalas are seen there, but after several tries elsewhere, we had basically given up. Finally our guide spots two, we take pictures, and our month-long goal is fulfilled. Basically, if we had not been taking our time, we would have gone to Australia without ever seeing a koala in the wild.
So after a lot of talk about a place somewhere around the world, let’s apply this to Warnell. Even though I’m only in my first semester at Warnell, I can already draw parallels between the lessons I learned abroad and the lessons I continue to learn here. I am trying new things every week in classes such Field Measurements, like coring a huge pine to determine the age. Once I tell myself to slow down, I enjoy finding salamanders in the creek at the Botanical Gardens and box turtles wandering through the woods. Every moment I spend in class at Warnell in room 304 or with my fellow students in the lounge somehow teaches me a lesson, much like my time abroad.