Studying abroad in New Zealand through the TEAN program was one of the best times of my life. I made so many new friends who quickly turned into family. This experience made me a much more open, independent and adventure-seeking person. Here are some of my defining moments from my semester abroad.

1. Traveling Alone

Beginning my journey to New Zealand was the farthest I had ever traveled and the first time ever traveling alone. Over the course of the semester and various trips throughout, I can say proudly that I can now travel independently and with confidence.

At the top of the Queenstown Hill hike during TEAN Orientation week; it was definitely uphill the whole way, but look at that view…it’s worth the sweat, I promise!

2. Living With Strangers

Being placed in the international section of flats at Lincoln University was the best thing I could have asked for; living with one girl from the U.S., one boy from Norway and one from the Netherlands was a culture shock I didn’t expect to get in New Zealand, of all places. However, I am more thankful for these friendships than anything else.

Friends you make from studying abroad

3. Embracing Nature

I can honestly say I had never really been camping before my semester abroad, but I embraced the wilderness with open arms and a terrible $20 sleeping bag. Sharing Tupperware containers full of spaghetti with my best friends in the wilderness of New Zealand are some of my favorite memories.

Two friends jumping up in the air with mountains and a lake in the background in New Zealand
Photo by TEAN Alum, Katie Kump

4. The Southern Lights

One night, our R.A. of our flats ran around knocking on everyone’s doors announcing that we would be piling into cars and caravanning up a nearby mountain to try and view the Southern Lights. Almost every single person in all of the flats came, and although we didn’t see the lights, we did get to have an impromptu road trip and enjoy the stars as they were.

5. Going on the Best Hike Ever

The Tongariro alpine crossing was absolutely the most beautiful and rewarding hike I have ever completed in my entire life. I have never seen so many different landscapes all in one place; it was overwhelming to my little environmental-science-loving heart. I also had never completed a hike that long, but it’s just like everyone tells you: it is 100% mental. Did I think I could do it physically? Heck no. But was I motivated enough by the landscape and the people around me? Absolutely. This is definitely my number one recommendation for any person traveling to New Zealand.

Emerald Lakes – a stunning part of Tongariro Alpine Crossing

6. Family Dinners

How do I even begin…these dinners were so important to me throughout the semester. One day, we just decided that almost every week, once a week, we would all pile up in one flat and some of us would prepare a dinner. I got to taste food from all around the world from the comfort of my little flat in New Zealand. Norweigian, Dutch, Mid-Western (some serious American comfort food) and more! It was so fun to have these bonding moments.

7. TEAN Meet Ups

About once a month, our local TEAN advisor would hold events and meet-ups for us students studying in the Christchurch and Lincoln area, and they were such a fun idea. It was nice to be able to catch up with other TEAN students regularly and just touch base with our advisor. This point of comfort and familiarity was nice to continually come back to throughout the semester.

TEAN cultural event – a Christchurch Rugby Match. Go Crusaders!

8. Saying Goodbye

Having to say goodbye was so difficult. I cant even put it into words and it still tugs on my heartstrings to think about it now. Parting ways with all of my friends really solidified just how close we had become over the short few months we spent together in New Zealand. The moment that I had to leave the incredible people and the incredible place was the moment in which I realized how important this experience was to me. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Colleen Andrews is a TEAN Alum and graduate of Westfield State University. She studied abroad with TEAN at Lincoln University in New Zealand.