Wellington Beehive
Learning outside the classroom: visiting the Beehive in Wellington

Now that the semester is winding down, it’s time for everyone’s least favorite part of studying abroad: exams. While we were traveling, meeting friends, posing for photos, making memories (and attending classes of course), the comfort of our endless time abroad slipped out from under our feet and we somehow landed here, surrounded by 250 other university students in the middle of the library, nose buried in a political theory textbook.  Oh, the humanity.

I do appreciate exams, because they give me an opportunity to realize just how much I have actually learned over the course of the semester. All of those lectures, notes, and essays later, I can emerge from the darkness of a late-night study session and prove to my professors that, really, I’m no dummy. Exam time in New Zealand is also a great time for me to reflect on what I’ve learned not only in the classroom, but outside of it as well.

For starters, just because I chose a Western, English-speaking country like New Zealand to study in, does not mean my university experience is going to be anything like it is at home in the United States. Lectures once a week instead of twice, no homework assignments or tests outside of two major essays and a final exam worth 50% of my grade…can you say pressure? Getting used to the grading scale has its own learning curve – I could not tell you how to convert a percentage into a letter grade if said grade depended on it. And 3-hour exams spread out over the course of two weeks, conducted like standardized tests…I’m not saying I didn’t come here to do well, but I found myself taking school a lot more seriously than I imagined.

Study break
Taking a study break for dessert at Cuba Café

As I’m sitting here procrastinating studying for my last exam (hey, old habits die hard), I’m thankful for what New Zealand and its residents have taught me. From the inner workings of the government to the history of colonization, my lecturers have given me a true appreciation for this little country and its rich history. Being here also gives me a new perspective on the world, and an appreciation for diversity in opinions and beliefs. I have seen firsthand that making new friends is as easy as saying “hello,” that it’s okay to go barefoot to breakfast, and that sometimes you just have to flat-out disagree with someone, but that doesn’t make their point any less valid. Traveling through New Zealand has helped me see that the world has so much to offer, as long as we are open to its opportunities.

It’s hard for me to put into words everything being in a new place has opened my eyes to, but overall, I think it has inspired me to leave my positive mark on the world. New Zealand has contributed to my book smarts, sure, but I think it’s what I’ve learned about the world on its own that I’ll take with me back home. And if I had to take an exam for New Zealand 101, I think I’d pass with flying colors.

Sunset in Rotorua

Madison Dockter is a student at Drake University and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Madison recently completed her semester abroad with TEAN in Palmerston North,  New Zealand.