Abel Tasman Coastal Track
Our first big trip: the Abel Tasman Coastal Track

My decision to study abroad was one of the most difficult yet rewarding ones of my life. I have not only been able to explore New Zealand: a country so beautiful that sometimes it is difficult to believe that it is a real place, but I have made friends from all over the world who have shown me a different perspective, and have taught me things that have truly changed the way I see the world. I have also learned about life as a student in New Zealand, and got to feel like I was part of a community, not just a visitor.

Mt. Tongariro
Feeling “On top of the world” at Mt. Tongariro

During my time here, I pushed myself to try new things; hike for longer than I ever thought I could, try foods I would have never thought I would try, jump off the highest cliff jump in the world despite my insane fear of heights and learn more about myself and my abilities than I ever thought I would. I truly believe that travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. Sure, I missed my friends and family, but it is important to have these kinds of adventures when you are young. Learning from this adventure has prepared me for new adventures, and I can’t wait to see what is in store. Change is difficult. Taking risks is difficult, but sometimes the biggest risks we take are the ones that are the most rewarding of all. I watched this truth unfold during my time in New Zealand, and I would encourage anyone to take this chance if they were ever considering it.

Meeting my new TEAN friends in Fiji!

The three most important pieces of advice I can give are these:

Never hold back: Living in another country is about learning to absorb a new and unfamiliar experience and learn from it. Learn to trust your instincts. Learn to take risks. Learn to try new things while stepping outside your comfort zone. Be curious and act on that curiousness.

Don’t plan too much: When traveling another country, you will not always get exactly what you were expecting. Try it anyway. Sometimes the most fun times come from the “Well let’s just stop here and check it out” ‘s. When you learn not to live your life with a day-to-day schedule, you become a traveler, not a tourist (WAY more fun). Don’t be afraid to explore.

Soak it all in: Take mental notes and document things in pictures and journals. Capture the memories! They are important. Also, be in the moment. It is sometimes difficult to stop and take a breath while traveling because it is all so new and exciting that you will want to see and do everything at once. Instead, at every place you go, watch the sunsets in silence, have the conversations that wind up making a meal a two-hour event. Take in the sights and smells and sounds. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!

Windy Welly: My second home

If you are like me, you will learn to do these things while abroad and will come home having had incredible experiences with no regrets. Overall, my study abroad experience was one of the best of my life. I learned and grew in ways that I never could have imagined. If anyone was ever considering studying in another country, I say, take the leap!

Lauren Anderson is a student at Drake University and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Lauren has just completed her semester abroad with TEAN in Wellington,  New Zealand.