Morgan Hall is a junior at Western Carolina University who is studying communications sciences and disorders. She hopes to someday work alongside children with disabilities. Hall recently had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand for five months. Her main focus while abroad was speech and language pathology, which she studied at Massey University located in Albany.
New Zealand was already near and dear to Hall. She had been there during her high school career and attended school with family and friends as an international student for nearly seven months.
“During my freshman year at WCU, I attended an honors college event where Jim Gieser was speaking about the study abroad program. I didn’t think I was going to be able to study abroad in college. I didn’t think it would be an option with my busy schedule. But listening to Jim talk about the different opportunities we as students had, I had to see if I had the option of studying abroad somewhere. I realized how much I missed New Zealand and I really wanted to go back. I thought about New Zealand every day and I knew that that was the country I had to go to. So, I set up a meeting with the study abroad program and went!” said Hall.
A typical day abroad for Hall involved going to a three-hour class to start the day, followed by lunch with her peers, many of which were also international students. It was then commonplace for Hall to return to her room or the school library to complete homework.
“When I wasn’t doing school work, I hung out with my friends that lived on campus. My school was in a busy part of the country. Auckland, one of the major cities, is about a 20-minute drive from campus. There was always something to do or something to try. Auckland is also on the coast. I was no more than a 10-minute drive to the beach. My friends and I liked to go to the beach and relax a lot,” said Hall.
Having a three-hour class once a week as opposed to shorter classes multiple times a week was only one of the differences Hall noticed about Massey compared to Western Carolina. The campus, she noted, was smaller, with 7,000 students compared to Western Carolina’s enrollment which surpasses 10,000.
Hall also touched on the limited dining options compared to Western Carolina.
“Since less people live on campus, they only have one dining hall for the students. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at certain times. They only had a couple options of what to eat. There was almost always rice and some kind of curry or stir fry every day,” she said.
Because New Zealand is geographically much closer to Asian countries, their cuisine mimicked those neighboring countries, as opposed to something more traditionally American that she was used to.
“We also only were allowed one plate full. If you were hungry that night, you had to fill up your plate as much as you could!” said Hall.
Another interesting change for Hall abroad regarding her living arrangements.
“Not many people live in on-campus housing at New Zealand universities. It’s more common to live in houses or ‘flats’ off-campus. That was something I found odd since WCU has so many residential buildings on campus, as do most U.S. universities,” said Hall.
Hall described the geography and landscape of New Zealand as highly varied for it being considered merely an island.
“My favorite part about going to New Zealand was all the traveling I could do. New Zealand is a very small country and it’s incredibly easy to go to other cities or part of the country. You can travel around the whole North or South Island in a week. New Zealand is probably one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world. It has mountains, beaches, plains, vast sand dunes and even glaciers. It always blew my mind how I could see these different places even though New Zealand is so tiny. I loved being able to travel so much so easily,” she said.
It is hard to find, for example, mountains so close to the beach in the U.S., as Hall described—especially on the eastern part of the country. The diverse opportunities and experiences available internationally are only a few reasons why studying abroad is encouraged for many students.
“My main advice for students looking to study abroad is to just give it a try! I know a common concern is being away from home for a long period. Not all study abroad programs are a semester long. There are plenty of opportunities to go only for a few weeks or for the summer. You can always just simply make an appointment at the study abroad office and see what your options are! That doesn’t mean that you must decide right away if you are going to go somewhere or not. I will always tell people to push past their worries and to just try it. Once you step off that plane in whatever country you decide to go to, all your worries and concerns will be gone. You’ll feel so happy that you took that leap of faith and decided to go on the journey,” said Hall.
College can be a fleeting experience, though packed with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. As Hall said, it never hurts to try something new.
For anyone interested in learning more about study abroad, visit www.wcu.edu/learn/office-of-international-programs-and-service/study-abr....