1. Asking questions can only help you
Whether it be asking a local for directions, the person TEAN placed in your city for advice, your professors for help with schoolwork, or to a previous TEAN student who studied abroad for tips, make it a point to ask as many questions as you need. The resources you have available to you are there for a reason, so take advantage of them! I got tips on what to pack, the best places to eat in my host city, and how to ensure I did well in my classes, just by reaching out to those around me that were there to support me.
2. Bring rain gear everywhere
Although I got lucky most of time, I quickly learned that weather in New Zealand could be extremely unpredictable. Every time I traveled or was outdoors, I made sure to bring rain gear. Twice I got caught hiking in weather that didn’t match with the forecast, and I was thankful that I had my raincoat and rain pants, and gloves and extra layers when it snowed, too.
3. Don’t over pack when backpacking
Less is sometimes more. Now I’m not saying don’t pack the necessary amounts of food and clothes, but you probably will not need five days worth of food and clothes for an overnight hike. I learned my lesson after packing way too much and then having to hike for hours to hut and then back out the next day. I recommend packing food and a little extra in case of an emergency. As for clothes, pack layers, not necessarily multiple full outfits. Chances are, appearances will not be your main priority when backpacking, and your back and shoulders will most definitely thank you.
4. Learn to adapt without a car
Having a car on a daily basis is a luxury. I never realized how nice it was to have my own car until I went to New Zealand. It really forces you to structure your schedule and cut down on unnecessary trips to stores. By the time I left New Zealand, I was able to make time to figure out the groceries I needed and make only one trip a week downtown so that I wouldn’t have to walk to and from Wellington’s city center excessively.
5. Take time to know your professors
Getting to know your professors can only benefit you in the long run. As much as you research and inquire about the school system and classes abroad, you never really know what it is like until you attend the classes yourself. So when I took a history class that had to do with New Zealand politics, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I found myself sitting in a class that’s subject was not my best, surrounded mainly by students who knew what they were doing. So I emailed and met with my professor, who was extremely understanding and helpful. Knowing my situation, she was able to assist me throughout the class. She knew I put in effort and was able to help me succeed with the work. So introducing yourself to your professors is never a bad thing.
6. Take airfare deals seriously
Budgeting your money is a main concern for everyone who studies abroad, and one of the best ways to conserve is to find good deals. I didn’t want my travels to be limited by money, so I would wait for airline tickets to go on sale before buying anything. Tickets can get really cheap, especially when you keep tabs on all the different airline options.
7. Respect nature
This one I didn’t necessarily learn while in New Zealand, because my love for the outdoors was a factor in me choosing my study abroad location. But it was one that I truly saw the meaning of during my time abroad. The passion for nature that many Kiwi and Māori have was inspiring. We need to be conscious of what the earth has provided us with, and take good care in conserving it for years to come.
8. Research your travels
Before leaving on an adventure or short-term trip, be sure to have some sort of idea what you want to do. If you don’t have a plan for what you want to do, you may miss out on something and waste time and money. I’m not saying you need to plan every hour of every day for each trip you go on, but don’t underestimate a little bit of organization.
9. Never pass up a TEAN event
I learned this one really quickly. These events are organized for you, so take advantage of them! They are fun and made for you to learn more about your host country’s culture. It was also a great way to keep in touch with everyone in your city from the program.
10. Grow and maintain friendships
Take your time abroad to build amazing friendships, but also use it to maintain relationships with loved ones from home. The friends you make during your semester abroad you will treasure forever, so spending time traveling and making memories with these newfound friends is so enjoyable. But I also learned something about long distance relationships, as well. Although they are tough, keeping in contact with friends and family from home is so important. I made sure I made time to FaceTime, text, and email everyone from home, so I could share my experiences with them, as well as keeping up with their lives. I learned a lot about staying in contact with those who are a long distance away, and this lesson I will take with me years from now, when I am back traveling or move away from home.
Kate Farrell is a student at the University of Hartford and a TEAN Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with TEAN in Wellington, New Zealand.