Keeping My Study Abroad Experience Alive at Home

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand sailing with friends

Kit Allgaier is a student at Bucknell University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She is a Global Ambassador through the IFSA-Butler Global Ambassador Program.

As you embark on your journey as a study abroad student, your mind is probably flooded with excitement, questions, and hopes of what your time in your country of choice will be like. Once your time there is up, you will most likely be longing to bring back these feelings; to not let this experience be a one-stop shop in the voyage that is your life.

This, at least, was how my experience played out, and now that I am home, I do everything I can to not let this experience be over, to elongate the excitement and passion I have for this country. I studied abroad in the fall of 2015 at Victoria University of Wellington in, you guessed it, Wellington, New Zealand. My experience was everything I hoped for and more. I lived in a house close to campus with an amazing group of people from all over the world who I will be friends with for the rest of my life.

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand sailing with friends
An overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound with two of my best friends I met, Katy and Alyssa

I wouldn’t call myself a city person, but Wellington was perfect. Small enough that I could easily walk anywhere I wanted to, but still had that exciting, always-can-find-something-cool-to-do feel. In walking distance were beaches and mountains that were beautiful and easily accessible, and the people were nice. I found myself running into people I met, and even getting to know some people who worked around throughout the city.

New Zealand: Wanaka tree, views of mountains
The famous Wanaka tree – one of my favorite views in New Zealand

So of course, I didn’t want my experience to just stop short after my flight back home. New Zealand became such a special place for me– a huge piece of my heart. I knew when I got home that it couldn’t just be over and done with.

Well it didn’t have to be, and I have laid out a few ways for you to keep your study abroad experience alive like I have.

South Island road trip
South Island road trips! One of the best parts of NZ

I want you to know that even after your return, your study abroad experience can still be a big part of your life. Here are some ways in which you can still feel connected to your country and your time there:

  • Keep a journal, a blog, or both while you are there! Reflecting on your day before laying down for bed is a great way to keep tabs on how you are feeling, what you are doing, and what you haven’t done that you want to do! And when you return home, this is a great way to be able to look back on what you did whenever you want.
  • Take pictures of your favorite places, views, experiences, and people while you are abroad. I don’t recommend always looking through a lens while you are there, but you will be so happy you have a few great pictures when you get back. For me, I printed out all of my favorite pictures in 8x10s, and have them lined up side by side around my whole room at school.

  • Bring back a few souvenirs that you can decorate your spaces with. For me, I have a decorative map of New Zealand that I love and hang above my bed. I also brought back a paua shell that a Kiwi friend found for me and filled it with other shells I found throughout the country. Wherever I went I also got stickers, which I filled a corkboard with. Now, when I look at the corkboard, it reminds me of all the places I went and the memories I made there.

  • One of my favorite things I have done since returning was joining the IFSA-Butler Global Ambassador team. This lets me reflect on and relive my experience while inspiring and helping others with their study abroad experience. I am able to hear about other students’ experiences while also talking about mine, which has just shown me even more how special studying abroad is.
  • Do your research—wherever you travel/have travelled to, there is most likely a restaurant near you with the cuisine from that country. I found a restaurant only a 30 minute drive from my house that is Kiwi-themed, and has some of my favorite New Zealand dishes. I never had to say bye to them!
  • Lastly, social media has helped me stay in touch with my friends I met abroad, and stay up to date with everything happening in Wellington, New Zealand, where I lived. I follow a New Zealand news outlet on Facebook, and various Instagram accounts.

I can’t picture my life without New Zealand in it anymore. After spending five months in a country, it becomes a part of you. I miss the people, the views, the smells, the activities, the food, and so much more about this incredible place.

The ways in which I keep New Zealand a part of my life here help me to bring back these feelings every day. Whatever advice you do take, I hope you can return excited to keep your study abroad experience alive. Until of course, you get to go back!

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