Hooker Valley
Hooker Valley trail at Mt. Cook National Park

After five months of non-stop adventure in an exhilarating foreign country, coming back home evidently brings about a tornado of emotions. Each city or country has a distinct culture, ensuring that all students come out with unique stories and an enlightened mind. While studying abroad in New Zealand for a semester I picked up new habits that I have carried back home with me to the United States. Friends and family alike have noticed differences in my attitude and lifestyle that were influenced by my overseas experience.

Gone Green

New Zealand is one of the world’s most environmentally friendly countries, and this has undoubtedly rubbed off on me. In the flat I lived in, we did not use paper towels or napkins, disposable zip-lock bags, or the drying machine for our wet laundry. These habits are widely practiced in the student population of Otago, so I followed suit and adapted to a less wasteful routine. Now that I’m back at home, I continue to practice these habits and have also started a compost bin. Saving the planet one veggie scrap at a time!

Smart Spending

Studying abroad is not cheap, but with New Zealand’s numerous op shops (thrift shops), I was able to purchase necessities without worrying about taking away from my adventure funds. An important thing to know about Dunedin is that it gets very cold during the winter, which would have been useful to know before I packed mostly light clothing for the entire semester. While opting out of paying for full-price sweaters at the stores down George Street, I found the benefits of purchasing used items while taking part in the cycle of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Highlanders rugby Dunedin
Highlanders rugby game with students from my flat complex

Eat Fresh

Back at my home university in Pittsburgh, the grocery store is a bus-ride away. This means I have to carry bags of food home on a public bus, which isn’t convenient when your arms are twigs and you’re trying to stock up for a several weeks’ worth of groceries. The best part about the location of my flat in Dunedin is that it was located just down the street from a fruit and veggie store and a short walk from campus where there is a produce stand right outside the library. As a result, each of my meals was homemade with fresh produce, influencing new recipe ideas and a healthier lifestyle.

An Open Mind

You knew this one was coming, right?   All of those cliché promises of your horizon expanding and your perspective broadening as a result of traveling are true. Living thousands of miles away from home is challenging, but making new friends with people from all over the world teaches you to accept cultural differences, reconsider your own opinions and views, and learn new things about people who have grown up under completely different circumstances. I came back home with a stronger thirst for adventure, a more adaptable nature, and a more accepting mindset. And if this doesn’t convince you to study abroad, the irresistible accents are sure to lure you in.

Mt Cook
View from the top of Sealy Tarns track at Mt. Cook National Park

Emily Yu  is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Emily recently completed her semester studying abroad with TEAN in Dunedin, New Zealand.