I’ve officially been in New Zealand for 6 weeks, which is the same amount of total time I spent in Hungary last summer, and yet my two experiences studying abroad couldn’t feel more different.
Honestly, I feel like I’ve hardly seen/done anything here in New Zealand.
The only real exploring I did was during my first week when all we had was orientation, so afterward we were able to spend the rest of our time exploring the free museums and the botanical garden and the many festivals offered. Then school started and I was just trying to get acclimated to everything from the typical nature of starting new classes to the more New Zealand specific things like navigating my new school and figuring out how to sign up for tutorial sessions. Maybe I should’ve spent more time exploring and meeting people and less time stressing about school work and organizing my schedule.
By week two of school was when the US first started to cancel exchange programs which lead into the week of panic mode about trying to see if I could stay in the country and understanding all that entailed. And just when I finally got it all sorted out that I could stay in New Zealand, I had about half a week of semi calm and normalcy before we too went into lockdown mode. This leads to the last two weeks which I’ve spent in my room doing all sorts of random stuff from choreographing gymnastics routines to writing essays for an unknown and ever-changing deadline.
It’s amazing how time flys when you’re in a constant state of change and trying to solve for one complex situation after the next.
And now, nothing’s really changing. I’m just waiting. Waiting and occupying time. And somehow in a weird way, I feel like I keep getting more involved than I would have been had we not gone into lockdown mode. It seems projects from my past keep coming up now that we have time and all of my project teams have gone digital. So far three different teams that I wasn’t supposed to have any significant involvement with for the next year, one of which wasn’t even supposed to exist anymore, have all become part of my recent to-do list.
I’m not fully sure how I feel about this. In some ways, it’s nice to get to keep being involved with my old teams, but in other ways, I’m upset that I wasn’t able to find new groups here to get involved with instead. Only having three weeks of school before lockdown apparently isn’t enough time to really get involved with anything. This partly contributed to why I didn’t really get to know anyone actually from New Zealand and the people I did get close with were mostly exchange kids who have now had to go back to their home countries. It’s like I’m not really studying abroad at all because nothing has really changed besides my physical location and having slightly different syllabi than past semesters.
So my hope for post quarantine is that when I leave New Zealand, I actually feel like I’ve lived and studied here. I want to have stories about the places I saw and the people I met. Right now I don’t feel like I have those experiences, and I sincerely hope I don’t have to leave without them. And yet every day I wonder if that will really get to happen. I already know I’m going to be learning online the entire semester and I know, based on how other countries seem to be doing, the likelihood is that we will be asked to social distance longer. So who knows if I will get to do much of anything at all this semester, and I don’t yet know if I will get to stay for the second semester. And yet, hope is all I can do so I guess that’s what I’ll keep on doing.