We had a chance to check-in with API Alumna, Karen Smith. She studied abroad in Auckland, New Zealand. Karen is a student from the University of Mary Washington.
Why and how did you choose your study abroad location?
I knew I wanted to study in the Southern Hemisphere since I had never been before, and it would be summer/autumn for the semester there. I ultimately chose New Zealand because it offered everything I wanted – mountains, beaches, and cities all within a few hours drive of each other. Australia was a close second, but there are a lot more poisonous/deadly things over there, and everything is so far apart. I love how you can experience many elements of New Zealand in a short weekend trip without breaking the bank.
What was the most interesting course you took abroad? Why?
The most thought-provoking class I took at AUT was Design and Innovation for Sustainability. Each week, we covered a different topic of sustainability – economics, architecture, food, and even clothing. We even took a field trip to a “green building” during class, and created a zero-waste prototype for an existing product. It was great to engage in conversations with New Zealanders about their views on sustainability and compare them to the U.S.’s views, and the class kept me engaged the entire semester. This is the best class I have taken in undergrad!
What was your favorite excursion or cultural activity?
My favorite excursion by far was Hobbiton! I had never been a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but this set was absolutely inspiring! The tour took us through the entire village, and there was so much attention to detail that it felt like a glimpse into the real community. I could relate this excursion to my sustainability classes because all of the “hobbit homes” were essentially sustainable homes built into the earth, and it has inspired me to want to live more sustainably.
What would you tell someone who is considering a study abroad experience?
DO IT! Financially, it was almost the same as staying at my home university, if not cheaper, and API does a great job making it a smooth transition for all students. It was by far the best 5 months of my life, and you can learn so much by studying abroad. It is important to recognize that you can always travel abroad, but there is only a limited time in your life where you can be a student abroad. That is an opportunity you should take advantage of!