I have officially been in Auckland, New Zealand for two weeks now. It’s really flown by; only twelve weeks left and I wish I had more! Before I begin to write about my pre-departure thoughts and emotions, allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Sarah, and I am a Senior Music Education major. I will graduate in December from The University of Alabama, following the completion of my student teaching internship in Auckland. You read correctly: I have chosen to do my internship overseas rather than in one of the Tuscaloosa area schools. Why?
When my friend first told me about the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching Program (COST), I thought it was too good to be true. I had never thought that it was possible for me to study abroad because of my major. I considered the requirements for my degree and knew that none of the courses would be offered by a study abroad program. How wrong I was! The more I learned about the COST Program, the more I wanted to apply. The opportunity in front of me–to live abroad for a semester while learning to teach music–was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity. I began the application process in December of 2013, completed it in January 2014, and then I waited.
Months later, I received my overseas placement: Takapuna Normal Intermediate School, Auckland, New Zealand. I couldn’t believe it! I must have read the email 500 times, just to make sure that it was real. I was told that my placement would begin August 4, and that it would be a good idea to arrive the weekend before that. I booked my flight a few weeks later and then tried not to think about it again until mid-July, when I could no longer keep it in a metaphorical box. Time to get ready.
My New Zealand visa arrived in the mail. My flights were confirmed. I packed and unpacked my two suitcases several times to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything (which happened anyway). Everyone asked me if I was excited, and I always had the same answer: 92% stoked, 8% terrified.
Sure, I love to travel, but I had never traveled alone before, and New Zealand isn’t exactly just around the corner. It’s more like three flights, two layovers, and a 17-hour time difference away. (This usually means that when I talk to people from home, I’m a day ahead of them; for example, I usually text my parents or friends in the early morning because it’s late afternoon, yesterday, for them. It’s fun being in the [figurative] future.) I wasn’t nervous about being in New Zealand for 14 weeks; I was mostly just anxious about getting here–navigating airports I had never been in before, hoping flights would be on time, praying that my baggage would arrive when I did, finding my host mom in the airport without ever having met her and being without a phone… the list went on and on. I’m happy to report that I had zero issues with any of those things and that I arrived safely, on time, and with my bags. It couldn’t have gone more smoothly!
If you’re interested in studying abroad but, like I was, are worried about traveling alone, don’t be! The world is a helpful and inviting place, if you’re ready and willing to explore it! I can’t wait to see and do everything that New Zealand has to offer, including the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest building, the Sky Tower; the glow worm caves of Waitomo; the hot springs and culture of Rotorua; the Maori communities and the Bay of Islands in the north; and the Shire, of course! If the view from my window is at all telling of the rest of the country, I know I’m in for the most beautiful adventure of my life.