How Studying Abroad Changed My Life


After completing a semester abroad in New Zealand, the school I ‘studied’ at asked me if I would be interested in writing a testimonial to give potential future international students  an idea what it would be like to study at Massey University. In those days, I was young and still fiery fresh off my first extended adventure outside of the U.S., & so this was what I submitted to the school’s representative:

“There was a feeling that was building inside me, long before I left for my semester abroad, and it wasn’t until just recently that I’ve been able to properly articulate that feeling.

Out in the sticks, only the seasons change.

When I returned from New Zealand, I was full of stories and I tried to fill my small town story-empty friends with these stories. And, sure, people were interested, but only for a while. And I started to realize it was because they didn’t really understand my stories; they weren’t there and they didn’t know…

You see, my town breeds a kind of sheltered being that exists almost inhumanely. With no interest in seeing what is out there, never wanting to rest their soul on the cusp of the unknown, always too afraid to venture away from the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to…


‘So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.’

Chris McCandless once wrote this. It is a quote that I now develop a more intimate bond with each time I read it, in part because I know so many around me do not truly understand it. Or they understand it, but they do not feel it, they do not truly hear the man behind the words.

Before coming to New Zealand, the only things I was concerned about doing were skydiving and bungee jumping; neither of which I ended up doing, because by the end of the semester they seemed so insignificant to newer ambitions I had developed.

I had gone to New Zealand to study abroad for the abroad part, and not the studying part. And, when that semester was over, I was changed; concerned with ideals that felt much greater, and that had much more importance to me than I’d ever known before. I now wanted to understand myself better. I wanted to understand the world better. And I spent much of my time abroad teaching myself about these things.

In the five and a half months I was in New Zealand, I was able to reflect on the first 21 years of my life. I made brothers and sisters, not of blood but from the fire of friendship. I smoked more cigarettes than I thought I would. I got another tattoo. I hitchhiked the North Island. I camped out with complete strangers. I jumped into the freezing water of the bay. I tanned on a beach during the winter. I dropped acid and went to town. I felt love for a girl again, a feeling I never imagined I could. I got something published.

When I reflect on time spent in New Zealand, I cannot skip over the fact that I did many things that my mother wouldn’t have wanted me to. And yet, I regret nothing.”

As I assumed, this wasnt exactly the testimony that Massey expected to receive, & I never saw it posted on any testimonial page for the schools previous international students..


-Originally published by on May 24th, 2016