Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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Sweet Aoteroa Bro

This first picture is a typical image of what you can expect to see while wandering around New Zealand. Sheep, or animal clouds, are everywhere in New Zealand! In fact, I learned that the sheep to human ratio is 4:1. There are sheep covering farms, hills, roads and they occasionally insert themselves onto college campuses. I didn’t study abroad at Lincoln University but it is relatively close to University of Canterbury where I did study. Every now and then at Lincoln, few of our animal cloud friends would casually roam the pathways of Lincoln, investigate the exotic scents from the campus, seek out a meal in grassy areas, and then go on their way.

The first time I saw sheep was when my friends and I were on our way to the beach and we saw them migrating from one end of a farm to another. The white cloud smoothly walked in sync away from the road. On another adventure with friends, we actually stopped on the side of the road to take pictures of them. Along with taking pictures of the massive lake the sheep were near, or the mountain that sprouted out from the middle of the lake, as if it was its own little island, the sheep were a spectacle themselves as well. One sheep was the first to notice we were near and stopped walking to look back at us. Instantly afterwards, the entire herd of what looked like 200 sheep were gazing at us.

Upon returning from abroad, sheep are just as entertaining, and intriguing,  as they were since my first encounter with them. To me, they’re a symbol of my rural New Zealand explorations, my curiosity, and togetherness.

This is a picture my friend Andi took while we went hiking. I went on this particular tramp with a group of friends- Will, Gabe, Beth, Alexa, Kristina, Sarah and Andi. We were all both  international students and tramping enthusiasts. At Hanmer, it took us about 2-3 hours to summit to the top of Mt. Isobel, with me taking the longest because of my bad knees. Though it was physically tough on my part to climb the elevation, the view from the top was worth it. New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful.

Sarah once described tramping as an activity that never gets old. Some people might think this is not true, like I did at first, but after a while you start to appreciate it more and more. Tramping has given me a deeper appreciation of nature and our environment. Tramping lets you experience the plants, animals, land and sea that make up the world around you. I got to see what New Zealand was made up of, literally. Nature shows us history, of what land and society used to be and what it used to look like. I really loved my semester in New Zealand in its modern developed state, but specifically through tramping, I learned to appreciate and love the older, historic and natural parts of it as well.

The University of Canterbury (UC) shows some striking resemblance to Willamette. The final image shows Ilam Gardens which is a collection of plants and trees that encompass the Avon river that runs through the University of Canterbury campus. Yes, there was a river that ran through the middle of campus, just like the Mill stream that divides Willamette into two parts. Also like Willamette, there were the ducks. There was also a university center building near the library and between it was a plaza. On the ground in the middle of the plaza sat a plaque of the University of Canterbury logo and a campus map. To the left of the library was a bridge that goes over the river and to the right was a tall clock tower. When I first noticed this, I was amazed, and wanted to investigate more similarities between my two schools.

I obviously discovered both differences and similarities as far as student activites and club life, residential life, academics, professors, resources and students. I liked the University of Canterbury more than Willamette, but I also realised that it’s pointless to compare. If I saw or experienced something at UC, I would think Willamette was disadvantaging me in that way, and that would make me not look forward to returning. On the other hand, if I saw something that UC doesn’t have that WU does, I would be discouraged from trying to enjoy being an international student there. Horrible study abroad politics there of course.

A famous Facebook quote states “comparison is the thief of joy.” This quote is fitting in my case, because I came to New Zealand for new experiences, not to do a comparative analysis.  Sometimes I do get frustrated with the Willamette community and environment, but being at UC taught me to enjoy what I have at both schools. Studying abroad means living in the moment, YOLO (you only live once), and enjoying all that is around you! Keep that in mind, future international students. Even if I didn’t have something that another school didn’t, I realised I should think positively about it. Instead of thinking of how a certain school might suck because of what they don’t have, I pushed myself to think of it as something I miss and would look forward to again at Willamette, or something I will miss when I leave, and should take advantage of it while I am at UC.  I might like UC better, but I became more grateful for having the privilege of being a student there and grateful for being a Willamette student who studied abroad.

If there was any lessons learned about my time in New Zealand it was that I genuinely learned how to be happy and I discovered new elements of my own personality, thinking, and behaviour. Though I learned about New Zealand’s people, culture, environment and history, I learned the most about myself. Studying abroad not only gives you a chance to explore a whole new country, but you get to see how you fit in that new place as you explore yourself as well.

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