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Kiwi Compassion

Kia Ora.

I have always wanted to study abroad, but up until about a year ago it was just something that I said. Last spring, however, I made it official with the CGE that I would go somewhere, and about six months ago I made it official that I would go to Auckland, New Zealand, which seemed like such an amazing idea until I was waiting at the airport in Houston, about to board my first overseas flight (and second flight ever—the first one was to Houston earlier that day!). At that point, it seemed like a huge over-estimation of my capabilities, and I started to panic.

Luckily, being on an airplane (even for fifteen hours) is like being in a weird other-world where reality doesn’t exist, and the structure of the Auckland airport didn’t leave much room for stopping and fretting about everything that could go wrong. After being dropped off at my apartment and spending several days getting accustomed to my new home, I kept waiting for a wall of anxiety and culture shock and defeatism to hit me, but it hasn’t.

There are certainly differences—of course there are, I’m living in a city on the other side of the globe and attending a school fourteen times the size of TU. The differences just seem far less important than the things that are the same. Every step of this insanely amazing journey, I have encountered kind people who want to help and want to be heard. The people working in the Saint Louis and Houston airports helped me walk past my fears. The Canadian couple next to me on the plane shared their favorite New Zealand experiences and imparted words of wisdom. After hearing about my choice of major, my shuttle driver carried my suitcase for me and shared his experiences with the differently abled community. My Taiwanese roommate and I have compared and contrasted the educational systems of New Zealand and our home countries. A French au pair joined the other TU students and me for a hike through verdant forests, a crawl through volcanic caves, and a swim in the crystal blue ocean. My Kiwi classmate offered to show me some of her favorite places in New Zealand in exchange for advice about what she should see when she studies abroad in the U.S. next year. Another new friend is making the most of her last year, and we’re planning to tramp (Kiwi for “hike”) together. My time abroad has already been a testament to the power of global citizenship and how recognizing commonalities can bridge inter-continental divides.

Thanks to the compassion shown by these people, and many more, I feel more settled every day. Despite this, I know that I haven’t figured everything out yet, and I don’t think I’ve completely grasped the enormity of this journey. It might not for a long time, maybe not even come July when I’m back in the United States, after seeing and doing and learning things beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve already started this process; in just two weeks I’ve seen beaches, volcanoes, geysers, lava tubes and glowworm caves, experienced Maori culture and Chinese culture, and learned about the New Zealand and American health care systems. I’ve surprised myself with my adaptability and openness. By the time I go home, I wholeheartedly believe that this experience will have shaped me into a better version of myself. I can’t wait to meet her.

Anna Petersen
University of Tulsa ‘20
Speech Language Pathology & Sociology
New Zealand | Spring 2018