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Off-Campus Study

Notes from Abroad: Julia in New Zealand

Julia Lovelace ’18 is a double major in Environmental Science and Studio Art studying in Otago, New Zealand.

Before leaving for New Zealand, the only thing I was really nervous about was the duration of the program. I chose direct enroll into the University of Otago, over 8,000 miles away in a country I’ve never been to, for five whole months. The longest I’ve ever really been away from home was a month, and my mom was with me, so I had a part of home with me. Yet as the plane was landing in Dunedin, the airport surrounded by fields of sheep on one side, the ocean and mountains on the other, I got a feeling that I would feel at home in no time. I have now been here for about two and a half months, and I cannot stress enough how in love I am with this school and this country.

The University of Otago has over 20,000 students, so a tad more than Lake Forest, but it somehow still has a small-school atmosphere. Some of my papers (classes) have a little over 20 students, like my introduction to dance paper,! while others have over 600, like my Māori society paper, yet in both I am able to speak to the professor directly like at Lake Forest which surprised me. At the end of every class every professor has offered the opportunity to come to them after class to ask any questions they may have, or to come to their office outside of class hours, and I greatly appreciate that they make this time for hundreds of students. I am taking one class towards my Environmental Studies major, Global Marine Systems, and outside of the lecture there is a practical (lab) which is very hands on. I have never taken a science-based class at Lake Forest, so I have never been in a four-hour lab, and I enjoy it so much. When we aren’t in the lab simulating ocean wave patterns or counting zooplankton, we go on field trips on a boat in Port Chalmers and learn how to use equipment that measures out the ocean floor or count different species of seabirds to determine primary productivity. Being surrounded by the ocean, biology papers have access to so many resources and opportunities to explore and learn about marine life.

As for the country as a whole, I want to move here. I feel as though I was meant to be born here. I am obsessed with nature and friendly people and New Zealand has both of these in excess. The day I was moving into my flat, I got turned around and walked passed the street I was supposed to turn down. I asked the first person I saw for directions (he happened to be a student at the university), and he walked me to my flat, carrying my heaviest suitcase the entire way. Another time, when a couple friends and I were sitting in a café after our car had broken down (a long, kind of funny story), the owners of the café let us stay passed closing hours, and one of his friends, a complete stranger, even offered us a place to stay at his home. People here are just so genuinely kind and eager to please, going out of their way to help people they have never even met before. If every country was like this there would be so much less turmoil in the world.

And the nature. Man oh man, the nature. My friends and I go on road trips nearly every weekend, and we just had our mid-semester break road trip, and every place we have visited makes me tear up in awe. We don’t even mind driving across the country for hours because the scenery is just unreal, straight out of Lord of the Rings (obviously the main reason I came here). In Dunedin, where I am staying, there are rolling green hills everywhere you look, and beaches around every corner. The further north you drive, there are mountains laden with snow on one side and blue-green ocean on the other, and at the very north tip of the South Island I swear you will think you are in a tropical forest, minus the 90-degree weather and venomous snakes. I could go on forever about how gorgeous this island is, but for the sake of trying to keep this short, I will just say that everyone needs to put New Zealand as the number one place to visit on their list. I can’t thank my donor, Ms. McGowan, enough for the Hotchkiss Award, helping make this trip a reality and the best experience of my life thus far.