A place that is very special in my heart

A student’s journey to New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand, South Island.

Where? What is that?

It's a place that is very special in my heart.

A place that will mean something—and different things—to many Loyola students to come.

The first place I adventured to while studying abroad in the city of Auckland, New Zealand.

Feet up in the car while looking at a GPS

Located on the northern island of New Zealand, Auckland is located on the Hauraki Gulf and has 1.4 million residents. Based on two large harbors, Auckland is also known as the City of Sails, thanks to the thousands of sailboats and yachts and the popularity of sailing.

The university, ranked best in New Zealand and among the top 50 universities in the world, has 40,000 students and is located in the heart of the city.

As someone who is passionate about landscape photography, enjoys the outdoors, and sees any open door as an opportunity, I knew Auckland, New Zealand, was my top choice program to study abroad during my junior year at Loyola.

Overlooking the countryside with green hills surrounding a body of water

While abroad in Auckland and during trips to surrounding towns and cities, I found myself reflecting on how far I was from home at Loyola, in Baltimore, from my parents' house in Connecticut... and how much I'm accomplishing on my own.

I hadn't hit the second decade of my life yet I was able to watch the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide at Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand, hike a plethora of trails that had names I never knew how to pronounce, and learn about the culture and traditions of the Māori people.

Student standing and smiling on a wooden bridge A selfie with 3 other studens along a river in New Zealand Two students crouching and drinking from a stream

Being submerged in such a beautiful country with a unique culture and new faces created a positive experience for me. Being fully engaged in what I was learning about every day made it that much easier for me to understand and relate to what I was learning about.

Because I had transferred to Loyola during my sophomore year, I didn't know anyone in the group of students headed to New Zealand junior year. But soon I was able to call these people who had merely been familiar faces before we traveled to the other side of the globe some of my dearest friends.

A student smiling while bungee jumping in New Zealand

For me, studying abroad was always first and foremost about existing outside of my comfort zone. And there are challenges to living and learning in a foreign culture, with people who may not necessarily be the friends you've made during the early years of college.

I knew studying abroad would be about grasping how to learn in a different way inside of a classroom. At the University of Auckland, large lecture rooms and a professor who didn’t know your name was common—and very, very different to Loyola’s typical and familiar classroom setting.

I also knew it would be about coming together with others who I didn’t know to create an experience like no other on the opposite side of the world.

These two challenges quickly turned to a learning experience for which I will always be grateful and changed.

An old, small, stone building sits under the starry, night sky

My time in New Zealand allowed me to learn, grow, explore, and mature.

I have realized if doors aren’t opening for you, it’s okay to try to open them on your own to see what’s behind them. 

Learn more about study abroad