Upon returning back to the States I often receive the question, “Did ya have a good trip?” tossed over to me. Every time I think to myself, Well, after five months, “good” is
definitely one of the things it was. I usually just respond with a polite “Yeah. I did.”
There’s also the question “Well…how was it?” In which, after stammering and fumbling for a way to sum up the most shaping five months of my life, I reply, “Really great.”
These questions have forced me to evaluate how to describe my experience in New Zealand in any way at all–I can’t find any words, any stories, to sum up the entirety of it all. My dear friend, Liza, always laughs when she hears someone toss me one of the questions in passing–sometimes they are gone before I can even fully answer. It was her who helped me land on a word to sum up my time there. We landed on “monumental.”
Processing My New Zealand Study Abroad Experience
As hokey-pokey as it may sound, NZ really was not just ‘good’ or ‘really great’ as I often answer. Some parts were terrible, some days I called my brother just to choke out some sobs. Other days, I would hike a mountain, I would grin from ear to ear with a sweat-slicked face. Or I would stick my head out of the window just to laugh loudly, just to think This is what life is all about. Some weeks, I wouldn’t leave my flat for days at a time.
When I left Cleveland Airport back in June, I knew that the next five months would be altering both to the trajectory of my life and to the inner-workings of my person. I thought it would be difficult, at times, but overall just one big adventure (insert two reassuring thumbs up here.) I had no clue the loneliness and the heartbreak and the heights that my anxiety could reach.
Feeling Multiple Emotions
To say that my experience was good, sells it short. It was multi-faceted, it was exhausting, tearing, exhilarating. I realized how small I was, but how much of a difference I (we) can make in my (our) immediate circle. I reached some of my lowest lows and my highest of highs in Dunedin. I held a lamb, felt the rough wool of his mother, I plunged my hand into glacier water, kayaked in a Fiordland, cried whilst hiking a mountain, squealed whilst hiking a mountain–I was stretched to my absolute limits. Some of my fears were realized, only making me realize that they were conquerable–that new fears would also arise and those too, I could handle.
Is this Reality?
I am still trying to process that it was a very much real experience, that I’m not living in some kind of dream. Some days it truly feels like limbo, like I have a foot in two opposing worlds. Regardless, spending half of 2016 in another country, halfway across the globe, has introduced so many new layers into my life, that I never dreamt possible. So yeah. It was really good (or something like that.)
About the Author – Riley Gable, Fall 2016 BCA Dunedin, New Zealand Student
Riley Gable is a senior at Malone University in Canton, Ohio, where she studies creative writing, English, and gender studies. She spent a semester abroad in New Zealand at the University of Otago, where she was introduced to the vitality of Kiwi culture and the beauty that Dunedin’s landscape has to offer. After graduation, she plans on furthering her writing career.