Why I Decided to Study Abroad:
I am so excited to be sharing my personal journey with my newly-adopted BCA family, and all of you. My name is Katelyn Meehan, and I am a junior studying at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. I am majoring in Wildlife Conservation and I studied at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand for my semester abroad during the fall of 2018 as a BCA Semester Scholar.
I am a dual citizen of New Zealand and the United States but have spent most of my life in America. I decided to study abroad in Dunedin because I wanted a chance to rekindle my family history while exploring more of my academic interests. With the kiwi culture, I tried to learn as much as I could by taking classes focused on native wildlife, marine global science, and Māori indigenous history.
I wanted to explore my understanding of my distant culture, and gain a stronger understanding of the wildlife, conservation issues, and indigenous culture all in one. I wanted to bring back different skills and strengthen my overall educational interests. I was excited to learn subjects unavailable to me at my home university, accentuating my educational experience from my fellow students.
Deciding to Study Abroad:
Studying abroad has always interested me. I have always been a traveler, anxious to see something new and experience something out of the ordinary. To find a location with a wide diversity of wildlife to highlight my educational experience was exactly what I sought after when I found this program.
While knowing that this dream was going to be difficult to achieve without some financial support, I was excited to have taken part in a program that offered support for that dream to come true. Once I arrived, I got to experience what it was like being a student living the large-university life in a large-university town.
I was always interested in this experience as a student but knew I couldn’t commit to it for all four years of my education. So, while I explored the wildlife such as New Zealand lambs, fur seals and sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins, and the only mainland royal albatross colony in the world, I also had the opportunity to absorb the student life, eccentric food, and beautiful art provided by Dunedin.
Interacting with Locals:
By taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by the city and university, it was not difficult for me immerse myself in Kiwi culture. The most exceptional part of this program was being able to enjoy a university experience different from my home institution.
I lived in my own flat with other international students and a local kiwi host. I prepared my own foods and cooked on the daily. I attended my first-ever rugby game. I met a large, global student population and I interacted with people from new cultures and perspectives.
Let’s not forget that I was living by a beach where I had access to a highly diverse, marine ecosystem in the Otago Harbor. Overall, these simple changes to my life greatly advanced the building of my independence and preparation for my next journey after I finish school.
After volunteering on the weekends with BCA at local wetland and conservation grounds planting trees and removing invasive species, I had the most wonderful opportunity of extending my trip and participating in a volunteer partnership with the National Wildlife Center of New Zealand.
During my partnership, I had the opportunity of working alongside rangers and participated in work focused on the conservation of native New Zealand aviary wildlife. During the 7 weeks I spent here, I was able to full heartedly participate in the kiwi culture doing what I love, and I cultivated my professional work skills by learning about conservation practices done in a global setting.
As I worked with the rangers’ day-to-day, I was able to help with tasks such as feeding rounds, behavioral monitoring, cleaning, collecting, planting, and many other tasks needed throughout the day.
My favorite moment throughout the entire program was taking this picture with a kiwi bird egg. After a hard day’s work, I couldn’t be more grateful and excited to have experience in my life. After dreaming about this very moment, I am now able to share it with all of you!
As I return to the United States, I wouldn’t trade my memories and experience for anything else. This town became a new home in my heart. With the support of my fellow BCA students and the new bonds I made with my fellow kiwi’s, I was able to reignite my passions for connecting my interests with different cultures. If I were to learn anything from this journey, and share it with others, it would be to never stop reaching for your dream. Reach out to those who can support you, as they will be the ones to help you reach and achieve those goals.
Therefore, without my persistence and without the help of the BCA Study Abroad staff and the BCA Semester Scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to live my dream. Furthermore, I am forever grateful, and I urge all of you to fulfill your dreams, apply for the BCA Semester Scholarship, and to study abroad to gain a greater global knowledge for your passions and interests.
About the Author – Katelyn Meehan, fall 2018 Dunedin, New Zealand & Juniata College student
My name is Katelyn Meehan, I am from Broomfield, Colorado studying as a Junior at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania while majoring in Wildlife Conservation. I enjoy photography and Tennis. And I am pursuing to be a wildlife veterinarian.