My New Zealand Exchange: Flying Solo Across the World
By Rori Ash '22
I’ve always loved to travel. Having lived in Malaysia and France, as well as visiting many other countries, I have acquired a passion for travel and discovery. When I first learned about the opportunity to go on exchange, I know there was no way I could refuse such an incredible offer.
In the beginning, I decided I wanted to travel to France. It was a familiar country; I already knew how to speak the language and it was within my comfort zone. When I told others, I was questioned for having chosen a country in which I had already lived. I started to have doubts until France was no longer my first choice. I spent months trying to find another country, but I had no idea where to go. I was so clueless that at one point, I stopped searching and gave up on an exchange altogether. It wasn’t until summer vacation, when I received an email about the possibility of going to New Zealand, that I started to think about it again. I had never considered this country, but for some reason, without thinking, my heart wanted to go there.
When I first came here, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know what was going to happen for the next ten weeks in New Zealand. I didn’t know that my host father would say “vroom vroom” every time he entered the same room as me, I didn’t know that I would join the dance team and I had no idea that leaving the country and saying goodbye to some of my closest friends in New Zealand would be one of the hardest things I’d have to do in my life.
For my first three weeks, I was with my host family enjoying a classic Kiwi summer vacation. I had the opportunity to go to many beaches and visit beautiful places, my favorite being Akaroa. It is a scenic town southeast of Christchurch with a rich French history. While there, I also had the opportunity to see hector dolphins.
My first week at St Andrews College in Christchurch was very tough. I only had about four friends and whenever they were nowhere near, I wasn’t sure where to go or who to talk to. Every second, I was stepping outside of my comfort zone by talking to people whom I didn’t know and taking chances by either speaking up or even standing alone. It took time and patience, but eventually I made more friends, became more comfortable in my classes and overall, became more independent on my own.
Quite a few things took me by surprise, but ultimately, it was an interesting experience to live the day to day life of a STAC student. I got to experience things that were normal to others, but completely new to me. For example, it took me a while to get used to the St Andrews College schedule. There were six periods every day, all fifty-five minutes in length. Then it was morning tea after two periods and lunch after the next two. Six periods compared to four was a drastic change I had to get used to. Another change that caught me by surprise was the student population. LCS has about 360 students. My year-12 group had over 360 students. St Andrews College actually had about 1800 students in total. Whenever the year group got together for Dean’s meeting every Monday and Friday, I would always be surprised by the size, because it was much bigger than I was used to.
I remember that before I left for exchange, I was told that I might cry upon my departure, but I will definitely cry when I leave to go back home. The idea hadn’t quite sunk in and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It wasn’t until I had about two more weeks left until I had to go home that I finally understood. I had met amazing people and had unforgettable experiences in Christchurch. I was very sad that it had to come to an end, but I know that I will remember my New Zealand friends, school and host family for the rest of my life!