Studying abroad was the best decision I made during my college career. My name is Jenny Boyer and I am a Global Studies in Human Sciences major and I studied abroad through the College of Human sciences at Auburn University. I participated in Fiji & New Zealand summer 2017 and Nepal summer 2018. My trip to Fiji & New Zealand changed my life for the better. My journey abroad in summer 2017 started in Queenstown, NZ and from the moment I stepped off the plane I was blown away. Even now when I try to explain the beauty of New Zealand to other people I struggle. I have never in my life been so humbled by nature. I would say to future students that studying abroad in New Zealand would be a breath of fresh air, literally the air is better there. The nine days spent in New Zealand were jammed packed with exciting adventures traveling throughout the South Island. It was the thrill of my lifetime. I got to see ice glaciers that were melting due to climate change, so to me that was important because it enforced my passion for sustainability. We traveled through beautiful national parks that had plants from the prehistoric times. Which was unreal to think that I was seeing plants that had been around since the dinosaurs. By the end of my time there I was in love and confident that if I could move anywhere in the world it would be New Zealand. It was an incredible adventure, but Fiji was where the changes within me happened.
When we got off the boat in Fiji there was a sign set up by Bridge the Gap, “Welcome Home” and I thought that was so special. The next couple weeks the eleven girls and Team Fiji started to become a family. I had struggled with anxiety during my time at Auburn and just that first week in Fiji I felt calm. I had never felt more comfortable in my life, and I just thought that was crazy because I was on the other side of the world from my home. We learned the traditional customs in Fiji, and we respected their culture. At first when I was told I needed to dress conservatively and practice speaking Fijian, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it but stripping away the American culture and completely embracing a new culture helped provide a new perspective. I learned about myself and my own values throughout this experience. The Fijians put a huge emphasis on relationships and community. During my time there I participated in a homestay, and to this day I still speak to my family. It opened my eyes to how important it is to create relationships and make a point to spend quality time with loved ones. When I got home from Fiji, I decided to change my ways, and put a bigger focus on the people in my life. By the time I was leaving next summer I was ready for what Nepal would have to offer.
After being in Fiji I was prepared to embrace the culture in Nepal to the fullest, but it was still challenging. That is something I want to stress to future students planning to study abroad, when you go to a different country it is going to be difficult. When we landed in Kathmandu it instantly overwhelmed me. It took me longer to adjust in Nepal and that’s because Kathmandu is a major city. I realized that most people in general are not a huge fan of Kathmandu, and I decided I needed to open my mind even more to learn and appreciate the culture. Unfortunately, early in the trip I got sick and that ended up changing my entire trip. Most of the things we were supposed to do I didn’t get to participate in. I ended up spending most of my time in Kathmandu, because it wasn’t approved for me to travel. By the end of my time there I fell in love with Kathmandu and the incredible people there. I got to meet these incredible women who had been through awful experiences and instead of dwelling on it they were starting their own ethical businesses. The most important thing I learned in Nepal was the fact that as an American I can’t just go out and “fix” the world. Studying abroad taught me to be a global citizen and to embrace different cultures. I don’t want the whole world to be just like the United States, because then there would be no Fiji or Nepal worth going to. Future students studying abroad should know that they are going to feel like they are taking a whole lot more than they are giving when they go to places like Fiji, NZ, and Nepal. I felt guilty that I didn’t have more to offer, but I later realized that learning and appreciating the different cultures was the best thing I could do.