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Andrea Idso (that’s “eyed-so”), ’12, hails from “The Claw” and is a double major in English and Communication Studies. Last year, she studied in Palmerston North, New Zealand with her traveling buddy Oliver (pictured on shoulder). You can read about her adventures in Kiwiland at www.nzandrea.wordpress.com. She is very excited to experience summer for the first time since 2010.

Andrea submitted the photos below: Franz Josef Glacier, Cathedral Cove (think second Narnia movie), and a secret hot springs she and her friends found after solving a riddle in a guidebook. Perfection.

Whitworth English Blog: Did you pick New Zealand or did New Zealand pick you?
Andrea Idso: I’d actually had my heart set on Scandinavia. If you’ve talked to me for 10 minutes you know about my love for Norway, but ISEP didn’t offer a program there. So I began looking at Sweden, thinking I could hop over to visit my Norwegian cousins over Christmas, but the Swedish school didn’t have the classes I needed. Because of my connections in Norway, I decided I’d make the effort to go back another time, so I began looking elsewhere.

Being quintessentially American (that is, monolingual), I wanted to attend a school where English would be spoken. I’d spent a couple of days in New Zealand in 2007 but that trip got cut short. During my brief time there, though, I fell in love with the beauty of the country and found the people to be friendly. When I saw ISEP had a school there, it quickly rose to the top of my choices. I wanted a more in-depth, less touristy experience of the country.

WEB: What was the biggest surprise about living there?
AI: I couldn’t go a day without running into an American or some sort of American media. It made me realize just how pervasive our culture is. Although it seemed to bother me more than the Kiwis, I was a little embarrassed that America throws its TV shows, film, music, and news onto other countries when they already have a unique, fascinating culture of their own.

WEB:  What was the greatest challenge?
AI: Initially, I’d say the greatest challenge was training myself not to see cultural differences through an ethnocentric lens – learning to think, “That’s different” instead of, “That’s weird.” I made an effort to adopt the colloquialisms and the differences in spelling and grammar; to try the food; and to get to know more about their history. The result was outstanding. If you spend enough time in another culture (and even nine months felt too short), your definition of normalcy changes. Instead of simply thinking of myself as an American tourist who spent time in New Zealand, I feel like I’ve got a foot in both countries.

WEB:  How has this study abroad experience affected your writing?
AI: When I returned I had to retrain myself to stop writing “favourite” and “uni” and “flatting” (though I still write like that when talking to my Kiwi friends on Facebook).

WEB:What advice would you give to students who are considering studying abroad?

AI: 1)    Now is the time! I’m serious. Do it now before you’re settled down with a career/family/other “adult” responsibilities. You’ll probably come back poor, but it will still be worth it.

2)    Go for as long as you can. I went for nine months (and definitely felt the equivalent of buyer’s remorse on the flight over – “Why did I choose to come for so long?!”), and now all those months feel like an extended dream. Unless you absolutely can’t make it work, go for two semesters. One is not enough.

3)    Make friends with the locals. There’s nothing wrong with making friends with the other internationals, but it’s incredibly easy to get sucked into that group and not branch out. Strike up a conversation with at least one local student in each of your classes. They also make the best travel buddies because they know where to go and what tourist traps to avoid. They also tend to own cars/camping equipment/other things you can save money by borrowing (shout out to Suzie!).

4)    On that note, take every opportunity you can to travel. At my school, and many others, it was easy to create schedule with three-day weekends. Our mid-semester breaks were two weeks long. These times were ideal for traveling, and even though you’ll probably learn a great deal in class, your traveling experiences are what you will remember.