Bethany Griffin

Study Away

Kia Ora Owls! My name is Bethany Griffin and I am elementary education and psychology major.

This semester I have had the privilege of studying abroad in New Zealand.

I am on the south of the South Island at the University of Otago.

Photo contributed by Bethany Griffin

Photo contributed by Bethany Griffin

I am about halfway through the semester and sometimes I still can’t believe I am here.

Every moment has been an adventure.

When you hear people say that Kiwis (people from New Zealand) are the friendliest people on Earth, they aren’t kidding.

Every single person from this country that I have met has been nothing but genuine and kind.

My first night in Dunedin, I was out exploring the city with a friend and was stopped by a group when they heard our accents.

They asked where we were from and when we told them, they burst out singing our entire national anthem to make us “feel welcomed and accepted.”

The Kiwi culture is laid back and relaxed.

People go with the flow.

One thing about Kiwi culture that stuck out to me immediately is the lack of shoes.

People here will literally walk around barefoot everywhere, including grocery stores.

Being in New Zealand feels like I have gone back in time in all the best ways possible.

The style and attitudes are consistent with those you would find in your favorite early 90s sitcom.

The easy-going attitude fits well with the natural beauty of the country.

How can you be stressed when you are surrounded by some of the most picturesque views in the world?

The scenic views of this country have blown me away since the moment I arrived.

My first few days here I walked around from morning to night, and I couldn’t get enough of this place.

There was so much to see, and I refused to be inside and miss a moment of it.

Although classes are in full swing now and I have to buckle down to get some work done, that feeling hasn’t subsided.

Many aspects of the culture here are similar to back home, but one thing that is different is the size of this school.

Coming from KSC and then walking into my first lecture at Uni of 500 students, where people were standing in the back because so many people wanted to take the class but there weren’t enough seats, was an adjustment to say the least.

The lectures are large, but they have a tutorial system to help combat this.

Each student in the large lecture is placed into a tutorial or lab section and these meet once a week.

These are breakdowns of the large lecture sections, there is about 25 students in each and they provide an opportunity to do more work with the lessons to solidify the learning.

Amongst the sea of students with their school backpacks, it is not uncommon to see a traveler stroll through campus or town with their backpacking pack filled for their adventures.

There is a strong tramping (backpacking) culture here. With so much to see here, you can’t do it all in one trip, but you sure can try.

Whether you are an experienced hiker or not there is plenty for you to do.

From Roy’s Peak’s steep incline and breath taking view over the town of Wanaka, to Milford Sound’s crystal blue water constantly being replenished by the waterfalls that surround it and its view of Antarctica, there is something for everyone.

And yes, the rumor about New Zealand having more sheep than people is very true. I saw more sheep before I even landed in the country than I had seen in my prior 21 years.

Bethany Griffin can be contacted at

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