Sunday, January 17, 2010

Finding financial aid to study abroad

Financial instability shouldn't stop someone from considering a study abroad program. I had no clue how I was going to pay for a semester in New Zealand when I first started considering studying abroad. I soon learned after a bit of research that there is a lot of financial aid out there.
When you start considering going abroad, seek advice from an international affairs adviser at your home university. They can point you in the right direction and give you options for how to pay for your abroad experience.

If you are a student that receives federal pell grants you may be eligible for the Ben A. Gilman International Scholarship program.
The scholarship is offered through the United States Department of State. Students pursuing college credit overseas are eligible for up to $5,000. I was a Gilman recipient. The program is magnificent. I wouldn't have been able to study abroad without the Gilman Scholarship. The program gave me the chance of a lifetime. I encourage federal pell grant recipients to apply. The ratio of applicants to recipients is 3 to 1, which isn't bad. The program gave out 1,226 scholarship in the 2008-09 academic year.

If you are studying in the the Asia Pacific region the
Foundation for Asia Pacific Education
offers an a outstanding scholarship. To apply you must be a U.S. or Canadian citizen enrolled in a North American college or university where transfer credit from an academic program abroad will be applied to your degree being earned. I was also a recipient of this scholarship. The combination of both scholarships and the financial aid from my U.S. university made it possible for me to study abroad. I am so thankful for both of these scholarships.

If neither scholarship works for you look at Web sites like Diversity Abroad or the Center for Global Education or AFIS.

Don't forget to check with your academic adviser to see if your university offers study abroad scholarships. Chances are, they do.

Good luck with finding aid!

Finding the right NZ school to attend

Well I've been back in the United States for almost six months now. It was hard to leave New Zealand and get reacquainted with my old lifestyle in Nebraska. I don't think there is a day that goes by that I don't think about my New Zealand adventures and friends. Studying abroad was one of the most magnificent experiences I've ever had and I recommend that every college student should consider studying abroad. Studying abroad gave me a lot of perspective and confidence to know I can conquer any challenge put in front of me. I transformed into a Kiwi while I was gone. I learned to love the laid back lifestyle and appreciate the small things. Since I've been home I have been a lot more relaxed and less stressed out.

I hope my experience will inspire readers to study abroad. I plan to post a series of blogs to help students find ways to study abroad.
Today my blog will focus on choosing a New Zealand school. No matter which school a student chooses to study at, the teaching style will be significantly different from the U.S. Classes are very independent and homework is rarely assigned (unless a student is studying math and science based courses.) Libraries have gone out of style in the U.S. but not in NZ. I frequently went to the library to read assigned readings for my courses. All of my classes had term papers and a final writing exam. The term papers were graded by marks. Professor grade papers by going through the paper and placing check marks or checks with a plus next to the things you wrote well in your paper. The number of checks determines your grade.

The University of Canterbury
I attended UC which is a great school. It is located in Christchurch also known as the "Garden City". Christchurch is the largest city on the south island. I really enjoyed the amazing transportation system in this city. Without a car, I was able to get anywhere I wanted to go in Christchurch and all over the South Island for a reasonable price. Canti had a good reputation and student life programs. Canti was rated in 2008 as one of the top 200 schools in the world.
As a undergraduate journalism student I was frustrated with Canti because there is not a journalism degree offered to students at the undergraduate level. I took a COMM class which is the equivalent to a journalism degree. Majority of JOUR students attend UC for graduate school only because it has a decent journalism program.
Regardless, I really enjoyed Canti. The campus is beautiful and I liked the classes I took.

More info:

Lincoln University

Lincoln is located right outside of Christchurch in a more country setting. I don't think I would have enjoyed Lincoln because I'm not the type to like small schools. But if you're into small schools this might be the pick for you.

more info:

Massey University
I don't know much about Massey so you're on your own.

more info:

Otago (pronounced O-tog-o)University
Otago is located in Dunedin on the southeast coast of the south island. Duedin is known for its large hills. The largest hill in the world, Baldwin St., is located in Dunedin. The nickname for Dunedin is Dunners. Be sure to drive up it (or walk if you are daring.) What I thought was the most impressive about Otago was the architecture and updated facilities.
Dunedin/Otago has a reputation for being a party city and school. Canterbury students go down to Dunedin if they are looking for a fun weekend. Students are rowdy and have street parties frequently. The parties are fun but the disrespect students have for houses they rent is not impressive.

I'm sure Dunedin is a great school. From what I saw of it, I really liked it, minus the street riots where students burnt couches in the middle of the street.
more info:

University of Auckland
If you want to be where the majority of people live in NZ, Auckland is probably the right choice for you. Auckland is the largest city (1.3 million) and has one of the largest university (34,000).

more info:

Victoria University of Wellington
I love Wellington. It is filled with businessmen, government and politics. Wellington is the capital of NZ. But if you chose to live here you better get used to the daily gusts of wind that nearly blow you over. It's nicknamed Windy Wellington. I don't know much about the universities in Wellington. I do know they are located downtown. The uni buildings are spread out across Wellington, which didn't impress me much.

more info:

The University of Waikato
I'd highly recommend Waikato. I didn't see the university but it was my second choice. It's located in the middle of the north island, close to the Bay of Plenty, white sand beaches and amazing surfing. I had a friend that attended and she really liked it.

more info:

AUT is New Zealand's most contemporary university. It was recently transformed from a community college to a university in 2000, so it's still trying to get its feet off the ground. AUT is located in Auckland. Class sizes are bit smaller than the University of Auckland. There are 16,822 full-time students and 23,715 all together.

more info:

Getting ready to leave NZ

15 June 2009

I’m going to make this quick because I have mego studies ahead. I haven been doing a really good job of focusing on my studies the past few days. I have my laws final tomorrow and I’m a wee bit nervous. I think I will be prepared, so keep your fingers crossed.

Today I’ve come to the realization that I’m leaving this life I have grown so accustom to. It took awhile for me to get used to it and to not be home sick, and now I am happy here. I will be happy to be home, but it just sucks that right when I get settled, I have to repack my life into a suitcase and travel across the ocean. I’m moving out of my flat next week, and I’m so not ready to do that. I love where I live. And since I won’t be home for another 2.5 weeks after that, I will be living out of a suitcase, and I hate that. I’ll be traveling for the next month. I’m so excited, but that means my time here has come to an end. I don’t want to leave New Zealand. I really don’t. I feel like I could do some amazing thinks here. I’m so sad that I have to leave.

Hopefully laying on the beach in Fiji for a week will cure my sorrows.


My frustrations in NZ

30 May 2009
10th floor of the James High Library at Canterbury
No music, just silence.

The month of May has been hard for me. I’ve hated the rainy weather, and have pretty much wasted an entire month doing nothing. I didn’t have any ground breaking learning experiences, and I sure as hell didn’t succeed to my highest academic potential.

But today I am feeling a lot better even though I am still sick. The sun is shining and it is warm outside. The prettiest day I’ve encountered in May. I can see the snowy southern alps perfectly, which is a sight I will miss terribly when I return home. This morning I went to yoga and it was quite intense. I was sweating and unable to keep a steady breath. My mind was wondering and I couldn’t focus on my breath. By the end, I found my breath and was able to release my negative energy into the mat. It was such a rewarding yoga practice.

Now I’m trying to finish up an essay about women’s suffrage in New Zealand. New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote. Kate Sheppard was the leader of women’s suffrage and influential for New Zealand people. She lived in Christchurch, only about 15 minutes away from where I live. She was very intelligent and had a knack for persuasive writing and politics. She was pretty cool, and I’d say we would have been close friends.

I’m frustrated and discouraged with essay writing. I’ve found that my New Zealand lecturers are not too fond of my writing. Or maybe just the content of my writing. Essays that I would get an A for in America, I’m getting a B for in NZ. I hope I can improve my essay writing skills before I return home.

I can't wait to see my family and friends. But then again, I am torn because I love the life I've created here in NZ. I will be back in Nebraska in 39 days.

5 June 2009
I find myself on the 10th floor today. It’s a beautiful day. There was frost on the grass, barely a cloud in the sky, and it’s sunny. The port hills and mountains are perfectly visible, just the way I like it. I’m feeling much better today. Yesterday I was exhausted and feeling crummy. Today I’m feeling bright and sharp. I’m working on my art history essay about Andy Warhol. He’s such a fascinating artist. I think the off the wall, out of their freaking mind artists are the best and Warhol is definitely one of those. He wanted to be a machine and stop individuality. He thought it would be better for everyone to be just the same and create the same ideas, works. He liked the ideas of communism, but didn’t like the forcefulness of it; he wanted people to conform willingly. This is a very interesting idea. Having everyone agree and be like-minded thinkers would stop war and misunderstandings between cultures. But would this be the best way to live life? Life might be boring with always having common consensus. How would there be advancements in society without the individuality? That’s a question I would like to ask Warhol if he still lived. I think he would have a good answer. I have a hard time with Art History because I don’t like examining the works brush strokes and such; I like examining the person behind the work and the techniques they used and what state of mind they were in. I like the history of their life and how it relates to art. It seems my teacher doesn’t like this approach to art. But I just can’t seem to get interested in why an artist paint a line in a painting purple or straight. I like looking at the bigger picture and accepting the pictorial space for what it is. My teacher said my analysis of art is superficial. I laughed when she gave me a terrible grade on my paper. I don’t even care that I did poorly because I think my paper was magnificent. Isn’t that how art went anyhow? The best artists were criticized for their work and didn’t get good grades in the academy. But then all of a sudden, they became legends. I bet those stupid teachers would have changed their mind on the artist’s grade after they became famous. I bet my French teacher will think the same in 20 years. Haha NOT. She probably won’t ever hear of me again.

That’s OK because I’m not striving for fame. I strive to make an impact on the world, and to be a beneficial part of society, to make my carbon foot print worth the Earth’s damage. I plan to do something genius, or many genius things, but I don’t want to be in the spotlight for them.

Well I'd better get to work.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Kiwi trust factor

This article clearly portrays New Zealander's level of trust. I wouldn't think Wellington people would be the most trusting, so this is quite an interesting article.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Windy Wellington

Last weekend I went the capital city of New Zealand. Wellington is known for its extreme winds and higher paying job market. Many political elites and businessmen bustle through the downtown area. The downtown area reminded me of a larger city in America. Everyone had places to go and people to see. During working hours people would practically run you over if you stopped on the sidewalk and give you the “how dare you disrupt the flow of traffic” look. Yup, sounds like America. The feel of the city was refreshing in a way, since I love the city life.

I was in Wellington to visit Parliament. While most students my age thinks this sounds really boring, I was quite excited. I was acting like a little kid that was getting to go see the newest exhibition at the Henry Doorly Zoo. I ran up the drive of Parliament, ooo-ing and awing. I think my friends were even laughing at my bizarre excitement. But I can’t help my interest in government and politics. Plus the government buildings were really pretty. I’m a sucker for old architecture.

I sat in on the government official’s voting session, which would be similar to America’s Senate voting on a bill. It was quite a lot like Nebraska’s Senate actually; except NZ representatives shout out their votes instead of entering them electronically. The leader asks the representatives who is in favour, and all who are say I (in their awesome accents). If reps disagree they shout no. It was pretty entertaining. I also took a tour and learned a lot about NZ government.

After going to Parliament, I found a Borders bookstore and just about had a heart attack.
I have been looking for the Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama since the day I arrived in NZ, but all of the local bookstores don’t have it. When I ask the local stores if they sell it, they laugh at me and I’m sure they say “stupid American” after I walk out of the store. But I did find the book in Borders and this enhanced my already gleaming political spirit.

Oh, and I found an Italian restaurant in Wellington. This was huge because NZ doesn’t know anything about a good Italian pasta dish — they don’t even have alfredo sauce (NZ pizza sucks too.) My Kiwi friend, Hayley, took one bite of the pasta dish she ordered and said, “I now understand why you are always talking about how much you miss Italian food. This is amazing.”

On Sunday evening I ate dinner with a Kiwi family. They are originally from Troy, NY but moved to NZ last year for the husband’s work. They have two sons about the same age as my brother Tanner and sister Taya. The boys were quite entertaining. The family lives up in the hills overlooking the city. Their house was gorgeous and had huge bay windows surrounding the house. Rachel, the mom, made two of my favorite appetizers, bruschetta and artichoke dip and we had shrimp and chicken kebabs for dinner. It was fabulous and so nice to take a break from my typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich traveling meal. Rachel seems to love NZ but is a bit homesick. We chatted with her about what we miss about the states that we never realized we would miss. Like grape jelly, pizza and alfredo sauce. Rachel had Dr. Pepper and A&W rootbeer soda, which doesn’t exist in NZ. We all started to laugh because she was really excited to have American soda for us. Rachel was a blast and I am so glad I met her.

Everything else is still going well in NZ. Final exams start in June. Most of my final exams weigh 50 percent or more of my final grade and last three hours... so I am a wee nervous.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day dreaming

Written 6 May 2009

What I listened to while writing this blog:
Eli- by Caribou, Cheap and Cheerful- The Kills, Jacksonville- Sufan Stevens, Let your Love Go- Bread, Teachers- Daft Punk, Without Gravity- PlayRadioPlay!, The Calendar Girl- Stars, Shady Lane- Pavement, Digital Love- Daft Punk, Kamera- Wilco, Here in my Room- Incubus
Oh and I just broke my ipod screen fml

Most interesting part of my day:
drank 2 black coffees and liked them. Big deal. Ate a Kiwi and salmon salad. Yum. Listened to the Backstreet Boys, danced in my underwear and my neighbor saw me through the window. Yeah. Embarrassing, I know. “Everybodyyyyy.. yeahhh…. Rock your body... yeahhhhh….. Backstreets back alright!!!”

I’m sitting on the 8th floor of the James Hights library, my usual studying spot. I’m preparing to dominate my law essay about Lord Devlin. It has been raining for a day straight. I’ve always hated rain back in Nebraska. But here, I’ve grown accustomed to it and don’t mind it. I actually like it. When it rains it doesn’t pour with huge 90 mph gusts of wind like in NE. It just rains. I walk around without an umbrella and just pull my hood up and remain dry and don’t get frizzy hair, because there is no humidity. On the higher levels of the library there is a great view of Christchurch; that’s why I study up here. Sometimes I think I have no intentions of studying, I just come up here to day dream.

To my left sits the Cashmere port hills, and to the right the snowy Southern Alps. The rain has just stopped and the clouds are gorgeous. They are blues, pinks and yellows and sitting very close to the cashmere port hills. I love the port hills. That’s probably where I’d want to love if I ever moved here. The skyline is breathtaking. The clouds move so fast in NZ. I’ve never seen clouds move so fast. Some move faster than others so it looks like they are playing tag with one another. I love to watch them.

The lights at the library turn off if they don’t sense a person around. It’s amazing the way NZ preserves energy. The library is so old school, but its technology to preserve energy is still at the top of its game. I keep thinking someone is turning the lights off on me or that the library is going to close, but then I remember that the lights turn off to save energy.

My law teacher was talking about how NZ isn’t as eco-friendly as everyone makes it out to be. They still use cars, planes and heating. I wanted to laugh when he said that. NZ is the most eco-friendly place I have ever been. EVER. Possibly in the world, if you are only considering government established nations. It is unthinkable to ask people to stop using planes and cars for travel. NZ does the best it can without being unrealistic. So many people ride the bus and bikes or walk. Way more people than I’ve seen in the states. If my law teacher would come to Nebraska and see that there barely is an established recycling program on campus he would have a heart attack. Let me rephrase that, all of NZ would. I never really thought to recycle too much while in the states because Nebraska doesn’t make it convenient to recycle. I mean come on, if you have to go way out of your way, how are you suppose to make recycling a habit? Or if there isn’t a recycling program, how does one recycle?

But in NZ I’m scared not to recycle. If someone saw me throw away a recyclable, I would get scolding stares. I feel pressure from the NZ society to recycle. I feel guilty, like I have sinned, if I don’t recycle. Even at my flat when I don’t feel like recycling because I’d have to wash out a jar, I feel the presence of the recycling gods watching over me and threatening to send me to hell if I don’t recycle. And I don’t even believe in hell. If only NE cared so much about the future of our environment.

Last week I saw a different side of my NZ friends. He was talking about intellectual stuff. I was so surprised because he’s usually being a jerk and trying to be “funny.” We talked about the existence of god and the future of the earth. He said something so profound, I didn’t even realized he had deep thoughts. He said, “if there is a god, the only reason he put us here was to protect and take good care of the planet. And look what we’ve done to it. We’ve destroyed the natural cycle of life through medicines and have advanced technology to the point of ruining the environment. I would rather that human kind be wiped out, than have the Earth die. The earth is what was meant to live and if that means I should die to preserve it, so be it.”

This conversation I had with my friend helped me find a new found respect for him. It reminded me that everyone has an intellectual side; some just chose not to share it.

Kiwis are so serious about preserving the environment. It seems like a lot of Kiwis don’t acknowledge the existence of God. They are more loyal to the environment than the belief in a higher power. Many Kiwis are not religious or if they are, they do not share their religious beliefs.
This convo with my friend was the first time I’ve heard the name of God be mentioned in a friend conversation. No one has ever asked me about my religious beliefs. And when he asked me what I believe in I almost felt uncomfortable. I was the only person in the room that believes in a higher power. But I wasn’t aware of that until I was asked.
Religion is not a common thing to be talked about among Kiwis. People are quieter about their beliefs, not because they are ashamed, but because they feel their relationship with god (or the lack of) is a private matter. There are many Christians in NZ but they have a more subtle way of sharing their beliefs.

For example, I wanted to write a story for the newspaper I work for about a Christian group that cooks dinner for international students once a month. The founder of the group declined to do an interview with me and requested that I not write about the group. He feared writing about it would jeopardize the intent of the group. He felt publicizing the group would pressure Christian beliefs on its members. He said to me, “we’re afraid with wide publicity, other Christian Kiwis who would want to manipulate the intent of the group and make it about something were not entirely wanting to make it about.”

American Christians are very open about spreading the word of God, and try to shove the word of God down other people’s throats. If I would have asked a Christian group at home if I could write a story about their group they would be more than willing.

Here, the Christians I’ve come across don’t force the belief of God on you. They are kind to you and act in a way God would. They show you compassion and then after they’ve got to know you, they will share their beliefs with you.
I really like this approach to religion because this is how I act in America. I don’t like forcing anything on anyone, and I very much so believe my relationship with God is between him and I. I’ll talk to friends about it, but I don’t preach to a choir that doesn’t want to hear my singing.