My first exchange program: New Zealand

LauraLaura

Living abroad was always a dream, maybe because Lívia and I started travelling and experiencing other cultures when we were really young. Doing it, even for a short period of time (like a 15-day trip), was always amazing. It’s just so much that we learn, so much history.

Walking on the streets without knowing anyone, for me, is priceless. Maybe it’s a trauma because I was born and raised in a small city, but I always looked for changes. The same old thing bores me.  It wasn’t easy to convince my Mum to let me do an exchange program, because I was only 16. I insisted so much that she finally let me do it. I think that today she sees my 6-month experience as an opportunity to learn and grow up.

The initial plan was to go to Ireland. I had been there 3 months before and I fell in love with the country. I tried to apply to all schools possible, but the 2008 crisis affected the country a bit and they ended up closing some doors to exchange students.

In 2009, one of my best friends was going to New Zealand. Man, I had no idea of how awesome that place is! I’ve always wanted to live in a cold country, because I hate hot weather. When my friend told me that New Zealand was the world capital of extreme sports, I thought “that’s it!”

After doing lots of research, I finally found the place I wanted to go: Christchurch, Oceania’s small England. What a beautiful city!

July 17th, 2009: New Zealand, here I am! Everything seemed like fun, meeting new people from all over the world, speaking English fluently, eating different stuff, house parties, etc. However, I saw that it wasn’t really like this. When I arrived at my new home and went to sleep in a bedroom that wasn’t mine, I thought “shit just got serious!” I just couldn’t sleep! I kept asking myself: “What am I doing here?”

Monday has arrived, my first day at school. Worst day ever. It was a bit ironic that I was studying at a protestant school, with billions of rules. My uniform needed to be impeccable. I needed to remove all of my piercings, because the school wouldn’t allow them! Nail polish, make-up, dyed hair? No way! It was a whole week of crying.

All of the students needed to stand up when the teacher arrived at the classroom, and we could only seat down when he said so. I could be in detention for having a loose strand of hair. I was feeling like in dictatorship. I had two options then: to go back to Brazil or to adapt and enjoy my time. I chose the second option!

Six months passed by so fast. I had the most amazing time and my English flowed unexpectedly. I learned how to “cheat” the school rules without being caught (sorry, Mum!), how to get into clubs being underage, learned how to cook and gained 10kg. But most importantly, I made friends for life!

If you have the opportunity, grab it! In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take!

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