Author: Anna Palmer
Turning on my computer, I stare momentarily at my desktop background.Â My eyes linger over the vibrantly blue water back-dropped by the dramatic snow-capped peaks, wondering to myself if it was all a dream.
Glancing to the north-facing wall in my room, my eyes scan the postcards and memorabilia: the New Zealand flag surrounded by postcards of places Iâ€™ve been, pictures I took and a five dollar bill with Sir Edmund Hilary stamped on the front.
My eyes stop at the certificate of the 43-meter leap of faith I took from the site of the worldâ€™s first bungy.Â This concrete piece of evidence symbolizes the overarching lesson Iâ€™ve taken away from my experience: the possibility of overcoming fear in the face of it.
Deep down I like to think Iâ€™ve known that the only way to overcome your fear is to face it.Â However, being in New Zealand, I was given the opportunity to put this life motto into action.
Contrary to popular belief perhaps, I did not come out of this experience a â€œchangedâ€ me.Â Sure, I may have grown into an improved version of myself, but I am still â€œmeâ€.Â I now know that no change in my environment, no matter how awesome and utterly amazing it is, will ever do away with my internal struggles, which take more deliberate, conscious choosing.
Although these personal struggles persist, I do notice more subtle changes in myself.Â I feel better equipped at confronting certain fears.Â I am quicker to take action and confront these anxious or self-doubting feelings, instead of running away scared.
Instead of getting completely overwhelmed with the laundry list of things to do on a daily basis, I am better able to take it one thing at a time.Â I find myself better able to live, moment to moment, recognizing when I am lost in the worries of my mind.
It has been almost two months since I returned from my adventures in the southern hemisphere.Â Upon my return, I have noticed subtle changes in my environment as well.Â Little things are different but still generally the same: different roommates, same house, different classes, same professors.Â It has been a strange combination of getting my footing back somewhere I used to call home.
As ready as I felt to come home at the end of my time abroad, I canâ€™t help but reminisce about the experience in its entirety and about the good friends I made.
Keeping in touch with the friends I made abroad has been as rewarding as it is challenging.Â I look forward to our â€œgoogle hang-outâ€ dates, when all five of us girls can coordinate a time.Â Being one of two in the group who lives in the western half of the country nonetheless, this has proved challenging.
All of us are back to our â€œrealâ€ lives, our little circle of friends from home and our school, no longer separated from each other by a mere five-minute walk.Â Thousands of miles away, we have tried our best to stay in touch.
I notice myself going about my day-to-day activities as usual, before New Zealand, and something, some thought or memory will appear, drawing me into the past.Â Looking back on my experience abroad, I really do feel as though it was almost a dream.
It feels as though I was transported into this sort of â€œalternate universeâ€ for six months, and I truly was able to recreate myself into whoever I wanted to be.Â I knew absolutely no one, and no one knew me.Â I could be whoever I wanted to be and that notion in and of itself was drastically freeing.
After a few short weeks of classes back at CSU and readjusting back to the â€œroutineâ€, I feel myself trying to close the gap between the â€œoldâ€ me and the â€œnew”, subtly-improved version of me.Â Like all change, resistance has come up.Â Recently though, I feel this last bit of resistance dissipating.Â This resistance came from my initial fear of returning back to my â€œoldâ€ life, back to the routine of school and homework, back to the town and people I had left behind.
More so, this fear has stemmed from the uncertainty of the future, my inevitable graduation, and the daunting task of searching for an internship and eventually a job.Â But now that I am back in Fort Collins, after being abroad in the beautiful country of New Zealand, I feel myself in a strange sort of mindset.
Initially going back to the routine of school, homework, exams, actual work and the sometimes-mundane schedule did not appeal to me at all.Â However, as the weeks have gone speedily by, I am beginning to accept the reality of the hard work that lies ahead of me this semester.
Though I do think back to my time in New Zealand, it is not exactly the nostalgia I had anticipated.Â Of course, there are things I miss: the humility of the Kiwi people, the friends I made, the beautiful scenery, the adventuresome spirit I felt there, and the list goes on and on.
But as much as I miss these things and sometimes wish to go back, I know that this chapter in my life is just one of many.Â Being abroad showed me that all I truly have is the given moment, a point of decision to make it what I choose.Â I can smile and relish over my past experiences abroad, but to reach into the past with longing is to enter into dissatisfaction with the present.
The â€œtake-homeâ€ message, if you will, that I took from my experience was to live moment to moment, enjoying all that each day, each opportunity, has to offer.Â Once it is gone, there is no going back.Â I know that as much as classes and the workload I have this semester can feel overwhelming and stressful, I will want it back when it is gone.
Once I graduate, I know I will long for the life as a student once more, so I might as well soak it up while I can, enjoying the â€œsimpleâ€ life of studying, classes, and hanging out with the good friends I have missed while being abroad.
My eyes glance back to the wall in my room, this time, to the map of New Zealand.Â My gaze stops at the point on the map marking the city of Dunedin that I called home for six months.Â Flashes of memories appear: eating â€œhokey pokeyâ€ ice-cream, trekking to the New World supermarket, running in the botanical gardens, and going on â€œtrampingâ€ excursions each weekend, pushing my body and mind to their limits.
Pulling myself out of this reminiscent dream, I smile as I return to reality, knowing that this dream feeling is accessible at anytime.
I will never forget the beauty of â€œAotearoaâ€ (â€œthe land of the long white cloudâ€), nor will I forget the empowerment it gave me to recreate my life, but I will move forward into this next chapter in my life, feeling more assured in my ability to face whatever comes my way.