Arts and Culture

Abroad Blog: Aaron Portanova ’18, New Zealand

2/10/17 – Friday, 14:00 Boston, MA

I’m about to spend the next six months just about as far away from home as I can comfortably imagine. One Eighteen hour flight and nine-thousand miles away, is the University of Canterbury. It still blows my mind – just a few generations ago this journey would have taken weeks! And now five of my classmates and I get to travel across the world, pretty much instantly, to a beautiful island, and study at a world-class institution.

3/15/17 – Wednesday, 18:00 Christchurch, NZ

Being just over a month into semester one, I have the opportunity to review my experiences outside of class, and in.

When we arrived, we had just over two weeks until classes began, so I spent some time traveling in and around Christchurch. Eager to do some hiking, I took advantage of my first opportunity to visit Arthur’s Pass National Park in week one. This began two weeks of exploring beaches and mountains near Christchurch, Akaroa, and Wanaka. A large motivation on the hikes is the view from the top; the landscape graciously rewards your tramping efforts anywhere in the country with views at around  three-thousand feet. It’s spectacular. I’ve also taken the opportunity to get in some outdoor climbing, and kayaking. When weather hasn’t allowed for hiking, I’ve been able to check out some attractions in the city. Museums beautifully elaborate New Zealand culture and history, and cafes affordably serve some great coffee.

These first weeks of class have been interesting. Aside from weekly labs, a midterm, and a final exam, there isn’t too much opportunity for grading. It’s taken a little while to adapt to this structure, and the pace of classes is different than what I’m used to. That being said, it’s been nice to experience a different grading system, especially because I really like my classes. I’m taking two geology courses this semester: one on depositional environments, the other, a field studies course focusing on interpreting and making geologic maps. Geology labs meet weekly, and are a great place to earn hands-on experience in the lab and in the field. Labs every week or two include field trips to local depositional environments, like a beach or river, and help me to apply what I learn in class. They also give me a chance to see some really beautiful environments. My third class is a Geography course that focuses on Earth processes, specifically geomorphology, climatology, glaciology. This course is fascinating, and complements many of the topics covered this semester in Geology and Chemistry.

The class structure at UC motivates me to learn as much as I can while taking classes that aren’t offered at Wheaton. I must take this opportunity to submit my thanks for Wheaton’s role in helping me travel to the right place to take these classes. Because of the assistance from my Professors and academic advisors, I will return with a fuller education in Environmental Geoscience. I encourage anyone considering their own study abroad experience to explore that other part of the world – it is exceptionally rewarding.

The reason why I’m able to reflect positively on my experience is that I chose to come here. And the reason why it’s been a positive experience is that I’ve chosen to be excited about it! In my short time away, two things have become increasingly apparent: that opportunity is self initiated, and that experience is a function of attitude.