Courtney Windju - “Where are you now? - i-studentglobal Follow-up Blog”

 Courtney Windju

Courtney left the USA to study at the University of Otago in New Zealand. When she’s not studying she likes exploring, baking and meeting new people. Courtney graduated from the University of San Diego in 2016.

Two years ago I was embarking on one of the most unexpected, yet life-changing journeys of a lifetime – a semester abroad in New Zealand. Surprisingly, of the many things I was uncertain of heading into my University experience, studying abroad was not one of them. Although I did not know where at the time, I knew spending six months of my life in another country was going to be an absolutely pivotal experience and one of the most valuable in my three and a half years of study.

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Often times when relaying my study abroad experience to friends and family, I find myself stumbling for the accurate descriptive words and spontaneous adventures of many to share; thus, I have merely shortened up my time in New Zealand into two words – “Pure Bliss”. This is a feeling I knew I must bring back to my normative University experience in San Diego, California with me, however, equally knew how challenging it would be to re-create the familiar feeling without the same people and environment.

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Admittedly so, I returned to the University of San Diego in January 2015 with a refreshed perspective, especially in regards to the importance of living purely and connecting with nature, yet, also brought with me an incredible amount of nostalgia. Although living on the beach in Southern California I view as an absolute fortune and many people’s dream, I also felt suffocated by concrete in every which directions and much too many hours in the library sitting in a constricting, mundane and privatized cubby – was this really, living? Certainly not the kind of living I was used to in New Zealand, but also certainly an opportunity that I should be grateful for, as many individuals in this world aren’t granted easy access to education. That being said, I carried with me graciousness whilst hiking on weekend adventures and whilst studying for the next midterm exam and most of all, whilst sharing laughter and sacred memories with new and old University mates. And might I add, the knowledge that one-day soon, I would return back to New Zealand.

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My next summer break was spent living and working in Sydney, Australia with my partner, Patrick, who coincidentally I met whilst on spring vacation when I was in New Zealand. My lust for travel and experiencing new places clearly and fortunately hadn’t diminished after spending six months in my monotonous, yet comfortable University environment. I found work as a data entry clerk at a Wine Sales company in the centre of Sydney; although entering the position with a very elementary wine palate, I learned quite a bit and was mostly appreciative for a secured few months of work ahead of me before I had to return to the States to complete my last semester of Uni. As the end of August approached much too soon, I yet again, packed up my bags begrudgingly to return back to school. By this point, I had become quite comfortable with the ‘southern hemisphere lifestyle’ and seriously began questioning what my next move would be after completing college.

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Well, my last semester came and it went; in other words, it flew by. I approached the semester with a ‘can-do’ attitude and mentality that I would enjoy and soak up every last second of University, as it is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. I graduated in December 2015, a semester ahead of the rest of my classmates, with a BA in Behavioural Neuroscience and a minor in Leadership Studies. I returned home for the holidays before embarking on another trans-Pacific journey. Patrick and I spent a week road tripping the North Island of New Zealand, before returning to Sydney to complete the rest of my yearlong working/holiday visa. This time around I secured a position as a dental nurse and receptionist, certainly another eclectic role to add to my already randomized, yet worldly CV.

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In May of 2016, Patrick and I returned to the U.S., where we spent celebrating my University Graduation, spending time with family and friends, and prepping for a summer working at a camp for children and teens with social, emotional and cognitive disabilities. Above any of my previous roles, it was the most rewarding, yet exhausting position I had taken on yet. The constant need of reminding and redirecting was draining, but the recognition of growth and change in these individuals’ lives and everyday routines was incredibly heart-warming. But knowing that Patrick’s US visa would soon come to and end, we decided what a better way to neutralize our summer’s experiences than returning back to the blissful and lassiez faire lifestyle of the kiwis.

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Thus, I sit hear now, heading back in a couple of days to yet another unexpected, spontaneous and wonderful adventure. I have started another job hunt, in hopes that I can score a position in New Zealand that will provide me a stepping stone to enter a Masters degree in the near future in either Industrial Psychology or Organizational Leadership. As I leave you with a snippet of the last couple years of my life, I would like to sum up three of my most profound lessons learned: #1, if at all possible, STUDY ABROAD #2, put in the effort you may need to take you where you’d like to go, but don’t force it and bring mindfulness to any stress, discomfort or anxiety you may have in knowing that you can always make alterations to your current lifestyle to remove such feelings and #3 love and cherish every moment you experience; as cliché as it may be, we only have ONE life to LIVE and we are the deciders of how each and every moment is spent. Life is precious. 

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