Kia ora from Aotearoa! As April moves along and winter begins sneaking in, I must admit things are certainly not what I expected. Before embarking on a 14-hour trip across the Pacific, a part of me scoffed at the concept of having what I deemed a typical, annoying, “eye-opening-totally-amazing-life-changing” study abroad experience. We’ve all heard it for days, weeks, even months after a friend has returned from whichever city in whatever country. I’m talking about phrases like, “This wine reminds me of…” or “Man, this pizza’s good, but it’s nothing compared to…” or my all time favorite, “Oh, you wouldn’t understand, you’ve never experienced the culture.”

That being said, New Zealand fucking rocks. Approximately the size of California with less than half the population of Los Angeles County, the country boasts glorious landscapes, adorable baby animals and diverse wildlife. Geographic isolation and a generally “green” attitude have allowed unique flora and fauna to flourish across a range of varying local environments. At this point, it may be worth mentioning that contrary to popular belief, New Zealand is not part of Australia, but some 1300-odd miles southeast of it. If you ever find yourself in Australia, I’d strongly advise hopping back on a plane and taking the quick flight to New Zealand. You will not regret it.

As a nature enthusiast, I’ve been completely awestruck by glaciers, rainforests, mountain ranges, beaches and reefs, especially considering the proximity of these diverse natural phenomena to each other. Beyond the scenic charms of New Zealand, partying reigns supreme. Have you ever gone to a cave party, played “scrumpie hands,” drank kegs in the park or gone fountain splashing with beer snorkels? I didn’t think so, and that’s just the beginning. Although living in the city has certainly had its perks, my heart longs for a smaller town a bit south of Auckland: Queenstown. Deemed the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown features sky diving, bungee jumping, jet boating, mountain biking and snow sports in addition to a party culture that puts I.V. to shame.

After turning into somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, my so-called “comfort” zone has quickly turned into an “I’m bored” zone. Keeping off my feet by jumping from planes, bridges, platforms and boats has been great fun, but recently (to my family’s relief) I’ve taken to scuba diving and tramping. Looking right-left-right before crossing streets is a lot harder than I’m used to and I do miss free ketchup at American restaurants, but besides that, if it were up to me, I would never, ever leave.