For four weeks, I had the opportunity to complete a service learning program and work with people with disabilities at a local non-profit in Wellington, New Zealand. While applying for my program and looking for places to study, New Zealand really stood out me because it was similar enough to the United States where I would not have a major culture shock, but also unique in its own way. Wellington is a city very similar to Chattanooga but you are also close to some of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Wellington also has some of the best coffee in the world and as part of my program, I had the opportunity to tour a roasting company and learn about how they get their coffee.We were also able to go on a few more excursions around Wellington and learn more about the Kiwi culture.

After completing the program, I had an opportunity to reflect on my experience. Not only did I learn about the culture of New Zealand, but also about myself. I grew as a person and increased my knowledge on people with disabilities.  By spending quality time with different kinds of people, I have learned how to interact and work with them. At the beginning of this program, I did not really know what to expect. Throughout those weeks, however, I grew to love the people that I worked with and learned just as much or more from them than they learned from me.

I hope I use this new knowledge to continue to grow and share my experience with other people. I will cherish the memories that I’ve made during my time abroad. It can be difficult and uncomfortable putting yourself into a new and different culture without completely knowing what to expect. However, going outside of your comfort zone is the best way to grow as a person, both personally and professionally. I made friends that will forever be in my life and made contacts that I can reach out for advice.

This experience also made me stronger in my beliefs and values. By being in another country, I was tested as people asked questions about how things work and what I think about my country. Not only did this allow me to stand up for what I believe in, but it also made me think about how things work back home and how they differ from New Zealand. I will forever be grateful for this time abroad. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Tarason Moore is majoring in Exercise Science. She spent the summer of 2018 participating in a service-learning program in Wellington, New Zealand through ISA. Tarason had the following to say about her time abroad, “Challenge yourself by getting out of your comfort zone. Meet different kinds of people and immerse yourself in the culture. That’s the best advice I have and what I found most valuable.”

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