Study Abroad Spotlight: Brandon Swanzer

Major: Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability (EEDS)
Specialization: Community Development
Graduation: May 2017

ProgramSustaining Human Societies and the Environment – New Zealand
Location: New Zealand’s South Island
When: May 2015; 3.5 weeks

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When I first stepped foot on the Ohio State campus as a freshman there were a lot of uncertainties in my life. One thing that was not uncertain, however, was my desire to study abroad. I’ve always had a need for travel in my blood. I’d like to say I traveled the world someday, and I figured I might as well start with one of the countries that has always attracted me the most: New Zealand. As an EEDS major, the program fit perfectly as studying sustainability was the focal point of the program. It was my personal interests, however, that sold me on the program. Anyone that knows me can tell you how much I enjoy hiking, nature, and exploring new places. New Zealand fulfilled all of these criteria and more.
Bungy 1Leading up to the program, I had talked with students that had went on the trip the prior year, so I had an idea of what to expect in terms of New Zealand as a country. I had heard stories of incredible landscapes, exciting activities, and some of the best hiking the world has to offer. And boy were these stories correct. I tried to make the most of my trip, and I’d like to think I got the authentic New Zealand experience. If an activity came up, I always said yes. This led to me having the experience of a lifetime. I got to do the things I expected to do such as visiting the world famous Milford Sound. I got to snorkel with dolphins and visit glaciers. I hiked portions of the Routeburn Track and Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which are two of New Zealand’s Great Walks. I think the greatest experiences, however, were the ones that occurred naturally; experiences such as bungy jumping, playing in quick sand, and making some great friends along the way.

Since we only had 19 students on the trip, we all got to know each other pretty well. Luckily we all got along great which made the trip that much better. My favorite memories from the trip involve these people, from getting lost in Dunedin to hiking Queenstown Hill to stargazing in Te Anau. Everything was made perfect because of these people. It was strange leaving them in the Christchurch Airport as they headed home and I headed for a week long excursion in Australia. Here I had spent a month of my life with these people, and now I’d have to adjust back to a normal life. While I won’t see them
pic 3everyday now, I’m confident that we’ll always be in touch. I consider the people I met some of my best friends now and my New Zealand experience would not have been the same without them. It’s funny, we go to a school that is so large that sometimes it takes going halfway around the world to become friends with people that live on the same campus as you.

I am grateful everyday that I had the opportunity to study in New Zealand. Being a member on this trip and being in SENR in general was a great life choice that I will not be regretting anytime soon. SENR not only gave me the chance to travel to a country that I had always wanted to visit, but also gave me an opportunity to study what I enjoy while being there. Some people go their whole life without leaving their home country which is something I cannot fathom. We live in a huge world with many unique landscapes and extraordinary cultures, and I won’t settle for the status quo of staying within the boundaries of the US. I want to see it all. This was the first time I had been outside of North America but it certainly will not be the last. How can it be? I still have five more continents to see.

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