Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Robert Burkhead, Class of 2009

talks about studying abroad


The decision to study abroad.

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I didn't have much of a struggle deciding to study abroad. Towards the end of my sophomore year I started looking into different programs. The hardest part was deciding where to go and when. Unfortunately, I hadn't taken IHM or LADE, which helped me make the choice to leave during the spring semester my junior year. When trying to figure out where to go I asked myself, "What English speaking countries will I most likely never go on vacation?" The answer was Australia or New Zealand. Conveniently, a close friend of mine was on her way to New Zealand in the summer leading into my junior year. Through conversations, I found that New Zealand was the place for me. More specifically, I wanted to go to the capital city, Wellington, because of its central location within the country. Once the time and location was decided the rest was fairly easy. Over the summer I was in contact with International Center. Once I got back onto campus, I began working with the IC staff to pick out a program in Wellington. I decided to study abroad with a program called ISFA Butler. Butler found me housing and proved me with information about living/studying in New Zealand.

Life and classes abroad.

My fellow American students and I found that the Kiwi semester was less dense with assignments compared to semesters at American schools. This allowed us to explore Wellington and most of the North and South island. Just about every weekend I was traveling either on an ISFA Butler trip or having my own adventure with my friends. The excitement of my travels started on my very first tramping (hiking) trip. On that first adventure, a group of five of us hitched a ride in the back of a sheep truck. The excitement didn't end after that adventure. I was lucky enough to have my father, mother, and little brother come over during Easter break. We flew down to Christchurch, and then took a six hour drive down to Queenstown. We departed Queenstown on a tour bus heading to Milford Sound, a fiord on the west coast of the South Island. However, we didn't stay on the bus, halfway through the tour the bus driver let us off at the airport. We climbed into a small helicopter and flew to the top of Fox Glacier over looking the entire Fiord. Finishing up this condensed recollection of my travel experiences, my last trip was to Mt. Taranaki. My friend, Sam, and I decided it would be fun to climb the mountain at the start of winter conditions. I'll just say our hike ended when we could no longer see the trail due to ice and the 40 mph winds. These conditions might not sound pleasant, but for me it was the experience of a lifetime.

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The transition back to the States.


When I got back to the USA, I didn't have long before I was back at F&M to start a summer research project with Dr. Crannell. I think I had a total of 3 days before I started working. I enjoyed diving right into the thick of things. I didn't realize just how much I missed New Zealand until the end of my summer research. The first part of my senior year was spent getting back into the swing of college here at F&M. The work is steadier and my professors expect more of me in comparison to New Zealand. However, I can't seem to shake a few of the habits I picked up in New Zealand. I've adopted the use of the word "Cheers" as a replacement for "Thanks" or "Thank You." Occasionally, I still get the urge to drive on the wrong side of the road.