When I was asked to write about my time abroad, I thought of all the amazing things I had done this fall in New Zealand. 

I camped, climbed mountains, saw species I had never seen before and went jet-boating through a canyon. Yet to talk about these parts of my experience as if they were an accurate representation of my time there would be deceiving, because they were just small glimpses of my time abroad. 

Leaving the University of Richmond last spring, I could not have been more excited to be somewhere else in the fall. Don’t get me wrong: I love UR, but I was burnt out from two years of the nonstop pressure to succeed. I wanted to get far away and take a break, which I knew I could do with the laid-back culture of New Zealand. 

Day-to-day, my life in Dunedin was pretty ordinary. I went to more class than the average Kiwi student, but truth be told, it still wasn’t that much. I had one or two assignments in each of my three classes, but they were all due at the end of the semester. 

Most of the time, I lived my life without the work, activities and friendships that fill up my time at UR. I found myself lonely and bored, with a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences thrown in on the weekends. What I had been told would be the best semester of my life was shaping up to be a really hard one.

Why was it that when I was in Richmond I was unhappy because of stress, but when I went 9,000 miles away for adventure and relief from that stress, I just wanted to be back in Richmond? After months of reflection, I realized it was because I was looking for happiness in my outside circumstances rather than looking for happiness within. 

UR has an incredibly motivated student body, but I don’t think we stop often enough to ask why we want to be so successful. I believe one of the main reasons is that we want to be happy and think success will bring us happiness. Yet so often we let this desire for success make us overstressed and unhappy. 

While abroad, I learned so much about New Zealand and its people, but the most important thing I learned is that if I wait for different achievements or circumstances to bring me happiness instead of trying to find it right here and now, I will waste so much time waiting without actually getting there. 

Few situations are perfect, and despite what Instagram may tell you, studying abroad isn’t either. It’s an incredible opportunity filled with so much joy, but it is also uncomfortable and challenging. 

Despite those feelings, I wouldn’t trade the hard times for the world. They allowed for so much personal growth, which I have been able to translate to my life in Richmond just in time for me to make the most out of my final year at UR. 

Contact contributor Emma Anetsberger at emma.anetsberger@richmond.edu.