Study Level NZAlumni NZWhere Are You Now?

Where Are You Now?

Courtney Windju
Courtney Windju
Courtney left the USA to study at the University of Otago in New Zealand. When she’s not studying she likes exploring, baking and meeting new people. Courtney graduated from the University of San Diego in 2016.

Two years ago I was embarking on one of the most unexpected, yet life-changing journeys of a lifetime – a semester abroad in New Zealand.

Surprisingly, of the many things I was uncertain of heading into my University experience, studying abroad was not one of them.

I knew spending six months of my life in another country was going to be an absolutely pivotal experience and one of the most valuable in my study years.


New Zealand: “Pure Bliss”

Often times when relaying my study abroad experience to friends and family, I find myself stumbling for words to describe all the adventures and experiences I lived there. I have thus resorted to simplistically say: “Pure Bliss”.

This is a feeling I knew I must bring back to my normative University experience in California with me. However, I also knew how challenging it would be to re-create the familiar feeling without the same people and environment.


I returned to the University of San Diego in January 2015 with a refreshed perspective, especially in regards to the importance of living purely and connecting with nature. But I also brought with me an incredible amount of nostalgia.

Living on the beach in Southern California is an absolute fortune and many people’s dream but I also felt suffocated by concrete in every direction and too many hours sitting in the library – was this really, living?

Certainly not the kind of living I was used to in New Zealand, but also certainly an opportunity that I should be grateful for, as many individuals in this world aren’t granted easy access to education.

I knew I was going to return to New Zealand

That being said, I carried with me gratitude during my weekend adventures or when studying for the next midterm exam. But most of all, whilst laughing and sharing memories with new and old University mates. And might I add, I definitely knew that one day soon, I would return back to New Zealand.


Summer break in Sydney

I spent my next summer break living and working in Sydney with my partner, Patrick, who coincidentally I met whilst on spring vacation when I was in New Zealand.

My lust for travel and experiencing new places clearly and fortunately hadn’t diminished after spending six months in my monotonous, yet comfortable University environment.

I found work as a data entry clerk at a Wine Sales company in the centre of Sydney; although entering the position with a very elementary wine palate, I learned quite a bit and was most appreciative for a secured few months of work ahead of me before I had to return to the States to complete my last semester of Uni.

As the end of August approached much too soon, I yet again, packed up my bags begrudgingly to return back to school. By this point, I had become quite comfortable with the ‘southern hemisphere lifestyle’ and seriously began questioning what my next move would be after completing college.


Well, my last semester came and it went; in other words, it flew by.

I approached the semester with a ‘can-do’ attitude and mentality that I would enjoy and soak up every last second of University. This was an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime.

I graduated in December 2015, a semester ahead of the rest of my classmates, with a BA in Behavioural Neuroscience and a minor in Leadership Studies.

Road tripping New Zealand after my graduation

I returned home for the holidays before embarking on another trans-Pacific journey. Patrick and I spent a week road tripping the North Island of New Zealand. Then returned to Sydney to complete the rest of my yearlong working/holiday visa.

This time around I secured a position as a dental nurse and receptionist. This was certainly another eclectic role to add to my already randomized, yet worldly CV.


In May of 2016, Patrick and I returned to the U.S. I celebrated my University Graduation and spent time with family and friends. We were going to spend our summer working at a camp for children and teens with disabilities.

This was the most rewarding, yet exhausting position I had taken on yet. It was draining but the growth and change in these individuals’ lives were incredibly heart-warming.

Patrick’s US visa would soon end so we decided to return to the laidback lifestyle of the kiwis.


Thus, I sit here now, heading back in a couple of days to yet another unexpected, spontaneous and wonderful adventure.

I have started another job hunt, in hopes that I can score a position in New Zealand. This will serve as a stepping stone to enter a Masters degree in the near future. I’m deciding between Industrial Psychology or Organizational Leadership.

The lessons I learnt

I would like to sum up three of my most profound lessons learned:

#1, if at all possible, STUDY ABROAD

#2, put in the effort you may need to take you where you’d like to go, but don’t force it.  Bring mindfulness to any stress, discomfort or anxiety you may experience. Know that you can always change your lifestyle to remove such feelings

#3, love and cherish every moment you experience; We only have ONE life and we decide how each and every moment is spent. Life is precious.


%d bloggers like this: