A career in animal sciences requires hard work, determination, a willingness to learn, and most importantly a passion for animals. Their conservation is critical to the forward progress of ecosystems around the world, especially in a unique biome like New Zealand. Over the last 12 weeks, I was able to learn from and work with my host organization to learn more about New Zealand’s animal species and their future in conservation. Now that I’ve returned home I’ve been thinking about what that means as I move forward and reacclimate to life back in the States.
The biggest adjustment when I first started making my way home was considering how I’d react to seeing one dog instead of two. Roughly two weeks after I arrived for my internship, my eldest dog passed away, and it was an extremely challenging moment for me. To be around the world when it happened was a large adjustment in itself, and this will be the first time returning home since it happened. A coworker kindly gifted me a black obsidian paw print so that I could carry him with me on my trip, so I made sure to take it everywhere. The first several days after arriving home were difficult and made me appreciate still having my youngest husky to come home to.
For a more general reference, I’ve had a difficult time adjusting to the time difference in addition to the change in routine. My flights took me just under 30 hours from Whangārei to Detroit, with a negative 16-hour time change from one to the other. Spring semester classes also started the week before the end of my internship, which provided me with deadlines and due dates while I was traveling and made staying organized a little more difficult. Thankfully, my advisor and my professors have been extremely supportive and accommodating, making things more manageable.
Another thing that required getting used to was the change in climate and landscape. Whangārei was just heading into fall with temperatures between 70°F – 80°F on average and humidity of over 80%, whereas the midwest is just barely breaking into the spring months and will seldom get over 50°F. The landscape in northern Michigan is also drastically different and much less tropical, with the closest waterfall being significantly smaller and several hours away. In New Zealand, I was a short walk from a waterfall and a short drive from several others and had a large number of hiking trails surrounding the area that gave breathtaking coastal views. Not having this type of thing as readily available has been a huge adjustment for me, as I appreciate being able to spend my spare time outside and enjoy being able to take advantage of a warmer climate.
As much as I’ll miss things from New Zealand, like the climate or the food, most of all I’m going to miss the experiences and the people that I met along the way. This entire internship changed my life and tested me at every limit possible. Being away from home in a foreign country, completely alone, taught me things that I never could have learned about myself otherwise. Not only that, but I met a mentor that I consider to be one of the best I’ve ever had and friends that I hope to stay in touch with for the rest of our days. I wouldn’t trade these last 12 weeks for anything and am forever grateful that I was given this opportunity.