International Education Week with Zeesha Braslawsce

Zeesha at the top of a trail overlooking the cloud covered peak of Mount Cook (Photo Credit: Zeesha Braslawsce).

This week marks the 17th Annual International Education Week (IEW), a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, which celebrates and promotes the benefits of international education and exchange programs worldwide. Initially created so that America could inspire its students to travel abroad, IEW now encourages and supports foreign students interested in making the leap to study in the United States. Today, IEW is celebrated in over 100 countries, including New Zealand.

Join us as we profile kiwi student experiences in America each day this week. Today we chat with Zeesha Braslawsce.

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NAME: Zeesha Braslawsce
AGE: 21
HOME INSTITUTION: Case Western Reserve University
LOCATION: Cleveland, Ohio
NZ UNIVERSITY: University of Auckland
YEAR OF STUDY: 4th Year
COURSE OF STUDY: Mechanical Engineering
AWARD PROGRAM: Gilman Scholarship Program

Why did you decide to study in the U.S.?

Every chance I have to travel, I take advantage of it. Studying abroad allowed me to travel on a student’s budget for up to five months. This large amount of time really lets me dive into another country’s culture and learn what it means to be from that country. I chose New Zealand because of its diverse geography and friendly people. The countryside offers incredible sights, from glaciers to volcanoes to rain forests, and everywhere I go people are willing to help me.

I heard about the Gilman Scholarship through my home university’s study abroad office. They offer an extensive amount of ways to apply for financial aid when studying abroad and I was lucky enough to be awarded a Gilman Scholarship.

There are a few differences between my home university and the New Zealand university. Socially, students seem to participate in clubs more here than they do back home. However, everyone is just as friendly. Academically, a big change for me here was the lack of homework. Having no homework makes it difficult to come home and study the day’s notes, but its something that has to be done if you want to pass. As an international student, I have met some incredible people and have made life-long relationships that I hope to continue when I return to the United States.

What are some of the challenges of studying overseas?

The largest challenge I have had since living in New Zealand has been that I miss my family. It’s incredibly difficult to be away from them for 5 months, and while I do not want to leave, I also cannot wait to see my family again. The biggest highlight I have had since living in New Zealand has definitely been how many friends I have made. There are so many incredible people here and I can not wait to meet even more before I head home in a couple weeks. Most of these people I have met through getting involved on campus by joining the Underwater Club, the Powerlifting Club, and the Tramping Club.

A view of the valley from the top of the Pinnacles in Coromandel Forest Park on a group tramping trip (Photo credit: Zeesha Braslawsce).
A view of the valley from the top of the Pinnacles in Coromandel Forest Park on a group tramping trip (Photo credit: Zeesha Braslawsce).

What advice would you give those thinking about studying in the U.S.?

Studying abroad has helped my future career. I came to New Zealand by myself and had to truly learn what it meant to be independent. Not only that, but I had to meet new people, which helped develop my communication skills. Taking the risk and having the confidence to travel alone will help me show future employers that I can work independently as well as have the ability to meet new clients and effectively communicate.

If you hope to or are planning on studying abroad in the future, my advice would be to thoroughly explore all of your options. This is a huge decision that you are making and you need to be well informed on what you should expect when you get there. This will help you to avoid a potentially monumental culture shock and allow you to adjust quickly. Do not be afraid to go alone. There are plenty of clubs and other activities where you will meet new people and make amazing new connections. Definitely look for housing before you go. If you travel with a provider, chances are that they will already have housing booked. But if you travel independently, it can sometimes be rather difficult to find good, affordable housing at the last minute. While you are abroad, establish a budget. Try to stick to it, but remember that you are abroad and you do not know the next time you will be back, so if something amazing comes up, take advantage of it. Don’t have any regrets when you get back home.

Consul General Melanie Higgins welcomes Zeesha to New Zealand (photo credit: Katie Sleeman).
Consul General Melanie Higgins welcomes Zeesha to New Zealand (photo credit: Katie Sleeman).

I believe studying abroad is important because it is the best way to learn about another people’s culture. Chances are that you won’t have 5 months in another country ever again in your life. Living in another place is the best way to expand your knowledge, see something from another point of view, eat exotic foods, meet new people and explore new places.

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Consider accessing #IEW2016 to participate in the virtual conversations happening online around International Education Week.

Additionally, are you thinking about studying in America? There are thousands of opportunities for motivated students! Connect with EducationUSA New Zealand on Facebook (facebook.com/educationusanz) and Twitter (@educationusanz), and be sure to check out our free resources (nz.usembassy.gov) available to help you get started!