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Education Abroad Profile: Brandon Swanzer

Brandon Swanzer, New Zealand 2015

Program: Sustaining Human Societies and the Environment – New Zealand
Location: New Zealand 
Rank: Senior 
Major: Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability

"When I came to Ohio State I knew that the one experience I wanted to gain was studying abroad. I have always had a passion for traveling, so it was just a matter of finding the right place. New Zealand ended up being that place for me. As an avid hiker and a student in sustainability, this trip combined two of my main interests. The moment I received my itinerary, I knew I was in for the trip of a lifetime, but what would come in May was not only the trip of a lifetime, but also the greatest month of my life.

During my month in New Zealand I had the opportunity to take part in many once in a lifetime experiences. I got to see the rarest species of penguins on Earth (Yellow-eyed penguins), as well as take a boat cruise through the world famous Milford Sound. I snorkeled with Dusky Dolphins, and sea kayaked in Abel Tasman National Park. I stargazed some of the clearest skies I’ll ever see, experienced the local Maori culture and learned about the local flora and fauna. I got to see glaciers, sample the local cuisine (try the meat pies, trust me), and yes, I got to see plenty of the places that Lord of the Rings was filmed at. Most importantly to me, I was able to hike some of the best trails on Earth, including the Routeburn Track, Nelson Lakes and Queenstown Hill.

Brandon Swanzer, "H" in "O-H-I-O"Actually, the most important part to me was that I got to do all of that with a group that was more incredible than I could have ever imagined. When you travel across the world with a group of strangers anything goes, whether that’s for the better or for the worse. Luckily for me my group consisted of some of the best people I’ve ever met. That is what studying abroad is to me. Sure, visiting a place like New Zealand is great and the education I received there was incredibly rewarding, but the true experience comes with the people you travel with. I have no doubt in my mind that I would have had a good time in New Zealand if I had traveled there by myself. But my group made my time in New Zealand absolutely perfect. We left as strangers, but came back as friends, and I still smile when a memory from the trip pops into my head.

If it were up to me study abroad would be required for all students. The experience I had was unforgettable and I cannot wait to get back out in the world and explore. There are currently 197 countries in the world and I’ve visited 4 of them. That means I have 193 more places to visit. I went to New Zealand with a lot of questions and came back with a lot of answers, but there’s one question that still resonates with me: Where do I go next?"