Name: Karly Clippinger
Hometown: Wales, Wisconsin
Varsity sports participated in: Women’s Cross Country, Track & Field
Study abroad semester and location: Spring 2014, Dunedin, New Zealand
What was the most unexpected thing you encountered during your off-campus study experience?
When I chose to study abroad in an English speaking country I wasn’t expecting to encounter so many different words and names for things, it almost felt like another language at first. I remember going to the super market and being confused when zucchinis were called courgettes and cookies were biscuits. For a while I had trouble determining the meaning of sentences, for example New Zealanders love to say “sweet as” when they like something and when they want to leave a place they “gap it”.
Describe your favorite place in your host city/country and why.
I love the Botanical Gardens in Dunedin. It’s a big green space about a block from my flat filled with trees and flowers from all over the world. This was my favorite place to run because there are a series of trails through native forest that lead to the top of a hill where you can see the city of Dunedin spread out below you.
What was the biggest difference between Beloit and your host city/university? Similarity?
The biggest difference was definitely size. The University of Otago has over 21,000 students. Most of my classes were over 100 people and had multiple professors. I didn’t have much interaction with my professors and classes were entirely lecture based. It was also strange to walk around campus and not recognize a single face even after living there five months. On the other hand the students at the University of Otago are definitely just as quirky as at Beloit, a flat across the street from my house built a pirate ship in their yard.
What was your proudest/most exciting moment abroad?
Successfully navigating public transit for the first time was a cool feeling, but having a sea lion pop up in front of me while swimming in the ocean was pretty exciting too. Then again, walking through the rainforest on the west coast and coming across a glacier was memorable. Honestly, everything I have done here has been amazing.
What did you bring home as a souvenir and why?
Rocks. The geology in New Zealand was phenomenal; I could have brought home a whole suitcase. The rocks I chose to bring back with me each have a memory attached to them and remind me of somewhere in New Zealand.
How were you able to get involved with your host culture while abroad?
International students get placed in flats with a kiwi host (native New Zealander) and four other students. It was helpful to live with a kiwi because he introduced us to the culture. We made dinners as a flat so it was always fun to see the different dishes each of us came up with.
How has your study abroad experience affected your athletic experience or your identity as an athlete back at Beloit?
I feel more committed to my sport now than ever. I realized how much I took for granted the support network a team provides. I feel like study abroad gave me a much needed break to gain some perspective on my reasons for running. Training on my own made me listen to my body and develop perseverance that I think will help me in the coming seasons. Every time I ran I felt closer to home, it was a great way to keep a routine which helped with homesickness.
How were you able to stay in shape or stay prepared for your sport while you were gone?
Being a runner I found it easier to stay in shape because all I needed was a pair of running shoes. That being said it was hard at first because I didn’t know any of the local routes. I love trail running and I found that in Dunedin anything flat has been paved over, so the trails are all super hilly and fairly disjointed. After a while I met other students who also run and it was great to bond over our experiences. I found that running was one of the best ways to see the city and connect with people.
Did being an athlete provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they?
Being an athlete definitely gave me an advantage when it came to being physically fit enough to do extended tramping (hiking). New Zealand has an excellent system of backpacking trails called the Great Walks. Many of these tramps were physically demanding and I felt like being an athlete prepared me well. In addition it was easy to meet and make friends with people who shared my love of running.
Some words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad:
Do it. Missing a semester of your sport is worth the experiences you will have abroad. You will come back with a greater appreciation of the support your team provides and a greater understanding of what motivates you personally.