Emelia Petroski ’16, from Vassalboro, Maine, spent last semester studying abroad in New Zealand. She says it was the best decision she’s ever made.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize being a small school we have that option. But in going through it, it was a relatively easy process,” said the senior education major.
Petroski said at first the application process seemed like a lot, but by working with various offices at Thomas, she was able to follow the school’s very clear plan to get it approved. She was able to plan it a year in advance.
Petroski spent four and a half months in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. The city, made up of about 300,000 people, has a mountain right in its center and is surrounded by the ocean.
“It was a wonderful opportunity. I got to go somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and of course, my love for Lord of the Rings played a part in my going to New Zealand,” she said.
Petroski said she spent a lot of time hiking the trails and on the beach. Within the city, there was also a lot of nightlife, coffee shops, museums, and an Opera House to entertain herself when she wasn’t in classes.
Her four classes included: Maori 101 (the native peoples of New Zealand), Music and World Culture, New Zealand Social History, and Theatre 101.
“I got all of my electives out of the way and I was able to try out some fun new things that we wouldn’t necessarily have at Thomas.”
Petroski said she was also lucky enough to live in international housing with people from all over the world.
“That’s difficult to find in Maine so it was a great experience. That was a personal growth opportunity for me and it also helped me learn how to communicate with other people,” she said. “I had a friend from Italy and a friend from Germany, and just learning how to communicate with someone who has a different native language than you is quite an experience.”
When not exploring the city or taking classes, Petroski spent her weekends traveling.
“You meet so many people and make so many friends. It really opens you up. Your biggest responsibility is to put yourself out there and travel as much as you can and learn as much as you can from the places you go and the people you meet.”
Petroski said she is happy she was able to live in a different country for a long period of time.
“You really get to be integrated into the culture when you study abroad. Instead of just going there for two weeks and hitting the tourist spots, you actually get to be a part of it and you make solid friendships and connections.”
Petroski will spend the rest of the fall semester in classes, and then her last semester at Thomas as a student teacher at Waterville Junior High School.
She said she is happy she found her way to Thomas. At first, she began at a much larger university and she didn’t like the big lecture format.
“Especially being an education major, I wanted a more hands-on kind of approach and that’s hard to do in a giant class,” she said. “At Thomas, I can be in a class of 12 people and we can actually engage in a discussion and for example, we walk through lessons together. So that really small community makes it much easier for me to learn here.”
Petroski said the education program has also connected her with many networking opportunities in the local schools. She is thankful for her Thomas professors for helping her make those connections to local school teachers so she can observe their classrooms and gain opportunities for after graduation.
Petroski enthusiastically recommends studying abroad to other Thomas students.
“You should really, really try to go to a different country and experience a new culture,” she said. “It provides a whole new type of perspective on yourself, on your education, and what you want to do in your life.”
Petroski hopes to teach after graduation – and maybe even teach abroad someday.
“Going to a new place or trying something new is not about being fearless; it’s about being brave. You can be afraid when trying something new, but you should still try it. Take a chance.”