Now, I know that the title sounds a little familiar. It is a set of lyrics from the iconic Broadway song “Defying Gravity” from the hit show “Wicked.” However, I want this final blog post to center around another number from the show. Specifically, the emotional ballad that is “For Good.” Prior to my time in New Zealand, I had a limited understanding of what this song meant. I only saw it as a sentimental song that people sang when they were moving on from something. I never thought that I would come to feel this song deeply about a place and a people. And yet, as I sit here, three days after returning to the United States, I feel the message of this song resonating loud and clear.

I feel this song because I feel the ideals of New Zealand. I feel the message of community and togetherness. I feel the care they hold for the environment. I feel the emphasis on fairness and doing what is best for the people. In feeling these things, I can’t help but have a strong emotional reaction anytime “For Good” comes up on my Broadway bangers playlist. To be specific, there is a line from the song that always makes me sentimental: “So let me say before we part, so much of me, is made of what I learned from you.” These 19 words sum up every feeling that I hold about New Zealand. Each individual lesson that this country taught me is something that will be carried for the rest of my life. Now, I could dive into everything I learned while in New Zealand, but that would be about as long as a doctoral dissertation. Instead, I will summarize these lessons in a couple paragraphs.

The first, and largest, lesson that I learned is to slow down and enjoy life while you are living it. In New Zealand, the pace of life is just slower. They prioritize time with family, time with friends, and time helping the environment rather than the constant grind of a 9-5 job. They understand that life is more than trying to have the nicest house, the nicest car, or the best clothes. It is, quite frankly, an entirely different mindset that sets New Zealand apart from nearly every other country in the world.

The second, and final, major lesson I learned is that the people you meet, sometimes by pure accident, can have a huge impact on your life. This New Zealand program is actually not my first time studying abroad through Alabama. In the summer of 2022, I studied abroad in Greece. It was an amazing experience and I loved every second of it. The people I met on that trip were amazing and I still talk to them to this day. However, my experience in New Zealand has been different. I found a group of people that I could genuinely see being very good friends with for many, many years to come. I found a trustworthy friend that I could tell absolutely anything to without fear of judgement. I found a perpetually happy person that seems to have some God given ability to brighten every single room she walks into. And finally, I found someone that I would consider like a brother to me, even after only three weeks of knowing him. It honestly feels like we have been friends for a decade. It’s strange to see how, within only a matter of weeks, you can grow to love and care for people you just met.

Ultimately, the song “For Good” is the only appropriate way to summarize what I feel about New Zealand and the people I met there. I know that it sounds a little corny, but bear with me for these last few sentences. I will leave you with one final set of lyrics from the song. I hope that these words can do justice to the greatest experience of my life. “You’ll be with me, like a handprint on my heart, and now whatever ways our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine, by being my friend.” In conclusion, all I have to say, is that it really was one really awesome south pacific adventure.