Brian: Celebrating my birthday whilst on exchange

Celebrating my birthday while on exchange

Four years ago, I started a tradition which I would do every year on the 23rd of October. That tradition was going up a mountain either before sunrise on the day of my birthday. It wasn’t until this year that I realized the significance of this activity or why I kept doing it for many years.

My tradition of climbing up a mountain started in my last year of high school. After having spent all day at the beach enjoying the company of long-term friends and newly formed friendships, we spontaneously decided to climb up a mountain in my hometown, Tauranga. I must admit, it wasn’t a unanimous decision to climb up, but I was afforded a ‘birthday card’ and so I played it. Despite having a long and tiring day, ultimately making it to the top of the mountain and enjoying the view of my city brought great fulfilment and joy within me. That fulfilment and joy became the inspiration to why I would continue to climb up a mountain every year.

At a mountain in Schwangau, Germany for my 19th birthday

Fast forward to this year, I’m now living and studying in China. I knew before I got accepted to my exchange programme that I’ll be in China for my birthday so, I researched many mountains I could climb when the day comes. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that my birthday would fall in the middle of exam season. I can say that I was disappointed but that is not entirely true. This year I may have broken my tradition, but I gained a realization.

In the previous years, I climbed mountains because of the ‘fulfilment’ and ‘joy’ it brought me. However, having broken my tradition made me realized that these states of mind were merely results of actions and events I never understood nor appreciated. It was not the view that made me feel great but the sense of achievement I’m bestowed for that long and tiring day.

This year, I am beyond lucky to have been accepted into Auckland University’s Global Business and Innovation Programme (GBI).  This opportunity allowed me to live and study in the United States as well as China. To say that this experience comes with a few challenges would be an understatement. As well as intellectually, it has tested our patience, our ability to be independent and our capability to make and sustain relationships with others.

At a hotpot restaurant with GBIs and other internationals

As I sat at a table at a hot pot restaurant surrounded by around 20 of my friends, many of whom have experienced the United States and China with me, I realized that this year, particularly this programme is my ‘longest and tiring day’. Though I may have not climbed a mountain, I received the greatest fulfilment and joy I have ever had. Having people whom I have shared many of the same events and challenges there with me was even more special. From figuring out our travel documents, helping each other from the difficulty of a particular class to being in a country that doesn’t speak the same language as we do, we have all gone through great obstacles together. These things and most importantly, the relationships I have formed is by far the highest mountain I have climbed and nicest of view I’ve ever seen this year.

Refusing to grow up with one of my best friends, Timi

I could not have wished for a better group of people to share the challenges and joy of studying abroad.


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