Kaitlyn Matheson always knew her future was in chiropractic. What she didn’t expect was that this passion would take her halfway across the globe.
Raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Kaitlyn attended St. Francis Xavier University and finished with a Bachelor of Science in Human Kinetics. After graduating in 2012, she kept an open mind as she carefully considered her next moves.
After attending a career information session in her hometown, Kaitlyn realized that she could further her education abroad and pursue international opportunities. She began looking into programs around the world, and one stood out in particular: the New Zealand College of Chiropractic in Auckland. With this destination in mind, Kaitlyn applied to the Doctor of Chiropractic program. Fortunately, she was accepted, and her international journey began!
Making a decision
Though Kaitlyn was a seasoned traveler, she had never lived this far from home for such a long period of time – a Doctor of Chiropractic degree usually takes four years to complete. Still, she was determined to follow her passion, seeking out the best opportunities that would allow her to balance both professional and personal growth.
New Zealand had always been a destination on Kaitlyn’s bucket list, so accepting a placement with one of the world’s top chiropractic colleges was an easy decision to make.
“The college was the main attraction, since this institution has trained some of the best chiropractors from around the world,” says Kaitlyn. “Also, traveling to New Zealand was always a dream of mine, so studying in an amazing place where I wanted to travel was a no brainer after I learned what the college had to offer.”
Having made her decision, it was time to prepare. She applied for her student visa and organized her funding options for her trip.
Moving to Auckland
In many ways, Auckland was very similar to Kaitlyn’s hometown back in Canada: small, welcoming, friendly, and surrounded by beautiful landscapes and nature. The college’s small size provided an accommodating atmosphere, and her close relationships with her peers helped Kaitlyn feel at home. In her first year, Kaitlyn lived with five other students before moving closer to the college where she currently lives with six of her peers.
“Living with others has its pros and cons,” says Kaitlyn. “But when you’re so far away from your family, it is great to have additional support around you.”
This familiarity helped Kaitlyn transition smoothly to life in New Zealand; in fact, she describes these classmates and housemates as people who became her adopted family. These relationships would be crucial in supporting Kaitlyn’s academic and personal life because, in her first few months abroad, Kaitlyn’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
A tough call
Kaitlyn is a firm believer in taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, so hearing that her mother was sick put her in a difficult position. She knew she’d have to make a decision about whether to return to Canada or remain in New Zealand and fulfill her dream.
“I knew if I didn’t follow my heart and dreams of being a chiropractor, it would affect my mother’s state of mind as well,” says Kaitlyn. “I knew that deciding to stay was a difficult choice, but there was nothing I could do if I went back home.”
Faced with this incredibly difficult decision, with her mother’s blessing, Kaitlyn bravely chose to stay at school and complete her semester. Fortunately, her new friends in New Zealand and her family back home helped her through these difficult times, giving her the strength and confidence to continue pursuing her dreams.
“The most important lesson I have learnt from traveling abroad is to take life as it comes, don’t hold yourself back and explore every opportunity,” says Kaitlyn. “Yes, sometimes it can be difficult to stick to your goals, but in the end it is worth following your dream, because it reconnects you to yourself and those who matter. Family and friends will always be there for you no matter how far away you are.”
For now, Kaitlyn is content to remain in New Zealand as she finishes her program and plans for the future. Once she graduates, she wants to begin working as a Chiropractic Associate but one day hopes to open her own business with her partner.
With the support of her new friends abroad and her family from back home, Kaitlyn continues to make the most of her opportunity abroad. She has made life-long friendships and has a new-found sense of independence that she credits to this incredible experience. Her mother also overcame her illness and is now cancer free.
“Studying abroad changed my life and it continues to help me grow,” says Kaitlyn, “Everyone should have this opportunity in life.”
“I’ve become the individual I had always aspired to be.”
Kaitlyn’s tips for students studying abroad:
- Be sure it’s the right program: Do extensive research on the school you wish to attend, the specific program to which you’re applying, and the support systems the institution offers its students.
- Be open-minded: Don’t shy away from new experiences! Immerse yourself in an unfamiliar culture by exploring what the city has to offer, participating in student activities, and meeting new people.
- Trust your gut feeling: If studying abroad is an experience that you feel is right for you, trust your instincts! If it’s something you really want, you are more likely to enjoy yourself.