Michael Goetz

Major: B.S. Computer Science, 2015

Destination: Christchurch, New Zealand

Hometown: St. Charles, IL

Michael Goetz’s trip to the bottom of the world is helping him reach for the stars.

Goetz, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in Computer Science that includes a specialization in Artificial Intelligence and minors in Informatics and Astrophysics, participated in IU’s Overseas Studies program in 2013, visiting Christchurch, New Zealand. The impact of the trip still resonates with him to this day.

“It’s the highlight of my four years at IU,” Goetz says. “There’s nothing else like it. Getting to experience a new culture, no matter how similar or different it is, is great. Getting to see the habits of another culture or taste their food, going to different cultural events, is really eye-opening.”

Goetz used the time in New Zealand to close out his general education requirements, taking courses in forestry, political science, physics and astronomy. The classes were challenging—the focus on final exams, in particular, required an adjustment from Goetz—but it was the experiences outside the classroom that may have been more beneficial.

“It definitely gives you a bigger, global perspective on things,” Goetz says. “I lived with a Kiwi, a Malaysian, and two guys from India. We didn’t just talk about what was going on in sports or politics in the U.S. We had discussions about the political situation in Germany and Sweden and a bunch of other places. It widened your view. Sometimes you forget that there is more than just the U.S. (laughing). It has given me a bigger mindset on things.”

Traveling to New Zealand also helped Goetz mature. He learned to be more outgoing, and those around him noticed a difference after he returned.

“It matured me, no question,” Goetz says. “I didn’t have family or friends to fall back on. I also quickly learned that talking to a lot of people, especially locals, was immensely helpful. If I didn’t open up and ask random strangers things, I would have been lost. I definitely wouldn’t have done nearly as many things as I wanted to do.”

Not that Goetz was completely shut off from any support. He traveled to New Zealand with a group from the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES), which made his transition to the new culture a bit easier.

“The IES group gave me a support group,” Goetz says. “I did have a circle of friends right off the bat. We were all Americans, so we had that in common.”

Goetz enjoyed experiences he never imagined while growing up in St. Charles, Illinois. He was taught a haka—a traditional Maori war cry and dance—and was expected to perform it in a group regularly. He hitchhiked on the island, and studied in the shadows of mountains.

His time in New Zealand passed quickly.

“I was not ready to come back,” says Goetz, who spent just over four and a half months in New Zealand. “It’s so beautiful.”

Goetz may have left New Zealand, but the trip stays with him. The fact that he had studied abroad impressed potential employers.

“Being thrown into a new situation and being told to just get to work is what you’re going to face at any new job, and you’re on your own,” Goetz says. “That’s exactly what happens when you study abroad. Because of that overseas studies experience, you’re set to achieve more in terms of trying to find a job or an internship. It just leaves you better prepared for the challenges of the workplace.”

His experience in New Zealand helped Goetz land a job with Lockheed Martin, where he will work with NASA on developing the space program’s operating system.

“Mission control and the landing vehicles all run on the same operating system,” Goetz says. “My team is going to be maintaining and updating that.”

Goetz is just embarking on his career, but New Zealand will never be far from his mind.

“Because of that trip, I’m probably going to retire and die there,” Goetz says.

To learn more about the Overseas Education program, visit our Overseas Education site.