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The Month of Packing – Chapter 2: In transit to the North Island

Time December 1st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I started packing for my departure from Christchurch almost 20 days before I actually had to leave. I then had to repack for my south island excursion (see previous blog post). As I’ve probably said numerous times, I leave New Zealand on December 1st. What I didn’t know when I extended my stay was that my housing contract ended November 26th. So since I was getting kicked out of my flat anyway, I decided to fly up to Auckland and spend a couple of days at Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands.

 

When I was planning my North Island adventures I originally planned on hopping onto a bus after my flight got in and then stopping at Whangarei for a day and then heading up to Kerikeri, and then head back to Auckland for one night. However as I continued to pack I realized that not only would that involve several bus trips and more money, but I also would be travelling with two suit cases plus my carry on baggage. Then I started researching backpacker locations in Whangarei. That’s when I learned that the closest backpacker to the bus stop was about 3 kilometers (roughly 2 miles away). So eventually I decided just to go directly to Kerikeri for a couple of days. After all, I’m not exactly a city person and no offense to any kiwis but Auckland doesn’t seem all that great compared to the rest of New Zealand.

 

So my new plan: fly out of Christchurch at 11:50 AM and arrive in Auckland around 1:30 PM. The next bus to Kerikeri leaves the airport at 7:00 AM the next day. That gives me roughly 17 hours between when my flight arrives in Auckland and when my bus departs to Kerikeri. Any sane person would probably attempt to check into a hotel for the night, but it’s come to my attention that I definitely fulfil the cheap frugal college student stereotype. So I planned to hang out at the airport for 17 hours.

 

As of right now I’ve spent about 5 hours at the domestic terminal. On the plus side, there are 7 computers that allow you to access the internet for free. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one who wants to access the internet and feel bad for using the computers for long periods of time.

 

As any college student planning to spend 17 hours in an airport, I planned ahead and loaded my computer with seasons 1-5 of Grey’s Anatomy. Unfortunately, I planned a little too far in advance and watched all of season one and a good ¾ of season two before I even left Christchurch. Furthermore, in order to free up some more space on my computer I decided to delete the episodes off of my computer as I watched them. I finished watching season 2 and started to move onto season 3. That’s when I learned the video format of season 3 didn’t work on my computer…I tried season 4, and that also didn’t work…and no luck with season 5 either. So now I’ve started to rewatch seasons 1 and 2 of the big bang theory.

 

The next issue is that computers don’t hold their charge forever. After I finished off with Grey’s Anatomy, I did a couple of laps around the domestic terminal. And that’s when I learned that all of the electrical outlets within the domestic terminal aren’t located near seats. So here I sit on the ground waiting for my computer to come to a full charge before I can move on to an actual seating location. I’m starting to get a bit antsy.

 

Time passed and I started to get hungry. I decided to walk over to the domestic terminal at 7:00 pm. I had to walk through the sea of quinticential taxi drivers that thirst for customers outside of the Airport Terminals. That moment where 20 or so taxi drivers stare at you hoping that you pick them because they’re in need of work and you have way too many bags to be bothered with walking long distances. It’s actually really uncomfortable. The look the drivers gave me was almost similar to the look my residents get when an infant comes into the retirement home. It was nice to get out of the airport.

 

My options at the domestic terminal weren’t much better. I didn’t feel like paying 20 NZD for Chinese food so that left me with three options – McDonalds, KFC, and Subway. I hadn’t had KFC in a while and decided to take my chances. In hindsight it was a bad decision.

 

The awesome thing about the international terminal is that outlets are located numerous booths. So I settled in and continued to watch The Big Bang Theory.

 

I’ve started to get tired. I was thankful that I managed to pack my fuzzy blanket in my suitcase. I’ve curled up on the narrow booth with my laptop watching The Pursuit of Happiness. It’s a precarious situation since my laptop barely fits onto this booth but I think I will manage.

 

I dozed off somewhere during the course of The Pursuit of Happiness. Good news is that my computer managed to stay on the booth with me. I suppose this would be a good time to switch to my ipod for background music.

 

The international terminal starts to get busy around 4:30 AM. I awoke to the clanking of cups and hordes of groggy people that just got off their planes. I’m hungry, and extremely tired. I’m still in that state of sleep deprivation. I fight off sleep and hunger for a while longer. I’m waiting for the que at McDonalds to go down so I can get some pancakes.

 

5:30 AM and the line at McDonalds hasn’t decreased yet. More and more flights are arriving, or more and more people are arriving for their departing flight. I’m not exactly sure. I wait in line for the pancakes. It actually makes me miss diner food back in the states. It’s a beautiful day outside. I wait for the bus to take me to Kerikeri.

 

I arrive in Kerikeri around 12:30. A man on the bus offers me a ride to my hostel, but luckily I did my research and chose a backpacker really close to the bus stop. This backpacker is unlike any that I have been to while in New Zealand. Most of the people within this hostel are here for long term and are working in the orchards around Kerikeri. Also my lack of research may have gotten the best of me because many of the actual kayak tours are based in Paihia which is 23 kilomerters away. I actually really miss the south island, it’s definitely better in the south. However, I kind of happy that I decided to come to Kerikeri where not much goes on because it’s actually making me look forward to going home.

 

Things I have learned about myself while in Kerikeri. While I love travelling, I kind of hate lugging around heaps of luggage. Every time I need to get something out of my suitcase, I have to face the feat of unpacking and repacking again. It’s much too stressful. I’m ready to unpack and get rid of the suitcases. I also realized that I haven’t worked in more than 5 months and I kind of miss it, though ask me again in a week and I’ll probably be longing for a day off.

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The Month of Packing – Chapter 1: Final Christchurch Memories

Time November 29th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My original departure date from New Zealand was November 10. Technically I should be home right now but I couldn’t bring myself to leave that early – hence why I extended my stay until December 1. This was the last week as an IFSA group.

Saturday morning I had my second exam – New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity. Despite my last blog entry on procrastination I actually was able to study and felt confident going into the final. The exam questions from previous years were posted online and the questions pretty much remained consistent. When I wasn’t procrastinating, part of my studying actually included writing out essays to the questions asked on the previous exams. I didn’t feel like actually going to take the exam because it was a bit too early and the weather was sub par – another day of cold rain. The exam begins and I read over the questions – they changed the exam questions. The only question that I actually expected I didn’t study for because I could not cram in what seemed like a never-ending list of bird species into my head. At least I actually studied.

That afternoon was The Concert. You earned a ticket to The Concert by completing 4 hours of community service. Alyshia and I had volunteered at a New Brighton Beach park planting trees. We had a great time…and the 4 hours actually was an hour and a half of tree planting followed by a BBQ.  Transportation to and from The Concert via public transportation was also free. Sweet as. And to top it all off Katchafire (A NZ roots band) was scheduled to perform. I have obtained a significantly large collection of Kiwi music since I’ve been here…and it’s all pretty amazing. I looked forward to seeing Katchafire live, especially since a couple of Americans saw them earlier in the semester and absolutely loved the show.  So I no longer cared about the cold rain as I braced myself to stand outside for a couple hours (also I didn’t mention earlier that I had let my friend, Dylan, borrow my rainjacket for her Doubtful Sound trip). Despite the cold rainy weather, we actually had a great time at The Concert.

Unfortunately Sunday was devoted to studying for my last final – Freshwater Ecosystems. By this time, many of my friends had finished with their finals and I had started to enter into that period where you’ve been studying for far too long and need to do “normal” people things…aka not studying. Actually, this is when I first began packing because I needed to distract myself from studying.

My final on Monday didn’t start until 2:30 in the afternoon. So my morning was spent procrastinating and cramming in that last bit of studying before heading off to my exam. This exam was probably my most stressful exam out of the three. It consisted of writing five essays where you were supposed to include citations and figures from actual scientific literature. The difficult thing about this isn’t exactly citing the individual studies but I’m absolute rubbish when it comes to remembering dates and names – the two things required in a citation.  Oh well, I survived through my exam and a few of us went to the Fox and Ferret afterward to de-stress from the exam.

Tuesday morning we had coffee with Kylee. This was our last unofficial IFSA event…even though we had our farewell dinner. Earlier in the semester I entered into an IFSA photo competition on Facebook. And to my surprise I was now the winner of giant sheep canvas. I actually love it – however my suitcase does not.

 

The image that I now own on a large piece of canvas

Wednesday was devoted to laundry (what I thought would be my last laundry day, sadly I was mistaken). Then I met up with Alyshia and Dylan to go to Hells Pizza for lunch. Hells Pizza has a special called roulette, where they’ll place extremely hot hot-sauce on one piece of pizza however we don’t know which slice has the hot sauce. So we ordered two pizzas and asked for one of them to be rouletted. We each took a slice….phew we were each lucky for this round. Then the second slice…and still we were all lucky. So it was down to 2 more slices, one of them had to be the roulette piece. Dylan and I decided to go for it, and Alyshia got her camera ready to video the reaction. Our thoughts were racing…3…. Why did we order pizza that comes with a list of warnings…. 2… Man I hope Dylan has the roulette piece, I’m honestly thinking of chickening out….1… first bite down. Neither Dylan nor I were writhing on the ground. Maybe they hid it somewhere on the piece and we just haven’t found it yet. We cautiously continued to eat our pizza thinking one of us would hit the hot sauce at some point. When we reached the crust, Dylan believed that she thought she tasted hot sauce however it wasn’t that hot. Our second pizza had 2 slices left which we packaged up to take back with us.

Then we headed to the Botanical Gardens and Canterbury Museum. The gardens were beautiful – a complete change from when Alyshia and I went at the beginning of the semester during the wintertime.

The Fountain at the Christchurch Botanical Gardens

Dylan and I climbed a ginkgo tree at the Botanical Gardens

That night was the presidential election. I’ll confess that I didn’t vote in the election, but it was definitely interesting to observe the election from a foreign country. The campus bar actually had a viewing party… because with the time difference the announcement was actually around 6:30 pm here. Confession #2: I was actually taking a nap when I woke up to a text from my Namibian friend with New Zealand residency telling me that Obama won.

 

Thursday morning Alyshia and I hopped on a bus to go to the cbd to pick up sandwiches from Cheese Mongers. We had tried two times previously to get sandwiches from them, but each time they were out of bread. However third time’s a charm and we packed them up to go and headed out to Victoria Park. It was an absolutely beautiful day!

 

The view from where we ate lunch

 

My delicious Cheese Monger sandwich

Sheep with a view of Christchurch in the background

Then we decided to walk back. We came across a sign that pointed to Victoria Park. It indicated that it was a 30-minute walk back along the trail.

The point we realized we were a little lost

A couple of minutes later we came across this trail marker, indicating that Victoria park was located another 25 minutes in the direction we just came from. Either way we were on a trail that led into a neighbourhood so we decided to stick to the trail we were on and then attempt to find a bus stop that would take us back. Actually this was a better plan than trying to find our way back to Victoria Park because it eliminated one bus transfer.

We awoke early on Saturday morning to go to the Christchurch farmer’s market one last time. This was the first day that our favourite Posh Porridge would be making Posh Pancakes. I got a chocolate banana pancake and it was delicious but I definitely miss the porridge.

My Posh Pancake Breakfast

Back at Ilam, I finished up my packing for my final trip around the south island while everyone else finished packing up their rooms. We then piled up onto the already crowded bus with everyone’s luggage and headed off to the airport. It was difficult to say goodbye to everyone. We all felt as though we just got off the plane in Auckland, tired, cold and jetlagged and now we were saying our goodbyes. It was definitely a sad moment. Walking through Ilam was bizarre knowing that many of the rooms that once housed my friends were now empty. But I focused on my own packing as I had to catch the bus in the morning to Kaikoura.

 

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Desperate times call for desperate measures – procrastination during exams

Time November 2nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s time for final exams in New Zealand which ultimately implies terrible sleeping and eating habits brought on by the need to cram in every bit of information you were supposed to learn during the semester, mixed with heaps of procrastination. It is currently a Friday night, a gorgeous 20 degrees (~70 degrees Fahrenheit), and I’ve found myself inside again studying….except I’m currently procrastinating – I’m listening to a lecture in the background so that counts right?

I’ve currently had one out of three final exams. This was my easiest final as it was for my 100 level class – Antarctica: life in the cold. Exams are heaps more strict in  NZ than at my home uni. For instance you have to leave all of your bags at the front of this large lecture theatre. The only things you can bring to your seat are pens/pencils, rubbers (or erasers), a bottle of juice or water, and your student ID. You are not allowed to leave the room for the first hour of the exam, and you cannot leave within the last 15 minutes. If your phone happens to ring during the exam you can be fined up to $120.

My final didn’t start until 2:30, so I spent the morning studying and got a nice lunch before going into the exam. There were heaps of people waiting to go into the exam room. On your way in to the room they handed you a seating card. This is where I learned that the exam room would not only hold people from my antarctic studies class, but also some random Spanish class. I looked at my card and saw 17, well what do you know the first seat I looked  at was A17. I figured they just forgot the A part and that each seat was labeled as a different number. Nope I sat down and waited for 2:30 to come to start taking my exam. And then another student approaches me, asking if I’m in the right seat. I look down at the exam in front of me – SPANISH final exam….yeah definitely in the wrong seat. I looked at my seating card again and saw that my seat was not 17, but I7. An honest mistake.  The exam wasn’t too difficult. As a measure of how much I need to study, I calculate what I need to earn on the exam in order to achieve the desired grade. In order to pass I needed to achieve a 14% – I could probably do that without studying.

The other interesting thing about final exams in New Zealand is that there is an exorbitant amount of time to study. The university devotes an entire week for studying, no classes, no exams. And then the exams are held over 3 weeks. I don’t think I have ever devoted this much time to studying for final exams, but since exams are worth 50% of your final grade it seems kind of necessary. Hence why I’m here writing this blog entry to avoid studying because it seems as though I’ve spent the past two weeks studying.

Tomorrow morning I have my New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity exam (I also need a 14% to pass). So here I am, sitting in the common area, finding another way to procrastinate that doesn’t use much internet because I’ve almost used up my 2 GB of uni wifi for the month, which doesn’t refresh until November 5. If you ever find yourself in need of wifi in Christchurch, you can access free wifi at the public libraries. Some cafes also have free wifi, but it’s not custom in NZ to go to a cafe and hang out for hours and hours on end.

Alright – time to get back to studying.

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The end…well almost.

Time October 24th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So as most students in the United States are recovering from mid term exams, I’m stuck inside the main library at Canterbury attempting to accomplish some final exam studying. To be honest, I’m not exactly studying but rather browsing the internet. I also just happened to check the weather and it’s a beautiful 21ºC or 70ºF, so that’s not exactly helping with the motivation factor. But I told myself that if I finish this blog entry (because printing 3 documents does not count as an accomplishment) I can go outside and enjoy the sunshine and beautiful spring weather.

It’s bizarre to think about how last week was my final week of classes in New Zealand, but it definitely went out with a bang.  While Friday was technically still a day for lectures, most students attended Tea Party. This is an all day, end of year celebration with a couple Kiwi bands and some DJs mixed in. Kiwis also do not celebrate Halloween, however they tend to make any excuse to dress up in costumes. Since I didn’t bring my go to sailor costume did not make it into my suitcase, I had to come up with a new idea. With my red hair, pale skin, and freckles I became Ginger Bread. Ginger in regards to a person with these qualities is pronounced differently than it’s food namesake. The “ging” is said like the word “sing”. The costume was great until my bread backpack got a little soggy and someone ate the ginger off of my headband. Actually the day was sweet as.

 

Unfortunately this is the only picture I have from Tea Party

(Sidenote: “sweet as” is a slang term in New Zealand, it means cool or awesome) (Sidenote 2: you can also add the word as to the end of any adjective. For example: My ancestors were brave as when they got on the boat to travel to New Zealand.)

 

For those that know me, I am quite the klutz. I was actually surprised that it took me this long to injure myself while in New Zealand. And while my cover story is that I mucked up my foot saving a puppy from an avalanche, I really only just fell down the stairs. Other injury of the day: a severely burnt tongue, which after a week has still not fully recovered.

 

Canterbury has a study week before the commencement of the final exam period. So like any good student we (Alyshia, Dylan, and I) decided to study, and by study we hopped on a plane to Wellington, the capitol of New Zealand. We had to alter some of our plans since I was crutch bound for the week – but in reality we didn’t have any plans for what we were going to do while in Wellington. We checked into the backpackers around 7:30 pm on Monday and immediately set out for a grocery store. After we settled into the backpacker, we headed out to an Irish pub to get some snacks and to relax after our day of travels.

 

The next morning we decided to take the cable car to the botanical gardens. We walked around/I gimped around the botanical gardens and we eventually ended up at a free shuttle to Zealandia, a protected wildlife restoration project. At this point I was kind of exhausted from our stroll around the botanical gardens but the shuttle man mentioned that I could borrow a mobility scooter. Sweet as! The day got better when we found out that we got both exhibits for $10 because Tuesdays are special student days. Even better! The staff members showed us a map and pointed out a few trails that we needed avoid because of the scooter. The trails in the park were initially paved and eventually led to some gravel trails and then things started to get a little questionable to the point where I felt as though I were off-roading in a motorized scooter. The photos Dylan took are possibly some of my favorites from New Zealand.

 

Disclaimer: This is a posed picture, we did not take the scooter on this track

How to experience New Zealand

After our Zealandia adventures, we headed off to the Beehive where parliament is located.  We toured around the city for a bit more and headed back to the hostel to prepare the traditional dinner of pasta with vegetables and cheese where we then hung out in the common room meeting a few more backpacker guests.

 

The next morning the weather wasn’t exactly optimal hang outdoor weather, so we headed over to Te Papa, a free museum. The selling point was actually the price, but we actually wound up spending a good bit of the day there. We walked around the harbour where I pulled off some sweet as hopscotch skills (See video). As it was now our last night in Wellington, we decided to go to some of the clubs within the city. We had a great time dancing, and I refreshed my memory as to why I shouldn’t play pool.

Hopscotch

 

On Thursday we had to repack our things and head back to the airport. The issue was that we all booked our flights at different times, leading to us all departing at different points in the day. The cheapest thing for us to do was to head as a group to the airport and split the taxi fare. Thus leading to Dylan and I spending the entire day in the Wellington airport. I was thankful to have picked up the book “Ice Station” at the backpacker.

 

Friday morning we had our last IFSA event – the farewell dinner. While it was titled “Dinner” in reality it was an all day chocolate tasting tour at She Chocolat. I definitely got my chocolate fix in for a few months. It was a wonderful event, however it was somewhat shocking because it meant that our study abroad experience was coming to an end. We nominated each other for awards. I received – best dressed, most adorable, and best and worst party trick.

 

Natalie, Holly, and I at the balcony of She Chocolat

Chocolate Fondue!

Cocoa Beans, which are actually yummy by themselves!

It’s difficult to think about going back to the states because New Zealand has been my home for the past four and a half months. I am so happy that I decided to extend my stay until December 1st, and I wish I could extend it for even longer

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Adventure Weekend – A Series of Unfortunate Events

Time October 22nd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Throughout the semester, IFSA organizes different programs for us to attend. So Kylie planned an Adventure weekend for us Canterbury students. I was really looking forward to the weekend and figured it would run smoothly since I essentially had to show up. However that was not the case. This will be the recollection of possibly the worst weekend I’ve had in New Zealand.

The plan was to meet at 7:00 am on Saturday morning. So while most people decided to stay in on Friday night, Dylan and I decided to go to a climbing club party. The party was great, however Saturday morning I was just slightly dehydrated and very much sleep deprived (Unfortunate Event #1). I groggily turned on my hair straightener, and started fixing my hair when I noticed it was just a bit too hot. However I just kept going, that is until the straightener started to burn my hair which eventually lead to my straightener shorting out (Unfortunate Event #2). So with a crazy hairdo I ran to meet the IFSA group.

We boarded a train that would take us through Arthur’s Pass and to the West Coast. The early morning wakeup meant that none of us ate breakfast and we were very much thankful that Kylie, our SSC, brought muffins and other various snacks. We stopped at Greymouth for some lunch at a cafe and then all boarded into a van to head up to Punakaiki. Roads in New Zealand aren’t exactly like most roads in the states. They are very narrow curvy roads that are anything but flat. Essentially it’s like you’re riding a roller coaster the whole time. The drive gets interesting when you get a strong wind that tries to knock your car off the road. Needless to say, this ride to Punakaiki had us all feeling quite car sick (Unfortunate Event #3).

The plan for the rest of the day was to visit the pancake rocks and then go tramping (aka hiking). I decided to wear my glasses for the train ride and change into contacts before we went tramping. I brought one pair of contacts with me on this weekend trip figuring that’s all I would need. So while I was fighting off car sickness I attempted to put contacts in my eye. I thought I successfully managed to get my contacts in, with just a slightly uncomfortable right contact. So I battled through the rest of the day with a slight pain in my right eye. We had a great time walking around the Pancake rocks and then enjoyed the tramp/partial rock climbing along the coast.

The Pancake Rocks

A natural bridge at the Pancacke Rocks

 

Some sweet as patches of algae!

The end point of our tramp

When we got back to the hostel we were all quite eager for dinner. The plan was to get some fish and chips from the nearby pub, but as a vegetarian I had to go and pick out another option. I made the decision to take out my contacts and switch back to glasses. This is when I learned that the pain in my right eye was linked to the missing right eye contact. So I was left with one contact for two eyes (Unfortunate Event #4). I wasn’t too upset. I had a great time tramping and I still had my glasses so I could still see. As we walked to pick up dinner the sun had started to set and it was quite windy but not raining. However, when we left with the takeaway to bring back to the hostel it was down pouring. I silently told myself, “welcome to the West Coast.” The rain prompted the group to start running back. Since I don’t own a pair of glasses with windshield wipers, I decided to take my glasses off and put them in my pocket. Everything was going fine until I heard something hit the pavement, and realized my glasses were no longer in my pocket. At this point the sun had set, it was raining and now I have a pair of glasses in the middle of the road. So I started the search for my glasses and I eventually found them… with my feet. Unfortunate Event #5 –  I now had broken glasses. I could still wear them since it was only the one ear piece that fell off, but they didn’t exactly stay on my head. I was upset, but I wasn’t too disappointed since I only spent about $20 on them. It also helps that can still manage without my glasses, but I still prefer having good vision.

After dinner we headed out again to visit a nearby cave to see some glow worms. The walk in the rain was slightly miserable but at least the cave provided some shelter. It was definitely a cool experience. We walked into the cave and once situated, had to shut off our headlamps. There we stood silently in the dark searching for glow worms. It didn’t take long as we soon found patches of cave that looked like a bizarrely colored night sky.

When we woke up the next morning, we graciously welcomed the currently sunny conditions as we made our way over to kayak. This was the part of the weekend that I was most looking forward to. We dawned some wetsuits and each hoped in a kayak and by this point I was still upset with the series of unfortunate events, but It didn’t matter. I was finally in a kayak enjoying the beautiful, slightly blurry scenery of New Zealand. This blog post may make it seem as though I didn’t enjoy the weekend however, it was still a great weekend. The burnt hair will eventually grow out, and I can replace my straighter and glasses, and I can still see since I have enough contacts. Thanks Mom for your generous shipment of some extra pairs of contacts!

 

 

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Spring Break: Southern Hemisphere Style

Time October 8th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Okay so I must admit, the laid-back kiwi lifestyle may have gotten to my head a little bit. It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my New Zealand life so today’s the day where I attempt to get on top of everything and actually get something accomplished. So here we go, 1 much needed blog out of the four that I have lined up for now.

It’s still weird to think that seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite. So as most of my friends prepared to start their fall semester back in the states, I was getting ready to go on a spring break road trip.

I had made “plans” with another IFSA student, Alyshia, to go on a road trip for the first week of spring break. Essentially we kept making plans to make plans, which always turned out to be getting Indian food as we stared blankly at a map of New Zealand. Making plans with two indecisive people is difficult, and after we randomly pointed out places on the South Island we would give up as we wouldeventually figure it out.

…And then time ran out and break was going to start that weekend so we actually had to plan something.

Our plan: Rent a car and do a “road trip” around the south island. We would leave from Christchurch and head up through Arthurs Pass, Stop at Hokitika, then stop at Franz Joseph to see the glaciers, then queenstown, and then Dunedin, with a pit stop in Christchurch, and then Kaikoura. We borrowed a tent from one of Alyshia’s flatmates and planned to spend half of our nights camping, and others in backpackers in order to shower.

So Saturday morning comes around and Alyshia and I head out to the Airport to pick up the car. At this point it’s been a couple of months since either of us have been behind the wheel of a car so we were both a little nervous, especially since the driver’s side is on the right side of the car and you drive on the left side of the road in New Zealand. We figured we’d get used to it eventually. We depart from the rental company, thankful that they provided us with a map as we were very ill prepared and then we hit our first round about. As a pedestrian, round abouts in Christchurch basically make you fear for your life. The fear definitely escalates when you’re behind the wheel of the car. But we eventually made it out of Christchurch and out into the countryside. We stopped at a grocery store to stock up on some food for the week, aka peanutbutter sandwich supplies, chips, and candy (or as they say in NZ lollies).

We eventually made it to Arthur’s Pass and found our first campsite that allowed free camping. We walked around for a bit because it was still light outside and started getting attacked by sandflies (the NZ equivalent of mosquitos)…and then came the Kea. For those of you who may not know me to well, birds and I just DO NOT mix. In other words, I hate birds. Kea are a beautiful alpine parrot. Kiwis say that they’re a really inquisitive smart bird. This really means that they’re really annoying and will attempt to go through all of your stuff. So as we prepared to set up camp for the night we had to “battle” this kea from going through our trunk and attacking the roof rack of our rental car. But kea are also protected so you can’t really legally do anything. So we did our best to ignore the bird and the sandflies as we set up camp. We found a “great” spot, cleared the twigs/rocks away and started setting up the tent when we realized that the tent we borrowed did not contain the poles for the tent. The sun started to set and it definitely became colder. We eventually gave up with trying to put up this tent, and got back in the car to drive into Arthur’s Pass village to find a backpacker for the night. We made ourselves some dinner, which consisted of grilled peanutbutter and nutella sandwiches, and then we were bored. Neither of us came prepared with any sort of entertainment. Luckily the backpacker supplies some board games, which really consisted of Connect 4 and Checkers. That’s when Alyshia and I realized that this was going to be a long road trip. There was a group of guys playing monopoly and we figured they were having a good time as there was an empty bottle of vodka, and quite a few empty beer bottles. They weren’t speaking in english, so Alyshia and I created the new game of “Figure out where they’re from”. We failed, eventually we met Michal who told us that they’re a group of civil engineers from the Czech Republic/Poland working in Christchurch. Michal told us of his plans to hike “Avalanche Peak” in the morning and tried to convince Alyshia and I to go with him and his friends. We kindly declined the situation since it’s more of a climb than a hike and requires actual avalanche skills, a feat Alyshia and I definitely weren’t up to tackle. The next morning Alyshia and I completed a couple of nice hikes around Arthur’s Pass when it started to rain. We stopped at the DOC  office (Department of Conservation) to check the weather forecast for the rest of the day and realized the weather wasn’t going to improve any time soon. We had planned to complete another small hike but it was quite exposed to the elements and we knew the weather would just get worse with the change in altitude so we decided to move on with our road trip.

We altered our road trip itinerary to check out Greymouth, a town along the north west coast of the South Island. We took the “tourist route” which didn’t really have any touristy qualities, unless you consider endless sheep/cow paddocks to be touristy. Eventually we made it to Greymouth, where the weather was colder and more wet than it was in Arthurs Pass. The town also seemed pretty dead, especially for a Sunday. We walked around a bit until we were especially cold and decided to grab some coffee. I’ll admit, I’m still not used to the style of coffee here in New Zealand. They don’t have “filter coffee” at most shops unless you’re lucky enough to find a Starbucks. Anyway they served us “coffee” which is not what I would call it, and disappointed we made our way back to the car to head off to Hokitika.

The weather still hadn’t improved by the time we made it to Hokitika, and this town seemed to be more of a ghost town than Greymouth. We made a pit stop at the grocery store to pick up some playing cards and some actual food. We really weren’t impressed, and had no idea what we would do for the rest of the night so we changed plans again and decided to head straight to the glaciers. The rain had definitely started to effect our spirits, but we looked forward to an actual hot meal. We chose our backpacker in Franz Joseph based off of the “Free Internet” sign. We even lucked out, because we were placed in a room by ourselves. We settled in our room, and decided to pick out some videos to entertain ourselves for the rest of the night. We met Nick, and Laura who met each other in China and decided to take a trip to New Zealand before they returned to England and Colorado. Alyshia and I figured that it would still be raining the next morning but would man up and do some hikes around the glaciers. Luckily it was absolutely gorgeous out so we decided to spend another day at the hostel in Franz Joseph so that we could really enjoy ourselves.

The next morning, we headed down to Queenstown. This was Alyshia’s first time in Queenstown. The last time I was there we stayed at Base Backpackers, which is notoriously known as a party backpacker. I knew Alyshia and I wanted to be able to sleep so I made the suggestion to stay at a place further from the town center. We saw a banner for a pub crawl titled “Big Night Out”. We had a great time dancing at the different bars. Alyshia and I also learned that we were essentially the only females in Queenstown. This observation might have swayed our decision stay in Queenstown for a second night. The next morning we walked around the lake and went up to skyline again. We cooked ourselves some dinner and decided to do our own pub crawl. We started at the same bar as “Big Night Out’ and there we met quite a few Aussies. Apparently all of the Aussies come over to NZ to ski because they can’t in Australia, and New Zealand is cheap as. So this group of 14 Australian men ages between 30 and 45 decided to take Alyshia and I under their wings for the night. We had a great time on this pub crawl with the Aussies. I do feel the need to throw in a note on safety here: if you are two females drinking with a group of men whom you just met be careful and watch each other’s back. If you feel uncomfortable leave. The bars should all have bouncers who would be very much willing to help if things somehow go wrong. Luckily for us we met a sweet as group of Aussies who were extremely nice the whole night.

The next morning we groggily woke up to head out to Dunedin. It was definitely a long drive, and then BAM we were in the city of Dunedin. Up until this point we were mainly used to country driving. The towns we had visited were pretty small and easily navigable. Dunedin was definitely city driving – stressful and confusing. I must also add that not only do you drive on the left side of the road, and sit on the right side of the car, but the turn signal and windshield wipers are also located on different sides of the steering wheel than what they are in the states. This makes for some confusing as driving. As I drove around Dunedin, not knowing where we were going at all, and confused with the city traffic I decided that it would just be better to hit both. I might confuse the other drivers because it was extremely nice out, but at least they would know what direction I was heading (hopefully). After a long search for parking, we eventually got to settle into our backpacker. We also had free wifi at this place and definitely took advantage of it to tell our families that we were still alive. A group of IFSA students from Otago posted pictures from this hike they did to the organ pipes. Their pictures were gorgeous so we decided we also wanted to go there. We looked up some rough directions online and figured there would be signs along the way. Nope we definitely got lost but we eventually made it. The hike in was nice, and then we got to “the organ pipes” which really was a rock fall of columnar basalt. Being young determined college kids we began our ascent, figuring “if the Dunedin kids did it we can do it.” So we started climbing, which was fun, and the views were awesome….but then we had to climb back down, which wasn’t as easy.  We had really good cell reception and kept joking about calling Kylie, our SSC, or the IFSA emergency number to come save us from the top of the organ pipes but didn’t want to get a lecture about not registering our hike with DOC.  So we put on some Backstreet Boys to distract us on the way down and were happy to be back on flat level land.We hopped back in our car to drive around the Otago penninsula where we could see some Albatross, Penguins, Sea Lions, and Seals. And that’s when we learned that most of the routes down to the beaches were closed for construction. Disappointed we headed back to the backpacker to get cleaned up a bit, and head over to Speights Brewery for a tour. It was definitely a great tour, and you get your moneys worth because at the end they give you half an hour for tasting. Essentially, you have half an hour to taste as many beers as many times as you want. Sweet as. We then met up with Kina and Bethany, two IFSA students studying at Otago, for dinner.  The next morning we checked out of our hostel and went on the Cadbury factory tour. We got to taste a lot of chocholate which was nice but it was definitely aimed at tourists. Overall, I would go on the Speights Brewery tour again, but I would not do the Cadbury tour.

At this point, our original plan was to drive back to Christchurch for a pit stop before we headed to Kaikoura. Unfortunately…or fortunately (I’m still not really sure) or lack of planning allowed for some quick edits as we made our way back to Queenstown for another night on the town. We hoped to meet some cool Aussies again, however Queenstown on a weekend is definitely different than Queenstown during the week. Nevertheless we still had a great time.

The next morning we headed back to Christchurch to return the car. Overall it was a great road trip. Another tip, if you plan on doing a road trip around New Zealand bring an ipod adapter for the car. A lot of NZ is unpopulated, meaning that you’ll mostly get static on the radio. At a low point of the trip, Alyshia and I  definitely had a dance party to some radio static…this was before we figured out that we could just play music off of our ipods and have terrible sound quality.

My road trip with Alyshia came to an earlier end than what I would have liked, but unfortunately the second week of break was devoted to Freshwater Ecosystems. Science courses at my home uni have weekly labs in which you cover all of the basic laboratory skills for that specific field. However, the University of Canterbury has a slightly different structure for labwork since you cannot exactly fit in all the necessary lab skills in an urban setting. So since there aren’t any lectures for two weeks, my freshwater ecosystems course constructed a week long lab trip to the Cass field station located near Arthur’s Pass.

To be honest, one of the things I’ve been missing about my home university is the Science Building. There I’m essentially in my “natural habitat”. I get to be a huge science nerd which is awesome. This week was nice in that I finally got to be a science nerd, but it was definitely an intense week.

Fitting in a weeks worth of lab skills is extremely difficult, especially when you’re dealing with what I consider a pretty large class size. While the trip was exhausting, both mentally and physically, it was definitely worth it. My class is definitely closer now that we had to suffer though basically a week of no sleep.

The awesome parts of the trip were learning about electric fishing and spotlighting. We got to see a lot of the NZ fish species because of electric fishing. I think my favorite NZ fish species is the Koaro.  And spotlighting is probably one of the most ridiculous activities. The NZ native fish fauna are pretty tame. So at night, you can go spotlighting for fish. In other words you walk along this stream with giant spotlights looking for fish, and you can easily catch them because they freeze like a deer in the headlights.

 

 

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Taking risks like Batman…well almost

Time July 30th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Tonight is a night for productivity. I’m currently sitting in the old common room of Ilam Village waiting for six 50-minute lectures to save onto my desktop. I just finished one of my first online quizzes for my New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity class.  Once these files save, I will move on to another online quiz for Freshwater Ecosystems. In the meantime, I figured I would be slightly productive and update the virtual world on my New Zealand life.

 

First off, I am still not used to having so much free time at my disposal. At first it was a shocker, but the upside is that I actually have time to cook meals for myself. I have the time to walk to the grocery store, buy fresh vegetables, prepare, and consume them before they turn rotten. Plus all of that walking means I don’t have to spend $70 NZD on a gym membership.

 

A bunch of us wanted to see the new Batman movie, so we decided to head to the theatre on Tuesday since that’s when they offer a discount student price. I asked my flatmates about the policy of sneaking snacks into the movies. And that sparked the whole conversation of the procedure of buying a movie ticket in New Zealand. Apparently Tuesday is an extremely popular day to go to the movies, especially because “there is nothing to do in Christchurch” (quoted by one of my flatmates). However, you can’t just show up 5 minutes before the movie starts to buy a ticket because movie theatres have assigned seating, which is kind of nice if you’re indecisive, but I really enjoy picking my seat at the movies. Our seats were a little too close to the screen, but nonetheless the movie was AMAZING.

 

Kayak rolling class was cancelled this week since they didn’t have enough people sign up, but hopefully I will be able to go again soon. Needless to say I still had a very eventful weekend. At the University of Canterbury new student orientation, there was a speaker named Gary from Hello New Zealand! He organizes tours around New Zealand. So a few of us decided to tag along on the trip to Queenstown. The ride was gorgeous! We stopped at a few scenic places along the way including Lake Tekapo, and Lake Pukaki where we saw an amazing view of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. I tried to take as many pictures throughout the trip but I cannot help but feel as though they really do not capture the true beauty of New Zealand.

 

We arrived in Queenstown around 7:30 pm and checked into Base Backpacker (like a hostel) for two nights. We were given free time on Friday to explore the town where we grabbed a much needed dinner at this quaint place that was reasonably priced, and then hit a pub for some delicious New Zealand beer. I still consider myself to be in the sampling phase when it comes to beer but I can’t really complain because even the “low quality” beer here is far superior to cheap beer in The States. (Side note: In New Zealand, kiwis (or New Zealanders) refer to The United States of America as simply “The States” which is one slang type word that I have easily picked up).

 

A picture of me at Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Pukaki and a view of Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand.

The sun is starting to set over Lake Pukaki

On Saturday, we woke up super early (7:15 am) for breakfast, which we happily ate and then returned back to our bunks for a much-needed powernap. There weren’t any scheduled activities until 11:15 so I headed off by myself to explore Queenstown. The sun had already set by the time we arrived at Queenstown the previous night so I was absolutely shocked by how gorgeous the city was during the day. I meandered along until I found an artisans market by the lake. Everything was a bit out of my price range, but it was a really fun atmosphere. While exploring I found a Salvation Army Store and headed in to find my very own New Zealand wool hat for $8 NZD, which is much better than the $40+ NZD they ask for brand new hats. My exploring time had ended, and I had to head back to the backpackers to meet with the group to organize (take a nice calm relaxing breath) bungy jumping! I jumped the Kawarau Bridge Bungy. As described in the brochure: “The historic Kawarau Bridge is home of Bungy pioneers AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch’s first commercial Bungy site. It was here in 1988 that the Bungy phenomenon began. 43m above the stunning Kawarau River, this Bungy Jump is still the most popular Bungy in New Zealand, attracting thousands of thrill-seekers and spectators every year.”

 

The Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump

Excitement started to build as we boarded the bus for a 20-minute drive to the jump site. We then had to sign our life away, get weighed, and then line up to jump. My friend, David, went first while I recorded his jump. Then there was no more delaying; I had to finally volunteer. As I walked up to the bridge I started to become nervous, but I just brushed it aside as I tried to sound confident as I chatted with Ryan while he set up my harness. Then I had to stand up and wiggle my way to the edge of the platform and that is when it all suddenly became real. I was standing 43 meters (~141 feet) above a rocky river where I couldn’t help but hear my mother’s voice ring through my ears, “Well would you follow them if they all decided to go jump off a bridge?” I guess we finally got the answer. It took a little coaxing. The fact that it cost a nonrefundable $150 NZD helped with motivation. I definitely didn’t jump on the first count of three, or the second count either, but third time’s a charm and I found myself falling. It was a crazy, amazing, breathtaking feeling. And the first thought that came through my mind was, “man I spend a lot of time upside down in New Zealand.” I’m sure the people reading this are probably thinking, “That girl is crazy!” But yes I would jump again, and yes I definitely recommend bungy jumping at least once!

 

The proof that I actually jumped.

When I was finally right side up again, I realized just how hungry I was. When you go bungy jumping you shouldn’t have anything in your stomach, so the last thing I ate was two pieces of toast at 7:30 am and it was now almost 3:00 pm. When we made it back to Queenstown, we stopped in at Fergburger, a really famous burger joint. I got the “Bun Laden” which is comprised of Falafel patties dressed with lemon yoghurt and chipotle chilli sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber, avocado & aioli. It was delicious and definitely hit the spot as we made our way up to the gondola.

Bun Laden from Fergburger

The gondola takes you up the mountain to Skyline where you can see a beautiful view of Queenstown. There’s an optional luge activity that you can choose to add with the gondola ride. I took off from the start of the course and started to gain a lot of speed when I came upon the first actual turn. I soon discovered that the luge cart doesn’t have a great turning radius and I wiped out. It took a bit to get the luge cart back on course and from there I literally went at a snails pace.

The view of Queenstown from Skyline

It was around dinner time when we finally came back down. We texted Gary to see if there were any plans for the evening. We wound up meeting him at this restaurant called “Prime” which has some decent early bird (before 6:30 pm) dinner specials. When we finished, we then had to decide what to for the rest of the night, but since we were really tired from our activities we decided to hang out in the backpacker’s tv room where some people had rented the movie “Hostel”. The movie is a horror movie and as a quick summary: Three guys decide to go backpacking in Europe where at this one hostel they find out that if they go to this one area they can meet a lot of women, instead these women lure the guys away one by one where they get tortured and killed by this group of people. Not exactly a good bedtime movie that you want to watch while staying in a backpacker. The backpacker had a computer room, so I coughed up 4 NZD for one hour of internet where I checked my email and facebook, and then proceeded to watch corgi videos until my time ran out.

 

On Sunday I woke up even earlier in order to head to the pier to watch the sun rise. It seems as though whenever I plan to see a sunrise it’s always cloudy. Nonetheless, it was still beautiful. I then packed up all my belongings in order to board the bus back to Christchurch. We stopped at the lake at Wanaka on the way home, and then moved on to Puzzling World. We didn’t feel like paying the entry fee but the lobby had a lot of mind puzzles to do while we waited for everyone else. The bus ride home was relatively quite since everyone was tired out from the eventful weekend.

 

The lake at Wanaka

Mount Cook on our return journey. Notice the heavy cloud cover to the west.

While I resisted the urge to crawl into bed and fall asleep, I unpacked my bags and then repacked them with my uni supplies (or school supplies) and found myself in the Old Common Room. My files have finished saving, so I supposed I should move onto my online quiz for Freshwater Ecosystems.

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“It’s starting to get beautiful now”

Time July 24th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I made it through my first week of classes (cue applause). I enjoy my courses for the most part, but it is taking a bit of time to get used to the course structure here. At home I’m used to set times for classes, for example: you meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00-9:50, or Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00-11:35.  That is definitely not the case here. My Antarctica class meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. My Freshwater Ecosystems class meets Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. And my New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity class only meets on Mondays and Fridays. The sessions for each class also don’t meet at the same time every day so it’s kind of awkward and a little difficult to get used to. Class sizes are also another big adjustment. Susquehanna has a student body of about 2,000 students. UC has between 15,000 and 20,000. Fortunately, it seems as though I have “small” classes. The other annoying thing is internet usage. Free wifi essentially doesn’t exist. Instead of paying monthly fees for unlimited internet usage, you pay by data usage. So if you want to watch movies (or watch your recorded lectures) or even skype your family and friends at home, you’ll eat up your internet quite quickly.

Now that I’ve gotten some complaining out of the way, on to the other things I’ve been doing. The first class I had in New Zealand was Antarctica: Life in the Cold. And it has definitely been living up to my expectations. That night we went to an orientation event where we were given free pizza (what college student doesn’t love free food??). According to some Kiwis, “American Pizza” doesn’t exist in New Zealand. In other words, if you’re trying to find a plain cheese pizza, you’re out of luck. Either way, “New Zealand” pizza is still delicious.

I think I’m really going to enjoy my Tuesdays. The only class I have on Tuesdays is Freshwater Ecosystems, which is an 8:00 class. As I headed back to my flat to drop off my books, there was a free waffle stand. Unable to turn down the free food, I filled up on breakfast and met up with another IFSA Butler student, Alyshia. We caught a bus into Hagley Park and toured the Botanical Gardens (or what was opened of them). It’s a really nice place to walk around. I kind of compared it to Central Park in New York City, but this one is better. Once we got done exploring the park we realized it was only about 10:30. So we decided to catch another bus into the Central City where we walked around the Red Zone. The Red Zone is an area of the Central City that has been closed off from public access because it was heavily impacted by the February 2011 earthquake.

The more time I spend in Christchurch, the more I realize what an impact the February 2011 earthquake had on this city. For example, I bought a cheap fruit bowl at this place called “The Warehouse” and the cashier told me about how the earthquake destroyed her beautiful china fruit bowl that had dolphins on it that she wanted to pass down to her kids. Walking around the red zone was such a moving and humbling experience. It was one of those moments where you don’t realize how bad something is until you put yourself in the middle of it.

The Christchurch Cathedral

 

After we finished walking around the Red Zone, we hopped on our bus to go to a place called DressSmart. We saw an add on one of the buses and figured we should make our way there. When we arrived we celebrated our luck in successful navigation of the bus system. We shopped around a bit. I bought a black scarf and a red hat to wear to the Christchurch Crusaders Rugby game that we are going to this weekend.

And then we had to make our way back to UC. We don’t exactly know the bus routes around Christchurch, and we were pretty far away from UC. So we just hopped on a bus that said it was going to the city and figured if it went past where we had to get off then awesome, but it wouldn’t be a big deal if it went back to the center city terminal since we weren’t in a rush to get back. Well, we made it back eventually. The bus turned out to be a local bus so it went through all of the small neighborhoods and took quite a while. It was still early (only about 1:30) so we grabbed our books and headed for a bite to eat at the Greek place on campus and then spent some time in the library.

Tuesday night was a “Night Market” but essentially a club night where we got to sign up to participate in different clubs. I signed up for Cake club, a volunteer club, tramping club, and a snowboarding club (don’t worry mom: we only signed up to submerge ourselves in the kiwi culture).  We then headed back to the Ilam Village common room for some comedy and more free pizza.

Wednesday night we attended our first Tramping Club meeting. In New Zealand, hiking is referred to as tramping. They plan a lot of cool trips, so I am pretty excited to go on them.

The University of Canterbury also has a program for new international students called Operation Friendship. It’s kind of like having a host family except that there are far too many students to match each one up with an individual family. So a few families get together and take in a group of international students.

Here is a photo our Operation Friendship group

 

Saturday night, we had another IFSA Butler sponsored event. We met up for pizza, and then put on some face paint and headed for the stadium to watch the Christchurch Crusaders vs Western Force rugby game. We passed another shopping center and made a mental note to make our way back there at some point.

The Canterbury IFSA group all decked out in face paint for the rugby game

There was an awesome fog that was rolling in during the rugby game. On the bottom left you can see a knight on a horse riding around the stadium.

The next morning we decided to go to that shopping center and made our way to the bus stop to hop on The Orbiter, which is a bus route that goes around the city. Unfortunately, we hopped on The Orbiter in the wrong direction. It was a beautiful day out, and figured we would eventually make it to our destination so we stayed on the bus. The bus driver soon pulls off at a gas station to take a bathroom break. Fifteen minutes later he stops for ten minutes for his actual break. After we get back on the road, the receipt printer decides to break. The driver gets it fixed, and soon after the rear door breaks. So we have to get off the bus to transfer. An hour and a half later we make it to the shopping center, only to find out that this place is really only 15 minutes down the road from the university.

Alright, so I might have gotten a little bit distracted by life in a different country so it’s taken me a little while to finish writing this blog post. Another week of classes has gone by since I first started writing, so I suppose I should continue with my second week here. I still find class timetables to be slightly confusing, but I’m slowly getting used to it. I’m still loving my Tuesdays where I get done at 9:00 am.

This past Wednesday, I decided to join the Canoe Club, or rather kayak club. I found out that they have rolling classes on Thursdays. So I grabbed my togs (or bathing suit) and gave my best attempt at learning how to right myself when my kayak flips over. It’s definitely pretty hard, but I don’t think I’ll give up any time soon.

This Saturday, we had another IFSA Butler event. We met early to hop on a bus to Hanmer Springs. Even though we had to wake up a bit earlier than I wanted to, the drive to Hanmer was absolutely gorgeous! It wasn’t until we were about half an hour away from our destination that Kylie, our SSC, said, “It’s starting to get beautiful now.” I was kind of in shock, since I thought the whole drive was beautiful, I couldn’t imagine it getting any better! Well she was kind of right. It was difficult to take pictures while quad biking since I don’t have what they call a “life proof” camera. When I wasn’t worried about breaking every bone in my body, I actually enjoyed quad biking. It was a really cool experience, especially since it is something that I would never decide to do on my own. We then went into town and enjoyed a nice soak in the hot pools, which definitely helped soothe our aches and pains from quad biking.

The Canterbury IFSA group at Thrillseakers, where we quad biked.

The view from Thrillseakers.

I cannot believe that I am about to start my third week of classes. I know it’s still early on in my study abroad experience, but I cannot help but feel as though it is all moving much too quickly. A good portion of this week will actually be devoted to studying. I’m looking forward to this coming weekend, as I travel to Queenstown.

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Kia Ora!

Time July 5th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So it’s been almost a week since I arrived in New Zealand, and it had been one jammed packed week. I left Pennsylvania early Wednesday morning. Took a quick 6 hour plane ride to San Francisco, where I had a short 2 and a half hour layover in San Francisco. I spent 1.5 hours on another plane and FINALLY I made it to New Zealand. No I’m just kidding with you. I actually had to wait another six hours in LAX where I boarded a 13 hour flight to New Zealand. The journey to New Zealand is definitely a long and treacherous one filled with lots of waiting in security checkpoint lines, waiting in airport terminals, and waiting in airplanes. But it is definitely worth it especially since Air New Zealand has some of the best safety videos of all time!

 

We landed in Auckland at 5:45 am where we battled through customs. We eventually were given some time to call our parents, but unfortunately most of our calling cards did not work. IFSA bought internet for us to use, so I was able to send a quick email to my parents.

 

We were gathered as a group with all of our luggage, waiting for our other members to join us when this guy walks over and says follow me guys we’ll load your luggage up into the truck so that we can get moving. So as clueless tourists we followed this man out of the airport and loaded our luggage onto a truck where we were then served juice, biscuits (aka cookies), and fruit. And as we’re munching down on this stranger’s food, we realize that we just walked away from our main group with a stranger who now has our luggage in a truck, and is feeding us. Fortunately for us this stranger was Mike, the manager of the Shakespear Lodge. When we arrived at the Lodge, we quickly learned what our schedule was going to be like for the 3 days that we spent there. To sum it up:

 

-kai

-stuff

-kai

-stuff

-kai

-stuff

-kai

 

and so on. Kai is the Maori word for food, so we essentially ate like hobbits for the entirety of orientation (not that I’m complaining). The food was absolutely delicious.

The south island IFSA Butler group posing at Shakespear Lodge

The day we arrived we went for a little walk around the park to a look out area. Later that day we learned how to play rugby, and then later that afternoon we were given the opportunity to learn how to play cricket. It was fun to learn the rules of rugby but I don’t think I pulled much weight for my team since I don’t have a competitive bone in my body when it comes to team sports.

 

A view of the lodge while on a tour of the park

These cows have such a great view!

Another view from our hike around the park.

The next day we broke up into teams to participate in a publess quiz where we were asked trivia questions whose topics ranged from general New Zealand knowledge, safety, sex, and drugs. My team was unfortunately named “Can we pass?” because we couldn’t think of a name. We then participated in a ROGAINE, or Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Exercise. Scattered throughout the park were numbered posts that contained a symbol. Each of our teams were given a map of the park with numbered locations that we had to find. Running up and down hills was a little difficult but the scenery definitely made it better. Later that afternoon we went sea kayaking and played kayak polo. The water was a tad chilly but we still had a blast. I actually didn’t want to get out of my kayak, but the retreating sun had a different idea. I then brushed up on my archery skills.

 

The view from the kayak as we prepped ourselves on the rules of kayak polo

A member of Te Hana, a Maori settlement, came to brief us about our upcoming visit. We learned about the customs and practices of that particular marae. You have to follow certain protocols in order to be welcomed onto a marae. Our rehearsals went smoothly (sometimes), but the experience was different than what we thought it was going to be. I loved learning about this community who came together to support their heritage and basically turn life around. Their story was really inspiring. As we all curled up in our sleeping bags, I couldn’t help but feel saddened that our group was going to be divided the next day as we traveled to our host universities.

 

A weaving found in the weaving studio of the Marae. It is supposed to represent the stairway to heaven and tells a family story.

From left to right: Me, Holly, Dylan. Posing in front of some of the carvings done by the Maori people of their Gods

Traveling to New Zealand basically made it so that I didn’t want to see a plane again for a long time. Airport security in the states isn’t too passenger friendly, and as our orientation activities required multiple outfits fore ach activity, my suitcase which weighed a perfect 50 pounds was now all discombobulated. Not only that but Air New Zealand can be really strict as far as carry on luggage weight. So I sat in the airport putting on layer after layer of clothing in order to get my luggage down to the proper weight.

 

Wet hiking boots, 2 pairs of thick socks, leg warmers, jeans, a tee shirt, a sweater, a sweatshirt, a winter jacket, hat, scarf, and mittens. Luckily I didn’t have to wear 2 pairs of pants

 

I have now settled into my flat in Christchurch. It has been raining for the past couple of days so we haven’t exactly wanted to go out and explore the city. I know I have a view of the hills from my flat window but I can’t exactly see them with all of the clouds.

 

We had an orientation for international students yesterday where a lot of us IFSA Butler students realized how well they take care of you as far as preparation. Last night was also the Fourth of July so a couple of us met some other Americans as well as a few Kiwis at a flat party.

 

This morning I went to enrol (while New Zealand speaks English, some words are spelled differently). A normal course load for the University of Canterbury is 60 points. I was approved for three courses:

 

Antarctica: Life in the Cold (15 points)

New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity (15 points)

Freshwater Ecosystems (30 points)

 

One of the pastries here is called a Chelsea Bun. I have seen them in a couple of the grocery stores, but have yet to try one.

The weather is hopefully supposed to clear up this weekend. I’m not exactly sure what I will be doing but I just want to get out and explore the city.

 

 

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Preparing for Winter in the Middle of Summer

Time June 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My name is Chelsea, and I am a junior ecology major at Susquehanna University. As part of the degree requirements of Susquehanna University, I am required to partake in a cross cultural experience. This is known to us as the GO program. Students have an option of partaking in a GO short (programs that are only a couple weeks long) or GO long (a semester abroad). I originally thought I would complete a GO short, but as I saw some of the other students at Susquehanna plan for their semesters abroad, I started to reconsider my options.

Originally, I was planning on studying abroad in Bonaire. Let me guess, you’re thinking “Bonaire? Where is that?!” Because that’s exactly what I got from almost everyone I spoke with about studying abroad. Bonaire is located in the Gulf Of Mexico near Aruba, right along the equator. The program was research based and focused on marine ecology and at the time I thought it would be absolutely perfect. Warm weather, sandy beaches, beautiful clear water. Sounds like paradise right? However, I was blessed with skin that is super sensitive to the sun. I don’t think there is enough sunscreen in Bonaire to protect me from the sun for a week let alone a whole semester! I estimated that I would probably have severe skin poisoning a week into the program.

So I had to rethink where I would be studying abroad for a semester. I wanted the location to be rich in environmental/ecology/science experiences. I sat down with the GO office and they suggested a few highlighted programs, some of which included Germany and Africa. However, I don’t speak German, unless you count a few words that I learned throughout high school. And, I was required to speak Spanish for the Africa program. So my high school French background did not exactly help me in this endeavor.

My questions were answered during the “Biodiveristy Hotspot” lecture in my Ecosystems class. A world map was projected onto the screen with certain areas highlighted in red. Maybe it was the coffee kicking in, but my eyes focused on the projector screen, particularly on  New Zealand. My professor even showed pictures of when he traveled through New Zealand. And I thought, “that’s where I want to study abroad.” Now when I talked to people about studying abroad in New Zealand I usually get, “I absolutely loved New Zealand! It’s gorgeous! I can’t wait to go back” or “You better take lots of pictures” and a select few “You better take the Lord of the Rings tour!!”

While I am home for breaks, I work at a retirement home as an activities assistant and a waitress. The residents typically ask me how my break is going. In this case, it’s “How’s summer so far?” And I usually respond along the lines of, “It’s going well, but it’s almost over.” And I usually get a sort of quizzical look in response since some of the local high schools are just starting to let out for summer. So essentially every time I work is a reminder of how little left I have to enjoy summer. So I’m trying to enjoy as much as I can in what little time I have left here in the states.

As I previously, my home university requires a cross cultural experience. Thus many of my friends are studying abroad during the fall semester of their junior year. However, I am pretty sure I am the first to leave to study abroad. On one hand, I love that I have such a short summer and that I can go back to an academic environment. On the other hand, I feel like the summer is so short that it’s difficult to squeeze in all of the traditional summer activities (looks like another beachless summer). But then I think, I’m going to New Zealand and will have the time of my life.

While I may procrastinate on my school work, I am definitely not a procrastinator when it comes to packing. In the middle of the Spring semester, I devoted a whiteboard to listing the items I want to take with me to New Zealand. When school ended and I moved back home, I devoted one half of my closet to the clothes I want to leave at home, and the clothes that I want to bring with me. A couple of weeks ago, I took the New Zealand Clothes side and folded the clothes and started packing my suitcase. Now I just have a few last minute items to add to my bag and a bit of reorganization and I’m ready to go.

My IFSA-Butler advisor, Chris Haynes, has been sending us weekly advising emails in order to prepare us for New Zealand. It wasn’t until yesterday, when I received this week’s email about packing that the fact of me heading off to New Zealand really started to set in. It’s literally right around the corner. From that email, I gained two key packing tips in which I found the need to tweet.

Packing Tip #1: Walk around your neighborhood with your luggage. If it wears you out quickly, you’ve packed too much!

Packing Tip #2: Seasons are different in the southern hemisphere.Summertime clothing should not find its way into your suitcase

     I also follow a lot of New Zealand related twitters, including NZ Earthquake Bot. (Side note: if you don’t already know this about myself, I am a huge science nerd) This twitter tells you when, where, the magnitude, and depth of an earthquake in New Zealand. Needless to say, Christchurch has appeared in my twitter feed SEVERAL times. At first, I enjoyed seeing the tweets, and then I realized that is where I am going. I’ve only ever experienced one earthquake: the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that centered in Virginia. During that earthquake, I was at school in Central Pennsylvania working on a bulletin board in one of the academic buildings. School hadn’t started yet and I was essentially by myself when it happened, and I remember thinking, “Wow! They’re doing some intense construction work in this building right now” and I continued working. It wasn’t until one of the professors came down and said to me, “did you feel that earthquake?” that I realized what I just experienced. At first, the NZ Earthquake Bot twitter was exciting, it let me be a science nerd. Then it started to make me a little nervous, I’m going to a place with A LOT of earthquakes compared to where I live now.

Most people planning to study abroad get nervous about being such a far distance from home, from being away from family and friends, and whether or not they will make friends in their host location. For me, I’m worrying about the earthquakes. It’s both exciting and nerve wracking. But I just brushed up on my Richter scale, and learned that the majority of the earthquakes are considered to be “moderate” in terms of magnitude. I am slightly nervous about whether I’ll make friends in New Zealand, but everyone keeps saying how friendly the Kiwis are, so I’m not exactly worried. I don’t know anyone planning to study at the University of Canterbury, but I also didn’t know anyone at Susquehanna University when I was entering my freshman year, and I think I made out okay.

On May 23rd, I  tweeted “Pack for Boston. Pack for New York. Pack for New Zealand.” Well, I’ve packed and gone to Boston, and I’ve packed and visited New York, and now I’m essentially packed for New Zealand.

It’s weird to think that in a little over a week I’ll be boarding the plane to start my semester abroad in New Zealand. I honestly cannot wait!

 

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