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Home Sweet Home

Time December 10th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After an amazing semester I’m back home in Massachusetts. It felt really great to be home for the first week but that feeling has been going away. It’s great to see my family but all my friends are still at school so there really isn’t anything to do back here. Thanksgiving was great though and I’m really happy that I was home for that. I’m back to driving on the right side of the road which was easier to get used to again than I thought it would be. The only issue I had is that I kept on putting on the windshield wipers when I was trying to put on my directional. All in all though the re-entry into American life has gone pretty smoothly.

This past weekend I went up to Saint Michael’s College, my home school, to visit everyone. It was a great weekend. I got to go skiing, go into Burlington, see all the Christmas decorations around campus and just have a typical Saint Mike’s weekend. It was so good to see everyone again and to see people’s reactions when they realized I was on campus. Lots of people did double takes since many people still thought I was in New Zealand. I stayed in the same suite that I will be living in next semester which was really nice since I was able to figure out what I will need to bring up with me. I already knew most of the people living there and the others that I met seem pretty chill so it should be a good semester. As much fun as New Zealand was, there is just a different feeling being back at Saint Mike’s. The campus is such a tight community and it feels much more like home than living in Albany did.

If anyone reading this is considering studying in New Zealand; DO IT! It was the best experience of my life and I already miss so many things about it. I miss all my New Zealand friends, the scenery, the food, and the general laid back atmosphere. The only thing that I would change is that I would go to the University of Otago since it is in Dunedin which was one of my favorite spots. I’ve learnt a lot from this trip and I think it changed me as a person. I met so many great people while traveling and saying at hostels that I really want to continue traveling after graduation. I have also realized that some of the little things can be the best memories. Of course bungy jumping and hiking a glacier are some of my top memories but I think what I really enjoyed the most was just playing some ultimate frisbee with some people from Lucas Creek or going into town on a Monday night since we had nothing else to do. I also felt like I was truly living on my own. I had o cook for myself, do all the cleaning and couldn’t meet my parents somewhere if I forgot anything. It made me realize that I’m going to be okay once I graduate and head out into the real world. Sadly I don’t have any pictures of my trip to school or being home since I seemed to stop taking pictures the second I got back to the US. I guess thats another thing I learnt: always take pictures. Even if you aren’t doing anything extremely special. But anyways, since I don’t have any photos for this post I’ve put in a slideshow of some of my favorite pictures from the past semester. Enjoy! And thanks for reading!

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Fiji!

Time November 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

All too quickly my time in New Zealand came to a close. The last week in Albany was great. We went to the beach, went into town multiple nights, went blackwater rafting and enjoyed the last week that we all had together. On the 15th I left New Zealand to head to Fiji before coming back to the US. It was a great trip!

I left for the airport at 2:45 in the morning. A little early but it was worth it. I flew into Nadi and stayed at Bamboo for my first night. It was a small and welcoming hostel. All the workers introduced themselves to me as soon as I got there and I was playing Jenga with everyone before lunch. I had never been to a hostel where everyone knew each others names and all hung out together. I thought that a lot of people were traveling together but it turns out most of them just met the day before. In the afternoon I went to the beach which is right across the street from Bamboo. For dinner I went to Smuggler’s Cove with some new friends and ate some octopus. I was unaware that it would be little whole octopus but it was actually really good.

 next day Bamboo put on a coconut demonstration which was pretty interesting. They showed us how they use every part of the coconut tree and also how to open a coconut. We got to try the water, creme and the flesh of it. It turns out that the bus I was supposed to catch to my next hostel came while I was watching the demonstration but luckily I could catch a taxi to the bus center for not too much money so I did that. From there I had a two hour ride to The Beachouse. I was surprised by how nice the bus was. Most of the buses I saw seemed really old but this one had AC and they even played a movie. As soon as I got to the Beachouse there was a group of people my age hanging out right outside my room so I hung out with them. They had all been volunteering in Fiji for the last eight weeks and were having a break before heading back to England. After dinner we went to the bar thats on the property. I have never been to such a relaxed bar. You could plug in your own iPod and even bring in your own drinks. It was really nice and relaxing. Even though I was still really tired we ended up staying up until 2am.

The next day I went on a jungle trek with some German people. We walked through a village and then made our way to a waterfall. The hike was pretty muddy and I left my hiking boots at the airport since they have luggage storage there. So I was walking in my Sperry’s and they fell off at least five times but it was a blast and the mud made it even more fun. That night I hung out with the English people again.

I went for a kayak ride the next day in the morning. It was free so I figured why not. I took my underwater camera and saw some cool coral and starfish. In the afternoon my friends Erin and Tricia from uni in New Zealand came over to stay for the next four nights. We meant to have an early night that night but in what seemed to be typical Beachouse fashion that did not happen. The next day was sunny for the first time so I spent the whole day at the beach and pool. It was a perfect day. That night we celebrated Erin’s birthday and went for a midnight swim in the pool and ocean. There was some bio luminescence in the ocean which was really cool. Whenever you made a splash there would be little green lights in the water.

The next day was my last day so I just hung around reading for most of the day then made my way back to the airport. I had a blast and wish I could have stayed longer but it was really great being home in time for Thanksgiving! I’ll do one more post about transitioning

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Milford Track

Time November 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

At 4:45 Sunday morning I started my journey back to the south island to hike the Milford Track. It is a four day hike through Fiordland National Park that ends at Milford Sound. I went there by myself since no one else really seemed by for the journey. By 2pm I was on the boat that takes the walkers to the start of the track. Only 40 people are allowed to hike independently per day. There is also a guided walk option but they stay at different lodges. Looking around the boat I noticed that most of the people hiking were couples. After taking some picture though I noticed that there were some people my age. There were two girls from Sweden that are taking a gap year between high school and college. I also met Tyler who is from St. Lewis. He graduated college and is traveling around for a year before settling down. We ended up hiking together the whole time and also hiked with the girls a lot of the time.

The first day was an easy 1 hour hike to the first hut. In comparison to the rest of the trip that views were not that great. Yet they were still better than anything back home. The huts are all really nice. They have a separate bunk area, bathrooms, clean running water and a kitchen. No showers though. It turns out that everyone besides Tyler and I brought food to cook. I was fine with my bars and PB&J but it was hard to not get a little jealous when people started actually chopping up potatoes and making a full meal. Ross was our ranger that night and he took us on a nature walk and showed us all the cool plants around the area.

The second day took about 6 hours and was a gradual uphill walk. We had to pay for a helicopter before leaving for the hike so that if the avalanche danger was too high that day we could get a ride across. Luckily it was a perfect day and we were able to hike the whole way. There were tons of waterfalls and lots of avalanche hazard areas. You are not supposed to stop in the avalanche areas or “danger zones” but that seemed to be where all the best views were so we did. But just long enough to get all the pictures…and pose for some group photos. The last part of the hike was a little steeper but still nothing hard. We got to the hut around 2pm and were greeted with views of Mackinnon pass which we would hike up the next day. The ranger that night told us that the vies were best early in the morning and if you leave at 6:30 you can see the sun rising over the mountains. So that’s what Tyler and I did.

This day had the best views by far. Sadly my iPhone died right before reaching the top but my backup camera didn’t do too bad. Only about five people had point and shoot cameras and I was the only one using a phone but the photos came out ok. They don’t even come close to doing it justice but I don’t think any camera could do that. There was frost and ice at the top of the pass. The wind was really strong and it was odd to think that earlier in the morning we were in t-shirts and shorts. I forgot my gloves so I had to decide between keeping my hands warm or taking a picture. My fingers actually had trouble clicking the button sometimes since they went a little numb. The highest point on the path was 1154m. Once we got over the pass though it warmed up and was t-shirt time again. Once we got to the hut a few people went for a swim. I ran in only to get a brain freeze then run back out. It sure was refreshing though and welcomed after a couple days without a shower.

The last day was the longest length wise but took about the same amount of time as the previous day since it is flat. The four of us hiked together the whole time that day and we took lots of photos. I didn’t get many group ones since I felt bad making people take pictures of us with so many cameras but we all exchanged contact info so they should get on Facebook at some point. Around 1:30 we reached the end  and got on the boat to take us on the quick ride to Milford Sound. I hiked 33.5 miles over the course of the track and had a blast! At the ferry terminal the four of us said our goodbyes and I was off to Queenstown for the night. I got some dinner from my favorite places in town and went to bed nice and early. The next day I made my way back to Albany.

Words can not describe how great of a trip it was. The views were jaw dropping, the weather was sunny the whole time (which is very rare since the track is in a rainforest. They tend to get 200mm when it rains), I made some new friends and had a nice relaxing time. It felt like a retreat since there was no technology and no one cared what time it was. If you like hiking I highly recommend putting this on your bucket list.

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Camping Time

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

Classes ended on the 19th and we had one week off before finals started. Megan, Caroline and I decided it would be a good idea to go camping for the week. We started off planning to do a great walk but they didn’t have any hiking equipment so we ended up going on a little road trip and just camped instead of going to hostels. It was a blast. We started off on Sunday by going to the Waipoua forest to see the biggest trees in New Zealand. They are massive! It was so cool getting so close to them and realizing just how small we really are. We camped at a free site that night then continued making our way up north the next day.

Our first stop on Monday was at the giant dunes. We rented boards and got to go sliding down the dunes. It was a lot of fun and the hill was huge. It was really difficult to get back up the dunes though since the sand kept on falling down whenever you tried to walk up. After about 6 trips it started raining and we figured it would be a good time to leave since we were all exhausted anyways. We then drove to Cape Reinga and went to go to the lighthouse. At this point it was raining pretty hard though so we continued on to our campsite and sat in the car for a few minutes until the rain slowed then set up the tent. The girls stuck around the campsite to read but I went on a short hike to look around. It wasn’t anything special but I enjoyed walking around. After a lovely dinner of trail mix, an apple and an energy bar we went back to the light house. We got to see the Tasman Sea mixing with the Pacific Ocean which was pretty interesting. You can actually see waves forming up where the two bodies of water meet.

The next day we left the northland and started making our way to Coromandel for the second half of our trip. We stopped at 90 mile beach to walk around. If your car has four wheel drive you can actually drive the length of the beach which would have been pretty awesome. But we got a cheap rental for the week so ours didn’t. After that we say a sign for Doubtless Bay and decided that sounded interesting so we stopped by. It the weather were better if would have been a great beach to relax on. We then continued on to Coromandel. Around 6:00 we started getting sick of driving so we decided to just go back to our flats for the night since it was right on the way and we could take some much needed showers.

The next morning we made our way to Coromandel. It took a lot less time than I thought since we were just going to Thames that day which is right at the base of the peninsula. I went on a hike to the top of the Pinnacles while the girls went to the beach for the day. It was the best hike I have ever been on. The weather was perfect, the views were spectacular and it was just the right level of difficulty where it was a challenge but I never felt like I couldn’t make it. Near the top there were ladders and rocks that I had to climb which added some excitement and made it a little more technical which was fun. That night we camped at a site that allows fires (this is rare in New Zealand). Caroline taught us how to make Hobo Burgers. You take hamburg and cut up potatoes and add some seasoning and but it in a pouch of tinfoil with some water. Then you close the pouch and put it in the embers of the fire until it is cooked. The potatoes were a little undercooked but they were still really good.

On Thursday morning we went to Hot Water Beach. It’s a beach that is above some hot rocks so if you dig during low tide hot water will fill up your hole which makes it like a hot tub. It was really relaxing and nice since it was a little cool that morning. Then the tide slowly came up which caused the hot and cold water to mix which was really refreshing after sitting in really hot water for awhile. In the afternoon Caroline went to Scuba dive and I went for another walk and got some lunch at a café since I needed something besides trail mix and PB&J. After she was done we went to Cathedral Cove which is a really cool area. That night we went up to the northern part of the peninsula to camp. We were all exhausted and fell asleep as soon as we put up the tent.

For our final day we woke up and went to a nearby beach. It was really nice out so we just sat there for a bit listening to music. Then we made our way back to Albany so that we could start studying for exams. This roadtrip was a lot more realxing than the south island trip and was just what I needed in order to get ready for exams. Tomorrow is my first one so wish me luck! Then I have another one on the 3rd and the 12th. After that I have a few days to pack and go on any last minute adventures then I go to Fiji for a few days before heading back to the states.

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Rotorua

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

Rotorua is basically the heart of adventure on the north island. There is tons of thermal activity and lots of thrilling activities. IFSA-Butler brought us down to Rotorua for Adventure Weekend about a month ago. We got to go mountain biking, lugeing and sailing to hot springs. We were supposed to go white water rafting as well but sadly the river was too high. The mountain biking was pretty intense. Getting up the hill was by far the hardest part and my group didn’t even go that far. Once you got to the top the trip down was worth it. It felt like a roller coaster ride except that I was in control which complicated things. I’m not the most coordinated person so I ended up holding on to the handle bars for dear life. At the bottom of each track I had indents in my hands from the grip on the handle bar. It was really fun though and helped work off some of the extra Tim Tam weight.

The luge was the highlight of the weekend for me. It was the funnest thing I have done in a long time. We got five rides on it and we made the most of it. The first ride they made us go down the scenic route to get the hang of things. The next time though we went straight for the advanced track and it was much more exciting. You are actually able to get air at one point on the track. Our tour guides for the weekend organized some races which were all very exciting. I got cut off in one and ended up crashing into a sand pit. The next time I actually caused an accident but I ended up moving forward two places thanks to it and no one got hurt so it was a success in my book.

The next day we went on a boat for a little cruise. It was a really nice boat and we sailed around for a bit before going over to some hot pools. The weather was terrible, it was raining, windy and cold so the hot springs felt really nice. After hanging out for a bit we went back on the boat sailed back and had some lunch before going back to Auckland. Even though this weekend was great I felt that I hadn’t fully experienced Rotorua and still really wanted to go white water rafting so I decided to go back with some friends from my accommodation.

We went white water rafting first. Since we went on a Tuesday it was only the three of us and three instructors. It was really nice not having to wait for other boats. We went over the largest commercial waterfall which is 7m or about 21 feet. I was a little scared but it ended up being ok. We had a really smooth landing and the rest of the trip was great as well. I had never been rating before but have been white water kayaking. I felt much more comfortable with the rafting but if you are looking for a true thrill kayaking is the way to go.

After tat was done we went to go zorbing. It was such a fun experience. Overpriced but fun. If you don’t know what zorbing is it’s when you go into a giant ball and get rolled down a hill. They put some water in there with you so that you don’t get any friction between you and the plastic. It basically feels like a really fun and crazy waterside.  We got three rides and tried a different course each time. The first time I went down the one called the drop. It went slow at first then turned a corner and went down a steep drop. The second one was the zig zag which was really crazy. I got thrown around a lot and had no clue where I was going to go next. The last one we all went in one zorb together. You have to go down the straight path if you go together but we went really fast. We were laughing the whole way down.

For our last activity we went to Wai-O-Tapu which has a bunch of hot pools to look at. There is all kinds of different colored water due to the minerals which made for some really pretty sites. I’m really glad that we went because I have been wanted to see some natural hot springs for a long time. Every time that we went to go swimming in hot springs I thought they would be natural but it always ended up being a pool with just the water pumped in from the springs. It was too hot and dangerous to go swimming in these  springs but just seeing them was really fascinating. The trip was great and if you are ever in New Zealand be sure to check out Rotorua. I think the luge was my favorite activity overall.

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Spring Break: Part 3

Time October 10th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After an exciting week in Queenstown we continued on to Te Anau in order to experience Fiordland. We did part of the Routeburn track which I really enjoyed. I wish we could have done more of it since we only got to hike about three hours out before turning around. We made it to our goal though which was an amazing waterfall. It was a great day and really got me excited for the Milford Track which I will be doing in a few weeks. The views throughout the hike were amazing and even the ride in was fun due to all the views.

The next day we went to Milford Sound. We hit snooze a few too many times and were running a little late for our cruise that we pre booked. This caused us to do a little speeding to make up time. I do not recommend it. The road to the sound is extremely curvy and it was quite a scary experience. We made it just in time though. We literally had to run out to the boat as it was pulling away from the dock. The cruise was well worth the stressful morning though. It started off a little slow but once we got further out in the harbor the views were amazing. We were lucky enough to have it rain too which usually would be a bad thing. In this case though the rain adds to the beauty. Whenever it rains tons of waterfalls form along the rocks. Even though it wasn’t raining hard it was still a site to see. Also, we encountered a pod of dolphins which was a really nice surprise since I didn’t even know that was a possibility. Milford Sound was really nice but it didn’t fully live up to my expectations. It seems like everyone thinks that is the number one thing to do in New Zealand but I personally think the glacier walk was more interesting. That night we just relaxed at our hostel which was much needed.

The next day we thought it would be a good idea to drive to Dunedin via the scenic highway. We drove all the way down to Bluff so that we could be at the southern most point in New Zealand. We got some oysters there which were amazing! Expensive but amazing. Then we continued with our journey and drove up along the coast. We stopped at Nugget Point right as the sun was setting. We kind of underestimated the amount of time we would spend in the car so we didn’t get to do all the little side trips we would have liked but it was still a nice day. We arrived in Dunedin around 8pm and after getting some food we all went to bed since we were so tired. I never want to be in a car for ten hours in one day ever again!

On our first full day in Dunedin we took a few tours. We started the day with a tour of Cadbury Chocolate. It was the most delicious tour ever since we got so much candy. They even gave us little cups of melted chocolate which was the highlight for me. After the tour Caroline, Lauren and I went over to the University of Otago campus to get some lunch. The campus is really nice and kind of made me wish that I studied there. After filling up on some cheap food we made our way over to the Speights Brewery for another tour. It was really informative and was a lot better than the wine tour. After we finished walking around the brewery they took us into a room where we could sample the beers. I didn’t plan on starting to drink at 2pm but who am I to complain. After the free beer tasting we went next door to the pub and met up with Adam and Nick who are in Megan and Lauren’s group. After a while we decided we needed some food so we went to this mexican restaurant near the octagon which is the center of the city. It was the first place with real mexican food so I was pretty excited. That night we went back to the hostel and played some drinking games with the other people staying at the hostel. It was really nice to hang out in the common room since before this part of the trip we were always too busy or tired to just hang out. I met people from England, France, Hong Kong, Germany and Ireland. It was really fun and talking to them made me change my views on travel. I always thought traveling was something that people who couldn’t find jobs after graduation did. But now I really want to travel after I graduate. Everyone I met was so happy and social that it seems like a really fun thing to do.

On our last full day in Dunedin we went to Baldwin Street which is the steepest street in the world. Megan and I ran up most of it but got a little tired before reaching the top. We then made our way to the botanical gardens. They were not as good as the ones in Christchurch but there was a really cool aviary. Once our friend Adam finished his tour of Cadbury we went over and picked him up to go to the peninsula. We went to the only castle in New Zealand which was a little underwhelming but still a cool thing to say you saw. After that we went on a quest to see some penguins and sea lions. Sadly we couldn’t see any penguins without taking a tour which we didn’t want to pay for. We did end up seeing a sea lion though. That night a big group of us from the hostel went out in Dunedin. It was a blast and was the perfect way to start wrapping up the trip.

On our last full day on the south island we went back to the peninsula to try and find more sea lions. We ended up finding quite a bit and even got to roll down the sand dune on our way to the beach. After hanging our with the sea lions for a bit we started the trek back to Christchurch.

The next morning we woke up before dawn in order to catch our flight back to Auckland. I couldn’t have had a better spring break! It was a blast and really made me start to thing about what I want to do after graduation. I now know that I want to have a year of just backpacking around at some point in my life.

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Spring Break: Part 2

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

We spent three nights in Queenstown during the middle of our trip. I think this was the most fun stop for me. The first night we did a pub crawl. It was a great deal, we got pizza, five free drinks and entry into the local ice bar for only $25. Getting into the ice bar alone usually costs $30. We ran into some of the people that we hiked the glacier with was a nice surprise.

The next day I went hiking with Caroline. We hiked up to the top of the gondola which is right outside of town. We were planning on continuing on to summit a nearby mountain but it started to rain so we figured we would stop at the top of the gondola. After the hike we went back to our hostel and enjoyed some free dinner. The hostel was great by the way. If you are ever in Queenstown I highly recommend Nomads. We even ran into most of the IFSA crew which was really exciting since I didn’t know if I would see the Wellington people again. That night a few of us went out to Cowboy which is a western bar. We were by far the youngest people there but we had a great time signing along to some country songs!

Sunday was our day of adventure. Megan, Lauren and I went bungy jumping at the nevis which is the tallest bungy in New Zealand. I also big the giant swing. Both of them were really fun but the bungy was better. I was shaking before jumping but I did it! After that we picked up Caroline and all went jet boating through a nearby cannon. It was a lot of fun and they got the boat within inches of the canyon walls. That night we went out again and I ended up running into one of my friends from Saint Michael’s. We had been trying to meet up but kept on failing so it was really nice to run into her. I think I saw just about everyone that I know thats in New Zealand while we were in Queenstown. It was the place to be! The next day we woke up bright and early to continue our road trip.


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Spring Break: Part 1

Time September 17th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Wow I can’t believe I’ve already had mid semester break. I didn’t know it was possibly for time to pass this quickly. I went down on a two week road trip to the South Island with three of my friends from Massey for the break. We left on Sunday the 26th which just so happened to be the day that all my friends from Saint Michael’s were moving back into school. To sum it up this was the best spring break of my life or actually the best two weeks of my life. I will try to keep the updates nice and short so I don’t lose any readers 😛

We left for the Auckland Airport at 3:30 in the morning. This may seem early but I actually stayed out in Auckland that night and got back to Albany at 3:15 so it actually just seemed really late. We ended up being at the airport way earlier than we needed to be but better safe than sorry. We flew down to Christchurch to start our adventure. When we got there we rented a car (“El Cheapo” from Juicy) and were on our way. We booked all the hostels ahead of time to make things less stressful but didn’t plan out every day. We ended up going to the Antarctic Center since it was right next to the airport. This was the only let down of the trip. We didn’t know exactly what to expect but from all the ads and awards we were expecting a little more. We did get to see some penguins though which was nice. Then we made our way to the Botanical Gardens. If I had one of these near me back home I would be there everyday. It was so peaceful and beautiful. We also went to the restart mall which is made of shipping containers. If you don’t know, Christchurch got hit by a big earthquake last year and they are still recovering. It ended up being really warm which was surprising since we were closer to the south pole than Auckland. Since it was so warm we decided to go for a walk along the beach. I was considering swimming but just as I was about to go in some clouds came over which made it a lot cooler. That night we stayed in a hostel right outside of Christchurch.

The next day we drove up to Marlborough but made a few pit stops along the way. The first stop was at Hamner Springs. They had some hot pools as well as some water slides. The weather was just warm enough to do the waterslides without getting cool but still cool enough to enjoy the hot springs. We even got half off thanks to our Juicy key chain. After a few hours there we continued over to Kaikora. We were told that there are some nice beaches there and that we might see some seals. Turns out we saw tons of seals! We asked around in town to see where the seals hang out and were told to go to a waterfall a few kilometers north of town. All the seal pups go there while their parents are off hunting. There were seals everywhere! One was a little further down than the rest and came right up to us and seemed to be showing off a little bit. He was playing with a leaf so we got him/her some more to play with. The seal was loving the attention and we loved giving it. It was by far the coolest part of the trip! Once the sun went down we figured it was time to continue our journey.

The next day started with a hike around Queen Elizabeth sound. The water was so green and the views were great. We were then off to a wine tasting/tour at Cloudy Bay. It wasn’t much of a tour but the tasting was fun. They told us about a nearby place where the wine cellar is built into the hills so we decided to check that out. It turns out they don’t give tours on the weekdays in winter but we still got to do some more tasting. We also stopped at this store with tons of samples. I love free food so I was in heaven. There were all kinds of sauces to try and they were even giving out free liquor. We spent a good amount of time between there and the fudge shop next door. After that we started the drive to Nelson. We got to our hostel just in time for free dessert! They had really good chocolate pudding and my friends didn’t finish theirs so being the only guy in the group I felt it was my job to help them. We then went shopping to get food for dinner. We kind of mixed up the order of meals but I was fine with that.

In the morning we went kayaking in the Tasman Sea near the Abel Tasman National Park. The water had a really nice light blue/aqua color to it and I realized that we were in paradise. Sure it could have been a little warmer but I was still able to go swimming afterwards. Swimming in New England makes your body used to really cold water. After a nice picnic lunch we went on a hike around the top of one of the hills in the park. I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings! The scenery looked just like the movies and we could even see the island that we kayaked around earlier. Around sunset we started our drive to Greymouth. We didn’t get there until late and had to start driving at 5am the next day so we didn’t really get to see anything around there. Other groups said we didn’t miss much though.

I was the only one awake enough to make the drive down to fox glacier the next morning. The views were remarkable! They were in my opinion the best views I saw driving during the entire trip which is saying a lot since this whole country could be on the front of a postcard. Sadly everyone else was asleep so we didn’t get any pictures. The glacier walk itself provided plenty of Kodak moments to make up for the lack of driving pictures. We opted to go on a guided walk since that is the only way you can actaully walk on the ice. It was well worth the money. There were about 10 people per guide so the groups were nice and small. It just so happened that one of the people I ate dinner with back in LA was in our group. She came with some friends from her program. It was really nice to catch up since I honestly didn’t think I would ever see her again. We started off hiking though a rainforest (yup that’s right we walked to a glacier through a rainforest) up to a viewpoint then down to the glacier. The guide was really knowledgeable and told us tons of fun facts along the way. We got to walk on the glacier for three hours and went through lots of tunnels. I thought I was going to get stuck in one but we all made it.

The next day consisted of a long drive from fox glacier to Queenstown. Once again we made a few pit stops along the way. We stopped at a gas station and picked up some maps of hikes along the road. We ended up each picking a hike to do. They were all pretty short hikes so they easily fit into our schedule. I of course picked the longest once since I love hiking up mountains. The three girls all picked shorter hikes. One of the shorter hikes led to these really awesome blue pools. It was by far the coolest looking water I have ever seen. After all the hikes we continued into Wanaka where we stopped at Puzzling World. It was a really neat little place with different illusion rooms. After that we continued onto Queenstown which is where part 2 will pick up.

I had a few thoughts by this point in the trip the main ones being:

-I should have studied in the south island

-The people are even friendlier here than in Auckland

-Hostels are lots of fun. It is really cool sharing a common room with everyone. We heard so many fasinating stories and met all kinds of people. During this portion of the trip we mostly kept to ourselves with the exception of socializing when we were making dinner but this changed overtime.

-Roadtrips are the best!

Now the photos/video:

Hamner Springs

View from the hike around Queen Elizabeth Sound

Kayaking at Abel Tasman

Blue pools

Fox Glacier

 

This is a video of a seal that came up to us. You have to click and download it since I don’t have a Youtube account. I’ll get one by the next post though! Seal! 

 

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The Program Matters

Time August 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

First of all, sorry for the lack of updates. I have never been so busy in my life. Whether it’s going into town or taking a road trip, I always seem to be on the move here. And then of course there is the actual school work which is just starting to hit me.

I can’t believe I’m about a month and a half into my time in New Zealand. I’ve gotten setteled and have become friends with a bunch of people who live in Lucas Creek which is where I’m staying. As I think I mentioned before, I’m the only person from the IFSA-Butler orientation who goes to this school. There are about 20 people from IFSA-Butler at University of Auckland but we don’t often see each other since the bus fares add up quickly. Although it initially made me a little nervous, I don’t mind being the only one from my program here. If forced me to meet new people and I still get to keep in touch with everyone from orientation.

Many of the freinds that I have made are also study abroad students from the US, they just didn’t come through IFSA-Butler. Just from everyday conversations I have learnt that I clearly made the right call by choosing to study with this program. We are lucky enough to have a fantastic orientation, a great Student Services Coordinator, many thrilling events and a chance to get together for weekly meetings. One of my friends programs had a week long orientation but nothing else during the semester. I on the other hand have already gotten the chance to go quad biking, plant trees, and go out to dinner all of which was included in the program fee. We still have an adventure weekend planned as well as a trip to see a local rugby match. Also, some other friends had to fill out paperwork for a student ID card but I got an email from the office saying that mine was all ready to be picked up since IFSA-Butler did the work for me. It’s the little things like that that shows they really care about their students.

The quad biking trip was much better than I expected. I pictured us slowly going along some flat path to nowhere in particular. Instead, we got to go as fast as the quads could manage (I got mine up to 55 km/h), traveled off road up hills and through lots of mud and went to the top of a decent sized hill. I had an absolutely awesome time. When we finished riding we were treated to a delicious lunch which was cooked in the ground using traditional Maori cooking methods. The chicken had a unique smokey flavor and was quite good.

Uncovering our lunch!

Half of the quad biking group stopping for a brief talk about the local history.

For our volunteer event we wentout to a nearby island to plant some trees. I felt right at home since I am one of the leaders for the Outdoor Volunteer Efforts program at my school back home. It wasn’t a competition, but if it was I would have won for planting the most trees.

Some of the group hard at work planting trees.

Both of these events gave me an opportunity to do something that I most likely would not have been able to do on my own. I have however done lots of other activities with the friends that I have made at Massey. Next week I’ll write a post telling you all about the road trip I went on this past weekend so be sure to check back soon. I’ll give you a hint as to where we went: there was snow :)

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The First Week

Time July 16th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t believe I have been in New Zealand for over a week. It seems like ages ago when I was siting in LAX waiting for my flight. Luckily for me, lots of IFSA-Butler students arrived at the airport early making my 7 hour layover a little more enjoyable. I knew right then that it was going to be a great orientation. After an enjoyable 13 hour flight we landed in New Zealand. We quickly made our way through customs and loaded our stuff up on the bus. Before leaving we had some kai (food). This would be a common occurrence throughout the weekend. I felt like a hobbit with all the meals and could not be any happier about it.

I felt as though we were in Jurassic Park on the ride to Shakespear Regional Park due to all the fog. Emily and Amy served as tour guides for the hour and a half bus ride but there wasn’t much to see since the fog was so thick. Once we arrived we had a meeting and the fog lifted. It was quite a sight seeing the countryside for the first time. The lodge we stayed at is situated on farmland and not far from the ocean. In short, a terrific location. Over the next few days there were many outdoor activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, archery, wandering (hiking) and mountain biking.

The red roofed building is the lodge we stayed at.

 

Not a bad view :)

We also got to go to a hot springs water park. It was a little cold since its the middle of winter but Icouldn’t help but go on the slides.  Luckily since we were the only crazy people not sitting in the hot pools there was no line. I’m pretty sure the slide would be illegal in the U.S. since my legs went over the side of the pool when I landed but it was awesome! We went to stay at a Marae for a night in order to get a sense of Maori culture. Although it was not as authentic as I was expecting, it was still a cool experience.

Some Maori carvings.

After a stop at the Auckland Museum we were taken to our schools. Since I was the only one in the group who picked to study at Massey Albany, a cab came and took me and one of the staff members Greg to my flat. I’ve go ten all settled and love it here. I can walk to wherever I need to go and can take a bus to various parks. I look forward to starting classes this week and to the many adventures that are sure to unfold over the semester!

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One Week

Time June 28th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi, I’m Mike and I’m going to be a junior at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. I’m a biology major and business minor and in one week I will be leaving for New Zealand.

It’s crazy to think that the day is almost here. I have been preparing for this moment ever since last October when I had a meeting with the study abroad advisor at my school. I walked into her office not knowing much. In fact, the meeting was a little overwhelming. The first question she asked was, where do you want to go? I kind of thought that was what we were going to figure out at the meeting but I guess I was a little behind. I knew that I did not want to go to Europe. I figure that would involve lots of museums and old building which I don’t have any appreciation for. I would much rather be in the middle of nowhere with an awesome view. Luckily I had been thinking of this question a little bit before the meeting and was able to come up with two places: Africa or New Zealand. I think Africa would be an incredible experience seeing as I love the savannah. We were quickly able to decide that if I were to go to Africa, I would do a program in Tanzania that focuses on Ecology since that is what I’m interested in. The program seemed a little strict for my liking though and didn’t seem to offer students the opportunity to explore the country on their own which is something that I want to be able to do.

This led me to focus on New Zealand and after much thought and some advice from friends who have been there I decided to study with IFSA-Butler at Massey University. The orientation and excursion activities look amazing and I can’t wait to experience them. The school is only a 20 minute drive away from Auckland which is the biggest city in New Zealand but it’s even closer to beaches, great hiking and hot springs. The biggest ski area in the country is also only a few hours away. Then during our breaks I plan on going down to the South Island to get in some more hiking and an adrenaline rush from Queenstown. This promises to be a crazy semester and I promise to keep you up to date on everything that is going on!

As of now not much exciting is happening. I’m working at a grocery store so I can save up for my trip and am starting to say my goodbyes to friends and family. I’m currently working on starting the packing process just to make sure everything will fit and that I don’t go over the 5olb limit. Each day I watch a video or read something about New Zealand in order to learn about the country and start figuring out all the things I want to do while I’m there. I’ve found that it is best not to do this right before bed seeing as last week I was reading a blog from last year and got so excited that I couldn’t sleep for hours. I’m really hoping that I will be able to sleep next Tuesday night so that I’m not tired for the trip but knowing me I will once again be too excited. I hope everyone is having a great summer and I can’t wait to share all of my experiences with you!

P.S. This map below isn’t exciting now but I will be using it to track where I go throughout the semester so it’s sure to get a lot more interesting!

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