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Adjusting to America

Time July 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After enduring the 36 hour trek home, I arrived in Vermont on the fourth of July. Sadly, jetlag prevented me from celebrating too much and seeing any fireworks. Now, I’ve been home about two weeks and while I haven’t quite finished unpacking (yikes!) I think I’ve finally readjusted to the homeland.

I will admit that I caught myself driving on the left side of the road for a second (luckily it was only in a parking lot) and I have been criticized a few times for using Kiwi slang (“sweet-as” and “keen” have become a part of my vocabulary.) Even today I made a smoothie with peanut butter and I was shocked by the amount of sugar in it. One positive aspect of reverse culture shock that I’ve noticed is that everything is so much cheaper here! I don’t think I realized how much money I was spending in New Zealand….

I never would have thought that it would be possible to feel culture shock in my own country, or especially in my own hometown. It’s remarkable how a place you grew up in can seem so foreign after only four and a half months in another country.

Arguably the thing I miss most about New Zealand is Wellington and the amazing people (both international students and Kiwis) with whom I met and shared this amazing experience with. From day one of IFSA-Butler orientation to Easter break on the South Island and the last few nights in the city, I’m so grateful for every moment I spent with these wonderful people.

Luckily, many of us have bought tickets to watch the All Blacks play the USA rugby team when they visit in November! It should be a fun reunion, although I’m not sure who to root for!

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Attention all coffee addicts

Time July 14th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Being a coffee addict myself, one of the things I anticipate missing most about New Zealand is the coffee culture.

Wellington wins in both the quantity and quality of their cafes and restaurants. Never before have I had so much difficulty when deciding where to get a cup of coffee. I’ll especially miss New Zealand’s famous “flat white,” a delicious coffee drink made with two shots of expresso that is similar to a latte (but much tastier!)

I have found that every day can be made a little bit better by just popping into a cafe for a flat white and a scone or muffin. It would be impossible to tell you about every single cafe I’ve enjoyed a caffeine buzz at, but I did do my best to chronicle my cafe outings as much as possible:

It goes without saying that I indulged when it came to coffee and cafe treats throughout the entire country of New Zealand. That being said, I definitely learned to appreciate the moderation with which Kiwis drink coffee. Compared to America, the coffee sizes are much smaller (but stronger) and it is more unusual to get a coffee “to-go” (or as the Kiwis say for “take-away”), encouraging more people to sit down and slowly enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend or in solitude. I think both of these attributes contribute to the phenomenal cafe culture in Wellington and the rest of New Zealand.

Oh and you know those French-press coffee makers many Americans use to make a quick cup of coffee? Well, the Kiwis call it “Plunger coffee.” Charming, right?

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There are touchdowns in rugby, right?

Time June 30th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

First of all, allow me to apologize for my recent blogging hiatus. The month of June has been a crazy one for me here in New Zealand, but now that I’m finished exams (yay!) and mere days away from leaving this beautiful country, I’ve found the time to finish up blogging about some of my adventures. 

On June 6th I flew to Auckland with a group of ten international students for the All Blacks vs. England rugby game. It was a great chance to see Auckland again, explore the university, see some IFSA-Butler friends, and (of course) watch a rugby game! Our IFSA-Butler friends Alex and Joe were courteous enough to let all 10 of us crash on their floor to avoid hostel costs (thanks guys!)

One highlight of the weekend included a trip to the Chocolate Boutique, a restaurant/cafe located in the neighborhood of Parnell that serves chocolate EVERYTHING. Like literally, everything. 

After a self-induced chocolate coma, we all rallied and prepared for the game. Of course we wore ALL BLACK and some of us even put on some face paint. After a short train ride to Eden Park, we had arrived at our first professional rugby game! And we got their just in time to see the legendary HAKA. I attempted to take a video but our seats did not provide a view nearly as good as this one.

All in all the game was a blast. We tried to learn the rules but ultimately we just made friends with the Kiwis sitting in front of us and cheered whenever they cheered. And of course, we took lots of pictures!

And the best part was that the All Blacks won! The final score was 20-15, but throughout the entire game only one try was scored. I really (like seriously) don’t know anything about rugby but I’m told that is pretty uncommon and supposedly it wasn’t a very good game. Well, they fooled us! We had a spectacular time. 

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Adventures on the south island!

Time May 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well I’m obviously a bit biased but based on these past two weeks I have come to the conclusion that New Zealand’s south island is one of the most geographically unique, beautiful, and impressive places on earth.

1000 pictures, 2000 kilometers, and countless memories and unbelievable experiences later, I have returned from my adventure on the south island and I could not be more exhausted or happy. It was an amazing trip in which we managed to cover the majority of the island in our short, two-week school break (yes, while the entire northern hemisphere finishes up exams I am only halfway done my studies for the semester). 

The problem with having so many amazing experiences and not blogging for two weeks is that now I’m stuck with the gigantic and daunting task of somehow relaying my experiences to you. Ugh, such a burden. But I shall do my best :) 

Picton and Punakaiki :

Since Wellington is the southernmost city on the north island, it is also (luckily) the connecting city to the south island via ferry. We rose bright and early to catch a 9 AM ferry from Wellington to Picton. The ferry ride was a short three hours and was beautiful. We even saw some dolphins swimming alongside us. We arrived in Picton, a small town located on the northeast of the south island. From Picton we drove straight to Punakaiki, our first stop on the west coast. Punakaiki is known for a unique rock formation in which the rocks on the beach are stacked and thin as if to look like pancakes. My rock knowledge is pretty pathetic so I’m not really sure what’s going on geologically here, but I’m starting to think Mother Nature likes New Zealand more than the rest of the world since she blessed it with so many unique, natural phenomenons. 

Franz Josef Glacier:

Originally we planned and booked an all day hike on Fox Glacier (located just south of Franz) but unfortunately due to an immense amount of rain our hike was cancelled :( Don’t worry, we were refunded and like the happy, easy-going travellers that we are we bounced back and didn’t let it get us down too much (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed though. I definitely want to go back someday and do the hike). Instead, we opted for a free, hour and a half walk to the face of the glacier. We were able to get within 500 meters of Franz Joseph which is the larger of the two glaciers. What was really amazing about the glacier was how quickly it was moving. Only 3-4 years ago the glacier had been in the exact location from the photo spot 500 meters from the glacier face. Apparently it can move 1-2 meters a day! That’s NUTS. Again, my knowledge is so unbelievably limited but this country is a geologist’s DREAM. If you like rocks, come to New Zealand. If you don’t like rocks, still come to New Zealand.

Wanaka:

Wanaka is a large town located about an hour north of Queenstown. Situated on a beautiful lake, as most New Zealand towns are, Wanaka is surrounded by picturesque mountains and gorgeous views. When we arrived in Wanaka we strolled around town until we found a small hike that brought us to see stunning 360 degree views of the town and surrounding area. Wanaka was the first place we travelled to where I really felt autumn had arrived. The foliage was stunning– it actually reminded me quite a bit of being back home in Vermont. Sadly we left Wanaka the same day that we arrived, but I plan to return!

Milford Sound:

Milford Sound was a must-see for this trip. A four hour drive outside of Queenstown, this stunning natural area is part of Fijordland National Park. We spent the day on a tour bus (it was so nice not to drive the narrow, harrowing road by ourselves for the day), leaving Queenstown around 8 AM and arriving for a 2 PM Milford boat cruise. We made many scenic stops along the way as the national park is unbelievably beautiful. Mirror Lakes (pictured above) was one of my favorite stops, as well as a crystal clear stream where everyone filled up their waterbottles with fresh water. We were told that Milford Sound experiences rain 300/365 days a year, so we were extremely excited when we saw the forecast for our Milford tour day. We had a beautiful sunny day, which was a pleasant change from the wet weather we had been experiencing throughout our drive down the west coast. 

Queenstown:

We spent the next three nights in Queenstown exploring and meeting up with friends from Wellington and Auckland. Queenstown is not a large city like I was expecting it to be, rather it was more of a very large village. Many people said it reminded them of Whistler in Colorado (I’ve never been so I’m not really sure!) But it was one of the most tourist dominated places I’ve been since arriving to New Zealand. My Milford tourguide even told me that it’s rare to hear a Kiwi accent in Queenstown as nearly everyone (workers and tourists) is international. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our time in Queenstown. One highlight was the Below Zero Ice Bar (pictured below) where everything (even your cups) are made of ice. 

Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula:

Dunedin was one stop that we weren’t sure if we should put on the agenda, but I’m so glad we did! We drove from Queenstown to the southernmost point on the south island and followed the “southern scenic route” to Dunedin (I dare you to find me a route in New Zealand that isn’t scenic). I was keen to see Dunedin since my sister had studied at the University of Otago but we also had the chance to check out the Otago Peninsula and the surrounding area (including the steepest street in the world!) Overall I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked Dunedin. We found a cute farmers market in town to pick up some fresh produce and had a picnic next to some seals and penguins. We ended the day with a drive north of Dunedin to see the Moeraki boulders: another puzzling natural phenomenon involving super cool looking rocks on a beautiful beach. Overall, a great day. 

Akaroa:

Akaroa was another unexpected stop on the trip. We had heard from fellow travellers that Christchurch wasn’t too exciting and to check out this cute, French town located about an hour outside of Christchurch. So we drove the extra hour and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found! After checking into the cutest hostel to date (Chez la Mer– a quaint, pink cottage in the middle of town) we explored the town. It was a bit rainy and dreary but we loved it nonetheless. I highly recommend anyone travelling to Christchurch checks out Akaroa if they have the chance. It was pretty quiet which makes me think it is mostly a summer hotspot, but it was exactly what we needed for a night. We made dinner, drank wine, and cozied up to a fireplace. Definitely one of my favorite spots. 

Christchurch:

Christchurch. Where to begin? I almost feel bad for not liking this poor city. After the devastating earthquake of 2011, the city is still in shambles nearly three years later. It was raining when we arrived. I credit my initial dislike for Christchurch to the bad weather, but overall it was just extremely depressing and all of us were eager to leave as soon as possible. The majority of the city is empty lots, broken down buildings, lots of construction sites, and abandoned store-fronts. The church in the center of town (pictured above) is now an iconic image of the city’s struggle. Luckily we gave Christchurch a second chance the following day and the sun came out which improved our overall impressions of this dilapidated city. We found the outdoor container mall which originally popped up after the earthquake but is now a cool, contemporary take on outdoor shopping and food carts. We strolled around the area and enjoyed our day for the most part. I feel as if Christchurch will eventually rebuild and get itself back on New Zealand’s map of “must-do” destinations, but it definitely has a long way to go.  

Kaikoura:

The final (and arguably my favorite) stop on our trip was Kaikoura! Kaikoura is a small town located north of Christchurch and is known for it’s amazing sealife. Kaikoura is the place to go for dolphin swimming, whale watching, and seal-sightings. Lucky for me we got to be here on my 20th birthday!
My birthday began at midnight on May 1st when new hostel friends all sang me happy birthday in 5-6 different languages. After staying up too late I woke up at the crack of dawn and was driven to the beach for a birthday surprise from my friends. Here we drank mimosas and watched the sunrise. We then hopped across the street to a cafe where we all proceeded to eat cake for breakfast. A solid start to the day.
And then we swam with dolphins!

Kaikoura is known for the Dusky Dolphins which look similar to bottlenose dolphins but are slightly smaller and darker in color. Our boat drove us 30 minutes offshore to find these wild animals and then simply told us to hop in the water. Suddenly 200+ dolphins are swimming around us in every direction. The first time I was in the water with them was pretty intimidating, as they are incredibly fast and agile. But once I realized they weren’t going to run into me or attack me or anything I was able to enjoy the entire experience. It was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and I recommend it to anyone visiting Kaikoura. Again, we had a beautiful day and we were so lucky to encounter as many dophins as we did. 

After the dolphin swim, we had a picnic on the beach and somehow we all ended up falling asleep. After a nice nap we headed off to see the seals of Kaikoura! There is a large colony that just hangs out next to nature reserve on the outskirts of the town. We saw a dozen or so seals and were able to get dangerously close to these seemingly harmless animals. Another very cool experience. 

After Kaikoura we drove back to Picton and then boarded the ferry home for Wellington!

All in all, the trip was fantastic. New Zealand’s south island is much more geographically impressive than the north island. I wish we had more than two weeks to see everything but I think we did a great job seeing as much as we possibly could. While the weather didn’t always cooperate, we made the most of each and every day and saw some pretty unbelievable things.

So yup, I still love New Zealand. Sadly now I have to get back to school work for a bit :( 

More adventures to come!

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Cute sheep and ugly trolls: an average weekend in New Zealand

Time May 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I have a little over 50 days left in New Zealand, and it’s starting to feel like the beginning of the end. While everyone at home is finishing exams, starting summer, and even graduating (congrats to my favorite sister on Monday!!), I still have quite a bit to do in regards to my academics. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between university in New Zealand and Wake is that here 60-70% of my grades will be determined by my final exams.

So while I haven’t been too stressed this semester, I foresee the week of June 24th-28th to be a very hectic one. The exam period here goes from June 9th to June 30th, and somehow all of my exams got lumped into the same week at the end. Luckily this is what I’m used to back at home, but it won’t be fun. Since the south island trip I have been studying! Yes, actually studying. It’s revolutionary. And I think it paid off since I took an accounting exam and didn’t want to cry after. Success! Also, last weekend my study abroad program organized a fun day trip around Wellington for the seven of us students. First we took a ferry to Somes Island for our “Volunteer Event.” Somes Island is an eco sanctuary in the middle of the Wellington Harbor, and it is home to penguins, a vast variety of rare birds, and the giant Weta– a disgusting and huge version of a cockroach that I was really hoping to avoid while in New Zealand. Sadly, we found one. It’s pictured below but avert your eyes if you are anything like me and hate bugs.

Aside from the Weta encounter, the island was great! We spent the morning enjoying the area, trimming some hedges, doing some weeding, and we even got to hang out with the sheep!

Did you know the current sheep to human ratio in New Zealand is 7:1? They aren’t kidding when they say there are more sheep than people! After our morning on the island we drove out to the Wellington sign! The sign, modeled after the Hollywood sign, is located at the Miramar Peninsula which is home to Peter Jackson’s production studios. Which is where we went next! We weren’t allowed to take photos on the tour of the workshop, but we enjoyed the giant trolls outside. I am ashamed to admit I’ve only seen the first and second Lord of the Rings movies and I haven’t seen either Hobbit movies, so I definitely couldn’t fully appreciate the experience. But you know what I could appreciate? Seeing the grocery store where Orlando Bloom bought his groceries whenever he was in town. I basically died. See, this is the problem with me.

It was a really fun day, complete with the beautiful outdoors, sheep, weird bugs, Peter Jackson, trolls, and Hobbits. What else would you expect from a Saturday in New Zealand?

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The “study” part of “study abroad”

Time May 5th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I suppose it had to happen eventually.

I’ve been in denial about the fact that studying abroad actually includes academics. Maybe it’s because I go to “Work Forest,” statistically one of the most rigorous schools in the country, and I was under the assumption that going to school in another country would be an absolute breeze. What I didn’t consider was the fact that in order to maintain my academic success at Wake and to stay on track with my major I would have to take compulsory and academically rigorous courses while in New Zealand (because God forbid I take a few “fun” or “easy” classes).

My schedule here consists of four classes. Four classes at Wake would be fairly manageable (average is five). But here, four is “overloading.” I think this is because the semester is a little bit shorter (only 12 weeks long, in comparison to the average 15-16 week semester in the states). My two business courses (Management Accounting and Legal Environment of Business) are 200 level courses that are proving to a) be quite difficult and b) quite a workout. You see, the business school at Victoria University is located two miles from the main campus.

TWO MILES.

So yes, I walk two miles (uphill both ways, I swear) three days a week. But it’s okay, because one of my tutors is unbelievably attractive.

That’s another thing that is different about the education system here. Because Victoria is such a large school (at least in comparison to Wake) the lectures are too large for any individual attention. Therefore, once a week I have a “tutorial” for each class, which consists of about 15-20 students and a grad student who goes over the material for the week and makes sure everyone is feeling good about it.

So am I feeling good about it??

Good question.

I have officially handed in three assignments: an accounting assignment, a music paper (I seriously question why I chose a liberal arts education every time I go to that class), and an accounting test.

Well, the accounting assignment didn’t go too well, BUT it doesn’t count towards my final grade. The paper I have not gotten back yet (I’ll keep you posted…. maybe), and the test…. well, we won’t talk about that.

So, academically speaking, I can’t say I’m doing as great as I had imagined I would. Sorry mom and dad.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE…. I only have to pass my classes! C’s get degrees, right?

For many of you reading this, I can imagine your horror. I swear I’m a good student. But for some reason my priorities are in an entirely different place here. Which I’m actually kind of okay with/proud of myself for. I mean, who would I be if I was sitting in every day and night studying, when all of New Zealand is outside my window?

Speaking of windows, check out the view from my study spot in the library. Maybe this is why my accounting test didn’t go so well. I suppose I could have moved to a less distracting cubicle, but what fun would that have been?

 

That being said, I only have two more weeks of classes before midsemester break, and I’m planning on buckling down and getting some solid work done. As much as I am trying to experience all that New Zealand has to offer, I am also not going to let my academics completely crumble.

One class I’m really enjoying is my tourism class! Coincidentally this is the one class I have yet to complete any graded work for. I have to hand in an assignment next week that analyzes the affects of two political and economic events on the tourism industry. Currently I’m planning on focusing on the affects of 9/11 on tourism in the U.S. and the Apartheid on tourism in South Africa, but (surprise surprise) I haven’t really started yet. I promise, it’ll get done. Don’t worry.

So yes, study abroad DOES actually involve studying. The major difference between academics in the U.S. and in New Zealand (and most of the rest of the world, I believe) is the grading system. Here, anything above a 50% is passing (woohoo!) and the weight of the assignment is much greater. For example, in my accounting class I have two tests (each worth 20% of my grade) and then my final exam is worth 60% of my final grade. 60%. That’s insanity. So basically I just have to not fail the final exam and I will be fine, right? Right. That’s what I’m telling myself after my test last week at least. Accounting is hard, okay? Jeez.

Anyways, I don’t want you to think I’m hating school. I’m not at all. In fact, I really like Victoria University! The main campus (Kelburn) is a really cool compact campus located just a 7-10 minute walk from my flat. The coolest part of campus is “The Hub” which is a large hang out spot for studying, coffee drinking, socializing, etc. While it’s no ZSR, I also really like the library here (probably for the beautiful view I showed you already). There is also a really great restaurant/bar on campus which is great for a study break.

And don’t even get me started when it comes to the business school. While it’s no 50 million dollar Farrell Hall at Wake Forest, the business school here is unrivaled due to it’s location RIGHT next door to Parliament. How cool is that?

 

The test I took the other day was proctored in one of the old government buildings (I guess Victoria University bought them after Parliament built “The Beehive”). And I even have two of my tutorials in the Wellington Railway Station, which is also right next door to the business school.

So yes, Uni (as the locals call it) is pretty great. Since Wake is such a bubble, it’s been a really interesting experience going to school in a city. Going from driving through gates to get onto campus to strolling by Parliament to get to class has been a huge change, but definitely a welcome one. As much as I love Wake, I love the vibrancy of Wellington and the hustle and bustle that comes with living in a city. Winston-Salem just doesn’t really cut it.

This past weekend was just spent in Wellington with my friends. While I have no huge adventures to report on, it was another fun few days exploring the waterfront on a run, trying a new fish ‘n chips restaurant, trying out new bars, and meeting new people. I don’t think this city could ever bore me. One of my favorite Sunday rituals has been walking down to the waterfront for the weekly produce market. We go every Sunday that we’re in town to pick up our fruits and veggies for the week. They’re unbelievably cheap and it’s a great way to get ourselves out of bed and into town (not to mention we get some great produce!) We also tried out a new restaurant for brunch this past Sunday morning. It’s simple weekends like these that reassure me of my love for this city. I really think I could live here.

 

Alright, that’s all for now folks. Wish me luck in my attempt to be studious this week!

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Napier: Wine and the Art Deco Capital of the World

Time May 5th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

One of the many trips I have taken during the past two months was to Napier, a small city located on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island. Napier is known for it’s wine and the fact that it is the art-deco capital of the world. I have to admit, I really had no idea what art-deco was until I visited, but I soon learned that it was a style of architecture and art primarily from the 1930’s. Napier experienced a devastating earthquake in 1931, so during the rebuilding process everything was built in the same, unique, “art-deco” style.

We stayed at a cute hostel in the center of town and explored the city, the coast, and (of course) the winelands! We rented bikes for $40 for the day and cruised around various vineyards and sampled all sorts of tasty wines and food. Definitely a highlight of my time in New Zealand thus far.

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A Royal Occasion in Wellington

Time May 5th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It is no secret to anybody in New Zealand and Australia that the Royals (Will, Kate, and baby Prince George) were in the area for a three week tour. I was fortunate enough to get the chance to see the royal couple on their last stop in Wellington before they jetted off to Australia. Sadly, Prince George was not in attendance, but I can hardly complain since I got some pretty amazing photos of Duke and Duchess. Prepare to be jealous!

 

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A taste of the South Island in Abel Tasman

Time April 4th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Study abroad is not real life. That’s the best way I can think of to describe it. Can we just acknowledge the fact that my #1 priority and responsibility is to have amazing adventures and to see as much of this beautiful country as possible? This type of lifestyle will probably never ever happen again in my life, so I can assure you I’m taking advantage of every second. I think I’m doing a pretty good job so far.
So what epic adventure did I go on this past weekend?
I flew to the South Island with the IFSA Butler program to kayakhike, and sleep on a floating backpackers in Abel Tasman National Park.

Yeah, pretty cool.

We (the seven of us Victoria/Butler students) had an early wake up call on Saturday morning and got picked up at 6:20 AM to make a 7:45 flight out of Wellington to Nelson, which is one of the northernmost cities on the South Island. I’ve been told that the ferry between Wellington and the South Island is a little over three hours, so you can imagine how quick of a flight this was. We had barely gotten in the air by the time the flight attendant was announcing our descent. Also I should probably mention that we didn’t go through airport security or even need any form of identification to get on the plane. I mean, I know New Zealand isn’t a hot terrorist spot, but still. Just another reason this country is so cool: no security on some (short) domestic flights. Auckland to Wellington is a different story I guess.

Anyways…

My initial thought when landing on the south island was: holy moly, this place is beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, the north island is great (I hope you understand how much I love Wellington at this point in my blog), but the true geographic beauty of New Zealand is found on the south island.

We then drove to Abel Tasman Kayaks to meet our guide, Abby, and start our journey through Abel Tasman National Park. Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand’s smallest national park, is known for it’s golden beaches and picturesque bays. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful places to kayak in the world. In the WORLD! I’m doing so many “most/best/coolest things in the world” these days. I’m definitely not taking any of it for granted, don’t worry.

So the kayak trip was gorgeous, as I’m sure you probably suspected. We started in a town called Marahau and paddled along the coast to Adele Island where we even got the chance to see some seals who were chilling on the rocks and enjoying the amazing day we had been blessed with. (Supposedly Adele Island is named after the wife of an explorer of this area… I forget his name, the seals were distracting. Regardless, it’s not named after Adele the singer, which is naturally where my mind initially went).

After the seal sighting, we retreated to a beach with food on the brain. Our guide had packed us a delicious lunch, complete with kumara salad. Kumara is the Maori word for sweet potato, which many of you know is one of my favorite foods. I’ve been cooking with it quite often these days but this salad was better than anything I’ve ever made. Hard to believe, I know.

Kidding.

After lunch, we decided to abandon the kayaks due to some unforeseen seasickness (not on my part, I love the ocean). But we learned we could hike the rest of the way to our destination, and that seemed like the best idea at the time. Of course, we didn’t leave the beach without taking some pics!

Ultimately I’m really glad we hiked the rest of the way (only a few kilometers) as we got to see some amazing views. If
I’ve learned one thing in New Zealand it’s that you’re never more than a few minutes from something beautiful or really really cool. Whether it’s a waterfall, an epic cliff, a stunning harbor, or even just a field full of sheep, you can always find something picture-worthy (clearly I think so, as I took over 500 pictures this weekend. Whoops).
Once we got to the beach we just hung out, took more pictures (surprise surprise) and explored, before ultimately catching a dingy to our floating hostel! How many people can say they’ve slept on a floating hostel? Not many, that’s for sure.
Aquapackers, as the hostel is known as, was a really cool way to experience Abel Tasman for the night. The crew fed us a delicious meal and we enjoyed the scenic views of Anchorage Bay (where we were anchored– coincidence…?)Then, the seven of us girls were squished into a small cabin for the night. I was a little weary as to how I’d sleep, but luckily I was so exhausted from the early morning and the adventurous day that I passed out to the rocking of the boat in seconds.The next morning we enjoyed a complimentary breakfast and bonded with some German travelers. Did you know that Germans are the most well travelled people in the world? Apparently it’s because they get 6 weeks of paid vacation off every year, and it doesn’t roll over, so everyone uses it every year (see, I am learning something in my tourism class!) But in all seriousness, there are so many German travelers here.
We left the boat around 9:00 am to start our hike for the day. Nothing too eventful happened during the hike, but I did snap some amazing pictures of some more gorgeous scenery and that’s more interesting than my babbling anyways, so here you go!

 

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I’m in love

Time March 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

With Wellington. Calm down folks, I haven’t met my attractive Kiwi, rugby player yet. Or maybe I have…? I’ll keep you posted.

But in all seriousness, I can find no other words to describe this city other than “perfect” “my future home” and “a million times better than Winston-Salem” (sorry Wake). Wellington was recently ranked the 11th best city in the WORLD to live in and the only thing I’m wondering is what those other 10 cities could possibly have that would upstage this magnificent coastal capital.

Probably the best way to describe Wellington and to appropriately capture it’s effect on me is that it is unbelievably charming (the Kiwi accents help with that too) . With a population of less than 400,000, this city is miniature in comparison to Auckland (and just about all other world capitals). In fact, most people are inclined to believe that Auckland IS New Zealand’s capital. Think again! Wellington is where it’s at.

With it’s winding streets, hilly landscapes, arbitrarily located staircases, and gorgeous views, this is one city that I think everyone should make an effort to visit. Let me briefly walk you through my experience with Wellington thus far. Hopefully it can help you understand why I’ve fallen in love in three short weeks.

The Waterfront

Located at the southern tip of the north island, Wellington is kind of a “C” shaped city, curving around a natural harbor. The waterfront was the first place we visited when we got here and I’ve since gone back nearly every day because it is so beautiful. First of all, the water is SO BLUE. Most American harbors are pretty gross and on the murkier, darker side of the color wheel, so this is a nce change. On any given (sunny) day, you can find countless people jumping off the waterfront dock. I’ve been told it’s something I have to do before I leave, and I definitely intend to!

Another really cool thing about the waterfront is the “Wellington Writers Walk.” While the image below depicts one of the more prominent literary works, it generally takes a keen eye to find all the little quotes around the area. They all celebrate the city and help take on the difficult task of describing why this city is so amazing. This one is definitely my favorite (so far!) and describes Wellington perfectly:

There are also lots of really cool bars and cafes located around the waterfront and I love that it’s not just for people with boats, rather it’s a place to hang out and enjoy Wellington. More importantly, its one of the only flat spots in the entire city which makes it one of the more popular places for running, biking, taking the dog for a walk, etc. I’ve found the unbelievably gorgeous harbor views to be a great distraction while going for a jog.

The Hills

While I know I complain quite a bit about the hilliness of Wellington, I secretly love it. First of all, everyone on this campus is in great shape because you really have no choice. Out of shape people would legitimately not make it to class– it’s that bad. Victoria University is located on a hill above the city. While it’s close to the heart of the city (as the crow flies), you have to climb some pretty steep streets and stairs to get to it. The worst is the DIxon Street stairs. This is the staircase that we take to get from town to campus. Dixon Street is quite steep itself, and then you climb 9 flights of stairs, and then you continue to go uphill for another half mile or so. It’s a great workout. The city does have a cable car to get residents from the bottom of the city to the campus, but most students hoof it.
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                            Wellington Cable Car (it completes the quintessential Wellington picture)
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                          An encouraging plaque on a bench halfway up the Dixon Street staircase
Besides the fact that the hills are a great, built-in workout, they also give Wellington a really unique look and a lot of character. Houses are built on top of each other, carparks (as they call them here) are more like really strong decks (see picture), and almost everyone gets some sort of view of the city. On my walk to class I can see the entire city and the harbor. It’s really pretty magical and I wouldn’t change it– despite my sore legs.

                                            Not a bad view for my walk to class!

The Kiwis

Where to begin. The Kiwi’s (locals) are great. They’re super friendly, incredibly helpful, and have killer accents. I’m really working on my Kiwi lingo as well. More to come on that.

While my classes are pretty big (we’re talking 300 students here, Wake didn’t prepare me for that) I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the friendliness and openness of my classmates. I feel like people tend to keep to themselves in the U.S. Once they have their friend-group they don’t necessarily feel the need to introduce themselves left and right. That is definitely not the case here and it has made adjusting to life here so much easier.

They also love Americans (at least that has been my experience). Before studying abroad I was told by many people that Americans studying abroad often have a bad reputation and aren’t respected in many countries. But here, they love our accents, our TV shows, our music, and (wait for it) our red solo cups. Seriously, red solo cups are worshiped here. It’s hilarious. I wish I had known so I could have brought some with me (they’re ridiculously expensive and hard to find). I met one Kiwi who said she has one red solo cup and will never throw it away. God I love them.

So moral of the story: Kiwis are great people and everyone should make themselves a Kiwi friend at some point in life.

Okay that’s all I have for now. There will be much more to come– I’m just super tired and have homework (apparently studying abroad actually requires some studying. Who knew?)

Just know that I’m having an amazing time (if you couldn’t tell) and that I LOVE this city more than I could’ve possibly imagined.

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Getting Oriented in Aotearoa

Time March 7th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I know everyone has anxiously been awaiting my first New Zealand blog post and I apologize that it has taken me this long. However, it really is not my fault. New Zealand is seriously behind on their wifi game.

While I know this is probably a good thing for “unplugging” and “disconnecting” purposes, the adjustment has not been easy. But now I’m all settled into my flat and I have been allotted 2 gb of wifi a day!! (Is that a lot? I have no idea…)

So I’ve only been in New Zealand for a few weeks and I have already experienced a whole heap (they say that a lot here, I’m trying to fit in). I took a group flight from LA to Auckland on February 18th, and while the group flight sounded like a great way to make friends (who wouldn’t want to bond over a 14 hour flight?) in reality, basically no one met until we landed in Auckland. Of course, upon arrival, no one was looking too hot. Let’s just say I’m glad we all gave each other a second chance at a first impression.

We drove an hour outside of Auckland to Shakespear Regional Park (no, I did not mispell that). Here we were greeted by a friendly YMCA staff who legitimately spent the next three days trying to see how much food they could make us eat. Oh and they planned some pretty fun activities too. We played touch rugby, went kayaking, took out a sailboat, and just hung out on a beach for two days. Aside from a few sunburns and some jetlag, I was pretty content.

The Shakespear Lodge was the perfect place for us to relax and adjust to the time change. Between bonding, learning about our universities (some students were going to University of Auckland, some to Victoria in Wellington), and eating (they fed us every other hour– no exaggeration), we had an amazing time, all while enjoying some classic, beautiful New Zealand scenery. The one thing I noticed during these first few days was how vibrant this country is. It seems like the grass is a little greener, the sky is a little brighter, and the people are just a little nicer. Despite the two gross bugs I found a little too close to my bed, the two nights we spent at Shakespear Lodge could not have been a more perfect introduction to the next four months.On Friday we drove back to Auckland to spend the day exploring the city. Known as the “City of Sails,” Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and is home to a third of New Zealand’s 4.3 million residents. A massive city, to say the least.

I think the fact that the city is so big contributes to it’s Westernized feel. While we all had a lot of fun exploring the city (granted, three hours wasn’t really enough to see a lot) I didn’t get a super great vibe. The waterfront was gorgeous and the sky tower was incredibly impressive, but overall it kind of just seemed like any other coastal American city. Which is why I am so SOO so excited to finally be in Wellington! That being said, Auckland was beautiful and I’m glad I got the chance to check it out.
Before we left Auckland for Wellington we were fortunate enough to spend Saturday night at a traditional marae. A marae is basically a Maori village, and while this one was modernized enough for us to spend the night, we got a very traditional and cultural experience. Oh and they fed us pretty well too. No surprise there. By far the coolest part of this experience was when we got to see a traditional Haka. A Haka is a Maori war dance, and to this day the New Zealand national rugby team still performs it before every game. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s pretty cool and definitely deserves a YouTube search!
The night we spent at the marae was a lot of fun as it was basically a giant slumber party. There were nearly 30 people sleeping in this building that was meant to replicate a traditional Maori meeting house and it was our last night as a large group (only 7 of us were going to Wellington), so it was definitely bittersweet.

On Sunday, the seven of us Victoria students took a super quick flight down the north island to Wellington! In comparison to Auckland, Wellington is an adorable, quirky, windy, and hilly city located on the southern tip of the north island. Within minutes of driving to campus it was easy to tell that navigating these narrow, winding roads was going to be tricky. Nonetheless, we all made it to our respective flats. I’m living in a little house situated on a hill (it seems everything is built into a hill here), with three flatmates (two guys, one other girl). Two are from the U.S. while the other is our “Kiwi-mate.” We have a great living room, kitchen, 1.5 baths, and we each have our own room which is very ideal. Despite the fully stocked kitchen, I’m a little nervous about not having any sort of meal plan. I like to think I’m pretty capable in the kitchen, but I may actually miss the Pit (never thought I’d say that.) Wish me luck as I attempt to feed myself a balanced diet everyday for the next four months.

Since arriving, I’ve just been settling in and exploring Wellington with the other people on the Butler program and my flatmates. More to come soon on daily life around Wellington and the adjustment to school in New Zealand! Stay tuned!

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Why New Zealand?

Time February 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

For me, studying abroad at some point during my college years was inevitable. What wasn’t as obvious was in which country I wanted to spend a semester.The one thing I can say about New Zealand that I can’t necessarily say about a lot of other countries is this: I have never (like actually never) heard someone who has been there say a bad word about their time in New Zealand. To be fair, I also don’t know a ton of people who have traveled there. All the more reason to check it out! But in all seriousness, have you ever heard someone speak ill of New Zealand? (Minus the earthquake thing… I’m trying to forget about that.)

Going abroad this spring was fairly spontaneous of me. I was planning on shipping myself overseas with the rest of the Wake Forest junior student body during the fall of 2014, but for me, all academic signs pointed to seeking international adventure a little earlier in my college career. So I had to make the decision rather quickly. For me, Europe has always been out of the question. While I can’t wait to someday float down the canals in Venice and try out the pub scene in Ireland, I knew that travelling across Europe just wasn’t what I wanted for my abroad experience. I was determined to find a place where I really, truly wanted to live for five months. I didn’t want to feel like I have to pack a little bag every weekend in search of a new adventure. I wanted to find adventure in the same country I started in.

I plan on exploring as much of New Zealand as my six-month visa allows. I also wouldn’t mind trying to get over to Australia, and I definitely intend on making a pit-stop in Fiji (I’d be crazy if I didn’t!) However, my main intention is to explore and discover the coolest little capital in the world: Wellington.

I chose Wellington after my sister came back from her New Zealand experience. She recommended this coastal, capital city, located at the southern-tip of New Zealand’s north island. Originally, I was torn between studying in Stellenbosch, South Africa and Wellington for quite some time. But eventually I came to the conclusion that New Zealand was the place for me. I already had a stamp in my passport from South Africa, why not try someplace new?

Some other things about New Zealand that made the decision easier:

1. FREE STUDENT VISA (FOR AMERICANS)

The U.S. and New Zealand have an agreement regarding students travelling between countries. New Zealander’s can get a free student visa when coming to the U.S. and therefore, Americans can get a free student visa when travelling to New Zealand. Definitely couldn’t complain about that one! Additionally, the visa application process was quick and easy. No travel headaches (yet!)

2. IT’S SAFE

According to a 2012 Global Peace Index, New Zealand was ranked the second safest country in the world, after Iceland. Considering the U.S. was 88th on that list, I’m pretty content with that ranking.

3. NO SNAKES (AND OTHER POISONOUS CREEPY-CRAWLIES)

Seriously. New Zealand is completely and utterly snake-free. Additionally, they have only 2-3 known poisonous insects, and apparently they’re so rare most people consider the island nation to be poisonous-bug free.
Unfortunately, New Zealand is home to a disgusting-looking bug known as the weta. I would attach a link but I seriously don’t think you want to see what they look like. Considering I cried the first time I ever saw a cockroach (no exaggeration, just ask my roommates), I can’t even imagine what would happen if I encountered one of these mouse-sized bugs.

4. IT’S FRIENDLY

In 2012, Forbes named New Zealand the Friendliest Country in the World, followed shortly after by Australia and South Africa. This ranking was earned based on New Zealand expats’ ability to befriend locals and integrate into the community. It is also believed that New Zealand’s smaller population (only 4.4 million), lower unemployment rate, good health care, and low poverty rates all contribute to the overall friendliness of this country. I can’t wait to make some Kiwi friends!

5. “A SMALL COUNTRY WITH REALLY BIG PERSONALITY”

I’m not 100% sure what this quote means yet, but when I heard it on this video, I really liked it. One thing that has enticed me to go to New Zealand is that I don’t actually know a lot about it. I’m excited to see what this beautiful island nation has to offer me.

Well, my flight departs from LAX in 3DAYS! I seriously don’t know how that happened. I have watched the days tick down on my phone’s countdown app, but I never thought the day would actually come. I could not be more excited, but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit Wake-sick and homesick already. I guess I should just be grateful that I have so many wonderful things to say goodbye to here in the U.S. However, something tells me I have some pretty great things waiting for me in New Zealand as well!

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