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I Saw Mountains Gandalf

Time July 11th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello!

I am finally home after traveling back from New Zealand and spending a week in Albuquerque with my parents and wow does it feel weird to be here. I was warned that there would be some culture shock on the return to the US and I was proved right. I already miss New Zealand but I know I’ll be back there one day in the future because I’m not done with that country. It was an absolutely incredible journey that I had my semester there. I learned so much about myself and about being independent and as cliche as it sounds I definitely matured and grew through the experience which is exactly what I wanted to do. I would encourage younger college goers to really consider going abroad because there are things you just won’t learn if you never step outside of your comfort zone. It is truly a great way to immerse youself into another culture and to get a more wordly perspective on life. So although I said in my last post that coming to New Zealand didn’t really help with my career plans, it definitely put me into perspective (among other things) which is (and was) a bit shocking. I think young adults these days get so focused on getting a job and making money that they lose sight of who they are and what they actually want and what they’re good at. I finally realised that although I’m studying engineering, I’m not really an engineer, or what people are typically looking for in an engineer. Ok fine I have some of the qualities of an engineer which make me an average one, but I’m never going to be a person who people look at and go, “Oh yeah she’s definitely an engineer” and I finally realised that I’m ok with that. I’m glad I went abroad because I was with an entirely new set of people who didn’t know me and so when I was having moments of panic or confusion I could talk to them and get entirely new perspectives on issues I was having. It was incredibly refreshing and I also know how to handle my problems better now. Finally going abroad made me realise that I can be the person that I want to be. I don’t have to fit into a certain perception just because that’s what I’ve always done and that’s what people expect of me. I have never been more content or happy with my life than I was in New Zealand. That’s a good lesson to learn. Going abroad came at a good time for me and I am so glad I went, not just for the personal lessons obviously but for everything. The people, the experience, the country, and of course the mountains.  This is my last blog post and  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Thanks for following and I hope that if you are even slightly interested in going abroad that you look into it. It will change you so much.

 

Cheers

Ailie

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Today is the Day I Start Packing

Time June 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It is the beginning of my last week here in NZ and all of the feels are crashing down around me. Its crazy to think that I’ve been here for four months now and that it feels so much like home to me. I’m definitely excited to go home and see all of my friends and my cats but I know its going to be really hard when it finally hits me that I am leaving this wonderful country. I just keep telling myself that I’m coming back soon, and that’s not even a lie because I know I’m coming back I just don’t have a time frame for that yet.  I meant to start packing a week ago but I just couldn’t/didn’t want to do it and now its finally getting to the point where I’m like, yeah…I need to start packing otherwise I’ll be stressing out majorly when I’m done with my finals. Lots of more studying to be done and lots of things to think about in the next week! Hopefully there will be some fun mixed in with all of the studying, packing and freaking out haha.

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Reflections on a Study Abroad Experience

Time June 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I know I still have a little over a week here in New Zealand, but I’ve definitely been feeling nostalgic about my experience here which is slightly weird since I’m still in the country but hey this has been a truly incredible experience. It is very interesting to look back to the day I landed in Auckland super nervous but mostly excited for what was to come and realise how much I’ve changed and how much I’ve done. I have met some of the best people ever and done some of the weirdest or most random things I have ever done in my life. I was at a dinner party with a group of people who were a bit older to me and I was telling them that I’ve noticed some pretty big changes in me. They asked what they were and it was nice to be able to say that I feel that I’ve grown into a more mature and well-rounded person since coming to New Zealand. It really is a big change living thousands of miles away from home and essentially being on your own in a foriegn country for four months. True I had friends and a program that I was with that took very good care of me, but a lot of the stuff I did was self-planned or planned with people my age and on a college student budget. I’m definitely more relaxed about things than I used to be which is both good and bad but mostly a positive in my eyes. It sounds so hokey and cliche, but I’ve also learned to appreciate myself for everything that I am including the not so great parts because I came here with a clean slate, no one had any preconceived notions about me so I acted completely natural and made quite a few friends who like me for all of my quirks. That’s not to say that I don’t act naturally back home but usually my quirks come out the later you get to know me. Here I was weird from the get go which was pretty great. I’ve also learned to be more honest with myself and with others and not be afraid to disagree because hey everyone has their own opinion and their own agenda for their life and when they match up that’s awesome but diversity is also key to living a well-rounded life. I did think that coming to New Zealand would help put more of my life into perspective and I would potentially leave knowing what I wanted to do a year from now after graduating from uni….unfortunately I have less of an idea of that than I did before I came here, but that’s mainly because I’ve realized that I don’t have to have all of that figured out and I have some options. That’s definitely something I’ve learned since being here, to just go with the flow and live in the moment and appreciate what you have while you have it. While there’s plenty of physical things I will be bringing back to America, I think I’m bringing back an equal if not more important amount of mental and emotional things and that’s all I could really ask for from this experience.

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Study Break

Time June 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’m a week into finals and still have 6 days before my first final which is cool but also terrible at the same time. We had a week in between the beginning of finals and the end of term which was dubbed “study break”. I’ve heard multiple views on what should actually be done during this time ranging from actually reviewing for finals and going to office hours to traveling and taking a break. Depending on whether or not you’re international is really how you decide whether you’re going to study or not. Most of my friends went and traveled the north island. However, my sister came to visit me during that week so I was busy showing her areas around Christchurch. Unfortunately it rained the entire four days that I had rented a car for us but we still enjoyed it well enough. I took her out to Arthur’s Pass, Mt. Sunday, Hanmer Springs and Akaroa. It was cool because I hadn’t been to three of those places before and so I got to do my own exploring as well. The last two days she was here, the weather was perfect (of course) but that was nice because then I could show her around Christchurch properly and without slogging through the cold and the wet. Other than that I’ve just been studying for my exams. It has been a bit hard to focus because we have had quite nice weather for the past week and I just want to go to the beach even though its cold but finals are finals and those require my full attention at the moment. So studying shall continue!

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This is the End

Time June 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So tomorrow starts the beginning of the last week of this semester for me here in Christchurch and I have to say it is quite welcome. Its going to be a tough week with a lot of assignments due on Friday, but overall even though this term was much more challenging than the last it was definitely worth it. I have less than a month left in New Zealand and unfortunately have already started packing or at least making lists in my head. Its starting to hit me just how much I’ve changed since being here and how it will be another culture shock going home. There were things I picked up along the way that stuck out to me as being different from home but its really been only in the past week and a half that I’ve realized everything that is different and how I have gotten used to those things. It’ll be nice to go home because there are quite a few people that I miss, but at the same time it will be weird because like I said before, I have made a different life for myself here and it will be hard to leave. In exciting news however my sister will be visiting next week after classes are over which is perfect timing really because we have a full week for studying and then finals start. We have a few day trips from Christchurch planned which will be fun and her visit will be coming at a good time because I won’t want to do anything else except have fun. :)

One more week and then FREEEEEEEEDOM!!!!

But only until finals start…haha

 

 

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Well this is awkward…

Time May 20th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Another week gone and I realized that I really don’t have thay much to report about for it which makes me sad because hey I’m still in New Zealand and its still awesome. I guess its just because I’m back at uni and this term has a bit more work so I’m not getting out as much. That being said there are only three weeks left in the semester and only 5 weeks left in my program and that’s scary. New Zealand has become my new normal and its weird to think that in two months time it won’t be my home anymore. I’ve definitely made some awesome friends here and have experienced a lot of cool stuff. But enough about that sad stuff. I did manage to do some fun things this past weekend despite a very work heavy week. On Friday I ventured out with one of my flatmates to a different shopping mall and got in some retail therapy which is always good. Saturday I went to a Crusaders game (rugby) with some flatmates and other friends. They lost, but at least the game was really close and actually quite good. I still have no idea what’s going on most of the time, but its more about the experience right? Sunday was just a work day as usual but I got to sleep in so that was fun. This week is looking like its going to be another work work work week but that’s ok, it can’t be all fun and games right? Haha of course not because after all it is study abroad not vacation abroad 😉

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Uni Life Again

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

So I have now been back in Christchurch for a week and a half and have gone through my first week of term 2 at uni. Oh my gosh that three week break completely spoiled me! It was a pretty big struggle to get back into the swing of things like going to class and turning in assignments and what not, but I think I’m back on track now. It was also weird to think that I was going to be in the same place for the majority of the rest of my time here. As happy as I was to be back in a familiar place there is definitely a part of me that’s already like ok let’s go to the next place! There’s plenty of things to do around Christchurch though and its been nice to hang out with my flatmates and my other uni friends again. Not much is really going on/has happened in the past week, which is such a stark contrast to what I was up to for two and a half weeks. I will say that this term is much more demanding assignment wise than last term which is surprising to me since last term was longer by two weeks. This term I have three lab reports, a test, two essays and a handful of assignments to deal with. I know I shouldn’t be complaining but its just not what I was expecting  after last term, just part of the experience haha. On that note I should probably go and get started on that work that I have to do. Until next time!

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All Good Things Must Come to an End

Time May 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So Easter Break is about to be over and it is quite sad. That being said, it was an amazing two and half weeks of travel with some of the coolest people I have ever met.

Wrapping up this adventure was our stop in Dunedin where we crashed at one of our fellow IFSA-Butler peeps’ flat. The weather was a bit chilly and cold but we managed to still have a great time anyway! The first day we walked around the town and saw the train station which was beautiful and a lot of cool art galleries. Randomly enough we decided to pop into a music shop and got into a conversation with one of the employees who pointed us in the direction of a Mexican food place which we immediately choose as our lunch stop. I had polenta chicken soft tacos and it was amazing and definitely reminded me of home so that was awesome. Afterwards we cruised around the Octagon which is the city centre of Dunedin and then met up with our friend and chilled for the rest of the day.

Our second day there we had brunch at a fantastic place called Capers. Their pancakes were amazing as was everything else we ate. One of the best parts about that meal was their map that had pins all over it representing where people have visited from so naturally we had to put up pins in our respective home cities. While doing this we got into a conversation with one of the baristas and he asked us where we were from. Me and my friend were telling him we were both from Texas and went to school in San Antonio and then he asked if it was Trinity University (which it is) and we were like OMG YES! Apparently he’s dating a girl who attends school there and studied abroad last year. Talk about a small world, but it was really cool that someone from New Zealand knew where we went to school.  So after brunch we hit up the iconic Chinese Gardens which were very pretty and relaxing. We all got a pot of tea and just hung out and enjoyed the atmosphere for a bit. The rest of the day was spent walking around the Botanic Gardens, Baldwin Street and in my case taking a nap haha.

The final day our big event was having lunch at the Speight’s Ale House which was very enjoyable and then it was time to get on the bus and ride back to Christchurch. We did a full loop of the South Island and it was by far one of the best trips I have ever taken. It was really weird to be back in my own flat after not having been around for two and half weeks but man was it nice to wake up in my own bed. Classes resume on Monday so that should be interesting. I’ll keep you updated. Cheers!

 

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#vacationonvacation

Time May 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello!

So as I enter my third week of Easter break I realize that i haven’t talked about the past week which had been by far the best!

After our interesting adventure in Fox Glacier we took a gorgeous bus ride down to Queenstown. Seriously it was the best part of the bus rides we have been on. I’m talking mountains and lakes and really cute lakeside towns. Unfortunately we descended into the valley that contains Queenstown at night and thus did not see the epic mountains until the next day. It was a happy surprise when I woke up the next morning to see all of the mountains.

We immediately hit up a Queenstown classic Fergburger, for dinner and it was the best and most massive hamburger I have ever had. We also had treats from the bakery and afterward my stomach was about to burst.

In our first full day we explored the town and had lunch at a restaurant on the water. Queenstown is absolutely gorgeous with Lake Wakatipu and all of the mountains in the background. Not to mention the weather was spectacular and after almost a full week of rain the sunshine was most welcome. Later in the day we took the gondola up to the top of the mountain and I almost burst into tears over how beautiful the view was. There are seriously no words to describe it because it was unreal. I could have sat up there for days and just looked at the mountains. That evening we made quesadillas for dinner and my Texas soul was happy.

The next day we went to the Queenstown botanic gardens to walk around and play some disc golf. Afterwards we grabbed some lunch and then headed off to watch one of our own bungee jump off of the Kawahru bridge. It was absolutely beautiful and also slightly terrifying to watch our friend just jump off of a bridge but it was so cool! He jumped in such a way that he submerged himself almost completely in the river below. It definitely made me want to try it out sometime! Later that night we hit up the Minus 5 Ice Bar and that was a very interesting experience and also quite cold as to be expected. Definitely worth it especially if you can snag a coupon from grabone.com!

Our third and final day consisted of me and several friends hiked up the mountain that we took the gondola up a few days previously. It was definitely a struggle but the views were completely worth it and also I needed some exercise. Besides what else are you supposed to do in New Zealand besides hike? We made loaded baked potatoes for dinner and it was awesome. Something I have gotten to really enjoy on this adventure is cooking and not just for myself but for others. It is immensely satisfying.

The next day we travelled to Te Anau and it was a nice bus ride. We stayed with a friend’s grandparents while there and they had an awesome house full of lots of character. On our first day we walked around town for a bit and then made Moroccan chicken for dinner and it was awesome.

Day two in Te Anau was our day trip to Milford Sound! It should be noted that Milford Sound is actually a fiord not a sound. Anyway we saw some of the prettiest mountains and waterfalls I have seen. We drove through the Valley of 1000 Waterfalls and also saw the mountains from the opening scenes of Lord of the Rings. The sound itself was really pretty although the weather kept changing from rain to sunshine randomly and it was confusing. However we saw no less than 10 rainbows so that was awesome!

Day three was a very chill day that consisted of walking around town again and making an epic portion of lemon chicken broccoli pasta. We also had hot chips and garlic bread can we say startch?

Today we travelled to Invercargill and then slept for most of the day. Tomorrow we travel to Dunedin and I am pretty excited for that. I have mixed feelings about my trip because I am sad we are in our last week but I am also ready to be back in Christchurch. Until next time!

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Why Backpackers Are Awesome

Time April 21st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Kia Ora!

So I am currently a week into my three week Easter break and wow has it been an adventure already!

Last Saturday (April 12th) I set off for Blenheim, a sleepy little town known for its wineries in the northern part of South Island. It was one of my friend’s 21st birthday so after exploring the town and getting some dinner we did a casual pub hop in celebration. We even got free hot chips at one of the places! The next morning we sort of got kicked out of our hostel but only because we were supposed to be out by 10 am and we were still sleeping at 9:57…all good though! We then caught another bus over to Nelson!

The original plan was to spend three nights in Nelson and then two nights camping in Abel Tasman National Park. That didn’t happen because a huge rain storm came through and we decided that if we went camping we would be miserable and destroy our tents which would have been bad. So we ended up spending five nights in Nelson and it was pretty enjoyable. We stayed at a really nice place called the Paradiso Hostel. This place was great because we got free wifi, free breakfast, free vegetable soup and bread every evening and they had a hot tub, a pool and a kick butt tv lounge that used to be a bus. Basically it was awesome. I would highly recommend this place to anyone needing a cheap place to stay in Nelson. It was also pretty close to city centre so an easy walk. We explored the town and did a few hikes. I made it to the centre of New Zealand with one of my friends and that was really cool. There was one day where it wasn’t raining and we ventured out to Abel Tasman and hit up Split Apple Rock which was amazing. I was so happy that we at least got out there even if we didn’t get to camp. We also went to a museum that had a great exhibit about the earthquakes in Christchurch which was really powerful. Glad I got to see that.

The next day we headed down to Fox Glacier from Nelson. It was an absolutely beautiful bus ride down the west coast. It was also interesting to see all of the damage caused by the rain storm that had passed through Nelson. There was a 20 minute stop at the Pancake Rocks and me and my friends managed to run off the bus run through the track around the rocks and get back all in 16 minutes it was awesome! We were hoping that the semi nice weather that the day started off with would hold but no such luck because when we reached Fox Glacier it was raining and we were supposed to camp. We went to the campsite and the lady at reception was so concerned that she offered to let us sleep in one of the kitchens so we pitched our tent in there. There was also no power and no wifi because of the storms so we ate dinner in the dark but it was all a part of the adventure!

Today we moved to a hostel that has wifi and some power!  It hasn’t stopped raining but at least we all got in hot showers. Also,we got separated from half of our group yesterday because their car broke down but they are on their way at the moment so all good. Tomorrow we head to Queenstown for what I am sure will be more adventure and excitement!

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I Forgot How to Student

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

Ok so I think I am finally caught up on my posts and will be recounting my final week before my three week Easter break which I am currently on!

So this past week at uni was my most stressful week thus far. I had two tests, an essay and an assignment due. The funny thing about this is that back home, this is a normal week for me. However here, I was just not having it because I have forgotten what it is like to be a real student. I don’t mean that I’m not learning because I am but they have a much different way of assessing knowledge here than back home which equates to not as many things but when you do have things they are all together at once. On top of that I was preparing for my two and a half week tour around South Island that me and some of my fellow IFSA Butler students planned out for ourselves.  It was funny because it was so different from back home and I felt silly being so stressed out but I also couldn’t help it.

So moral do hat story is I have chilled out a lot since being here. Currently I am in Nelson with my friends just hanging out for a fee days before we head off to Fox Glacier and then Queenstown! The adventure is just beginning and I will be blogging about it all later!

Cheers!

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Pickin Our Way Through Picton

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

Hey there!

So I thought that my road trip was amazing but I think my weekend in Picton might possibly have beat that. This was an IFSA sponsored trip and it was so much fun! We caught a bus to Picton on Friday afternoon and stopped for dinner in Kaikoura which is beautiful. We didn’t get into Picton until late but it was cool because we were all tired anyway and so just chilled and settled into our hostel.

The next day we were up bright and early for some kayaking among the Marlborough Sounds. They are stunning. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut or stop saying THIS IS SO PRETTY! What can I say? Mountains and water it’s my kryptonite. So we went on a guided kayak across the sounds and stopped in a little cove (current profile pic is from there) for some tea and coffee and a muesli slice. There were a lot of jellyfish in the area which was cool and also slightly scary to see. They didn’t sting though so that was nice. We also kayaked through huge groups of them and could reach out and touch them.

After our break we hauled butt back to Picton. It was a struggle because we faced massive head winds and my and my partner had to get towed part of the way haha but it worked out. Then we had lunch on the beach and it was beautiful weather nice and sunny! The. We had some free time to chill and explore the town.

The evening was spent at the Hanz Herzog winery and restaurant. We had a tasting of three white wines before dinner and a tour around the grounds. It was stunning to say the least. Dinner was the most amazing meal I have had since being here. I’m talking salmon, steak, yes STEAK, and coffee creme brûlée because that is definitely a thing. Also fantastic wine because duh. One of the best days I have had in New Zealand.

Following dinner me and two other friends went to find a glow worm cave which was probably one of the sketchiest and creepiest things I have done. We had to go through a trailer park and passed an abandoned cabin in the woods. Like i said totally creepy but it was worth it.

The next morning it was once again up bright and early but this time it was for dolphin swimming! Once again we were in the sounds and it was still absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately we didn’t get I’m the water because we saw Hector Dolphins and they are endangered. However they were still adorable and very playful and it was completely worth it! The rest of the day was spent traveling back to Christchurch on the train down the coast. It was a perfect ending to a great weekend.

All in all I felt like I walked away with a really great New Zealand experience and it for sure something that i will always remember and possibly visit again someday!

 

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“This is the craziest thing I’ve ever done”

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

See I told you I was going to blow up my blog with posts, that’s  because I am trying to catch up.

The weekend after my trip to Picton I did a day trip up to Arthur’s pass with two of my flatmates mainly lto get some hiking boots that one of them left behind but also to do some hiking!

Our first stop on the way was McDonald’s no joke…we picked up the rental car and got McDonald’s because we are classy like that. Anyway our first REAL stop was Castle Hills. Basically they’re gigantic rocks and they’re really cool. Fun fact they filmed parts of The Chronicles Of Narnia at this location but I couldn’t tell you which scenes because it has been so long since I have seen that movie. In any case it was awesome!

The next stop was to pick up the hiking boots and then hit up Devil’s Punchbowl track. For those who don’t know a track is just a hiking trail. Anyway it was about a 25 minute hike to the lookout point for the falls. We then decided to go off the beaten path and climb up even closer to the falls which were epic! By far one of the best hikes I have done in my life!  We hung out for a bit, took some pictures and then headed back to the car.

Our final stop stop was cave stream. What this is is a steam, running through a cave that you walk through and climb out the other side. It’s freezing, you get pretty wet and if you don’t have a flashlight you are out of luck. It took some serious pressure from my flat mates to convince me just to go, I really didn’t want to. in the end though I got in and my legs immediately went numb because that water is cold and you start off in a waist high pool. Other than that it is actually a surreal experience because like I said you are walking through this dark cave in running water against the current and just trying not to fall over. I couldn’t believe that I actually did something like that but it was a hundred percent worth it!

Of course no road trip would be complete without a stop at KFC which we did for dinner on the way back.  It’s getting really hard to decide what my favorite trip has been so far in New Zealand because they keep getting better and better :)

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I Saw The Light

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

Hello everyone! I know I know I am really bad at this whole keeping a blog thing it’s ok because I am about to blow up my blog.

So I went on this epic day trip with some of my friends done to Oamaru and the Moeraki Boulders about a month ago. Just to put this in perspective it was literally everything I thought a college road trip would/should be. Wake up early, get lost trying to find the rental car place, have several moments of terror as we leave the city, stop at KFC, play some silly car games and obviously have a blast.

Our first stop was the Moeraki Boulders which are about 20 minutes maybe south of the town of Oamaru. What makes these rocks so special is that they are perfectly round and they just look really cool. So being with two geologists we obviously spent over an hour there taking pictures and figuring out rock things. I got some amazing pictures of just the rocks and of me and my friends on them. (Check Facebook if you want to see) I should also mention that before that we stopped for lunch at KFC and it was definitely different from American KFC but it was still really good, like the chicken was definitely spicier and the fries were actually saltier which surprised me.

So food and rocks aside from there we went back through Oamaru and headed north a bit to go see some Maori cave paintings and the elephant rocks. Out of the two, the elephant rocks were definitely more interesting. They’re essentially huge limestone rocks in the middle of a sheep and cow field so that was cool. The Maori paintings would have been cooler if you could have actually seen them and if most of them hadn’t been removed…it was still interesting to see.

From there we headed back into Oamaru to try and see penguins but that cost money that we didn’t have so we nixed that idea and just walked around town. My flatware totally accidentally crashed a wedding and it was hilarious. Then we headed back and jammed out to some epic music (mine obviously) and got stuck once we got back into the city. There was apparently a person who had tried to jump off of an overpass bridge and police had stopped traffic so that they could help them which they did. It was an experience.

So definitely one of the best road trips I have done and I am so ready for another one. Until next time!

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“…Can’t Raft This”

Time April 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Long time no post eh?

So unfortunately I am still not up to date with my blog posts and hopefully this weekend I will do that! About a month ago I had the awesome experience of rafting down the Rangitata River about two hours south east of Christchurch. It was my first time white water rafting and wow it was an incredible trip! It definitely wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun if the boat guide, Owen, hadn’t been there, because he was hilarious and the best boat guide ever.

So it was a pretty long day because of all the travel involved but the rafting company came and picked us up from the flats and it was a nice scenic bus ride to the actual rafting place. Then they fed us and then it was time to learn all about the equipment we would be wearing to raft. Oh my gosh we were wearing so many layers, which I was grateful for because it was definitely not sunny, but wow. First we all had on our togs (swimsuits), then we put on a thermal long sleeved shirt and then a fleece sweater over that. Then on top of that we had out lovely wetsuits which were the epitome of mainstream fashion. Finally we put on another jacker which was basically a windbreaker, followed by the obvious life jacket. We also wore helmets…styling all day every day. Then they bussed us to the river and we got in the boats! There were 6 rafters in the boat plus a guide who sat in the back and called out commands. Luckily they didn’t just throw us into rapids right away, there was quite a bit of flat, flowing water that we got to cruise on. It was here that we learned how to paddle as a team and also learn how to pull each other out of the water should one of us fall in. This was told to us verbally and then we actually had to demonstrate for our guide. I thought he was kidding when he told the left side of the boat to get in the water and the rest of us had to pull them back in…he wasn’t. It was good fun though!

Finally we got to what I thought was probably a grade 1 rapid and it turns out it was basically nothing and I got all excited and worked up for nothing. Then we hit our first grade 2 rapid and that was quite an experience. When we got to our first grade 5 I thought we were going to die. Ok not really but they made us stop so that the other boat behind us could catch up and then they debriefed us about what would happen. This was both good and bad. It was good because I could prepare myself with knowing what was ahead, it was bad because I knew what was coming and I didn’t know how to handle it. Anyway so we get up to it and you see the river and then you just see this drop off and that was the rapid…and we went down it…and I got a mouthful of water because I was screaming. It was great. The adrenaline rush after going down was incredible. Afterwards we got to watch the other boat come down and let me tell you, turning around and looking at what you just went down was surreal.

There were several more rapids and then we got to stop to do some cliff jumping! Probably the scariest thing I did all day which is saying something because I mean I went down grade 5 rapids. Anyway I jumped off of a 4.5 meter cliff into the river below and as I was free falling towards the water I couldn’t help but think, what the heck did I just do. Yay for being scared of heights. There was also a 10 meter cliff to jump off of but since I couldn’t stop shaking after the 4.5 meter one I decided that the 10 m one probably wasn’t for me.

We finished out our trip along the river and even passed by a place where the filmed part of Lord of the Rings. I believe it was a scene where Smeagol was chasing a fish. Then we had a decent BBqQ and then it was time to go home. Thus ended my rafting adventure. It was actually pretty strenuous work paddling and staying inside of the boat. It might also have been the fact that I went rowing for the first time ever the day before rafting, but the day after rafting, I felt like a train had hit me, in the best way possible.

Look for more posts coming up soon about my road trip to Oamaru, my time in Picton, and cave streaming! Cheers!

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That Week Where It Rained Constantly

Time March 24th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

What’s up everybody?

So continuing on my track of trying to catch up with blog posts I meant to write this about three weeks ago.  This was a very intense weather week that included torential downpours of rain, hail and the most amazing wind gusts I have experienced walking around in, ever. Needless to say that I was most definitely not expecting that my second week in Christchurch. I’m not sure why I wasn’t expecting it, because I had heard that they could go through all four seasons in one day here and that was definitely experienced that Monday.  The best part about this was when I went to go get pasta sauce for our potluck dinner meeting  for IFSA.

It looked like it had finally stopped raining for the day even though it was still a bit cloudy and I was like yes this is my time! So I walked outside not wearing my windbreaker and toting a very sketchy umbrella and literally about 30 seconds into my walk to the local grocery store it starts raining. I’m like ok..I got this *whips out umbrella* and keep walking. Well then I turn onto the main street I have to go down and a wall of wind just blasts me backwards and renders my umbrella essentially useless because it keeps getting blown inside out. Sadly, I had to give up on my umbrella and just keep on trucking through this awful weather because I REALLY needed that pasta sauce. I walked further down the street and  it started hailing, right in my face, and let me tell you, definitely not the most fun experience I’ve ever had. I mean how fun would it be to have tiny frozen balls of ice flung at your face for 10 minutes, but I finally made it to the store and looked like a drowned rat. Luckily when I walked back it wasn’t hailing and also the wind was at my back and thus pushed me back to my flat and warmth.

So that was my experience with some extreme New Zealand weather. It also continued pouring down rain for most of the week and a lot of places flooded, including campus. I had thought that my biggest natural concern would be earthquakes, but I have yet to feel one. It looks like my main concern here will be the rain and colder temperatures. That being said, its been gorgeous that past week or so…yay New Zealand weather. You just never know what you’re going to get here.

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A City of Hope

Time March 20th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello!

I am so sorry it has been so long since I last posted, things have been pretty busy here with would you believe it or not..school. I just finished my first lab report while abroad and its nice to know that I still am not a fan of writing reports even in New Zealand. Sad day. Anyway this post is actually going to be recounting a Saturday a few weekends ago where I explored downtown Christchurch with a few of my study abroad friends!

So this day excursion happened on March 2nd and it was a pretty neutral day, it was cloudy when I woke up and fairly chilly outside but all in all I was ready for an adventure and looking around the city I would be in for the next few months. My friends and I took a bus into city center which is the main bus stop in Christchurch where you can literally get any bus in the city. We were headed to the Botanic Gardens, one of the main sight seeing places in the city. Unfortunately we timed our stop wrong and had to walk a fair distance but its good we did because we saw a lot of cool things along the way! For instance we passed the Bridge of Remembrance and in the park next to it there was an outdoor yoga class taking place which was really cool. We also saw one of the city tour trolleys which looked like a lot of fun to go on someday. We finally found the road to the Botanic Gardens and strolled down that way. We passed by one of the many art museum’s and a few historic buildings that were being remodeled post earthquake. It was really intersting to see how much damage was still left even after three years but it was heartening to see how many places were open and how much construction was going on.

There was a cafe we passed called Fiddlesticks that looked really cute but we passed on it because we had heard that there was a place called Cheesemongers further along and we wanted to check it out. Cheesemongers was absolutely one of the best things we ran into that day because its a bakery and a cheese place all in one. To clarify there’s a room full of cheese that you go in a pick out and then they make you a sandwich on their freshly made ciabatta bread with lettuce and chutney…um YUM! Seriously it was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. I think  I had some brie cheese, I’m not sure, but it was amazing all the same and I would highly recommend anyone who travels to Christchurch to go and get a sandwich!

After our food pitstop we stopped by a cute outdoor market place with some cool souvenirs, including a paua shell stand. For anyone who doesn’t know these shells are native to New Zealand when they are polished they turn beautiful shades of blue, purple, and green. I’m definitely going to try and come home with one or maybe some jewelry with paua in it because it is gorgeous! Once we had perused the market we headed on down the road and ran into the Canterbury Museum! This place is a whole mash up of New Zealand and Christchurch history as well as other attractions. We spent a good hour in there walking through the various exhibits which included one one the Maori, a street art exhibit and of course dinosaurs. I don’t think we had planned on going here but it was a nice pit stop and also it kept us warm for a bit!

From there we headed into the Botanic Gardens which are huge! I think we only saw maybe one third of the entire place. Anyway it is a really pretty park with a river running through it and of course a lot of flowers. There is also a Peace Bell which was made out of melted down currency from multiple countries and signifies a move for world peace. It was a really cool thing to see. In the center of the gardens was the rose garden which was stunning and I got a lot of good flower pictures! From there we headed out and went to our next destination!

We hit up the Pallet Pavilion next which is basically what is sounds like. A lot of shipping crates have been used in Christchurch as buildings and also to protect roads from rock falls and the pallets that they get shipped on formed the walls of this pavilion. Inside they were doing a fundraiser for cancer where people shaved off some parts of their hair in their stand against cancer which was pretty cool. There were also some cool arch ways that I can’t remember what they stood for but it was some neat modern street art none the less. From there we continued on our way and stopped at a cafe for some coffee and lunch!

We then tried to find a bus that would take us back to city center so that we could either head on home or find somewhere else to go. The thing about busses though and a city under going massive construction is that you never know if the bus is actually going to come and it took us quite a while to find a bus. When we finally did get back to city center station we decided we wanted to go to the Restart Mall which is basically an outdoor/indoor mall where all the stores are made out of those large shipping containers I mentioned before. Its kind of the city backbone because there are always a lot of people there and there’s also a lot to see there. It’s definitely one of my favorite places to go in Christchurch even if I don’t buy anything. So we wandered around in there for a bit and then we headed out to see the Cardboard Cathedral. To clarify, no its not actually made out of cardboard, its basically an A-frame building that is supported on the inside by massive cardboard posts. In any case it is a really cool place to go and I definitely want to check out a church service there before I leave. It was built as a temporary cathedral for the main one that got destroyed in the earthquake.

Right behind the Cardboard Cathedral is the 185 white chairs display. What this is is 185 different chairs that represent the people who lost their lives in the earthquake. All of the chairs are handpainted white by local artists. There were all types of chairs including a bean bag chair and a baby carrier and a rocking chair. This hit me way harder than I expected it to when I saw it.  You could just feel the emotion rolling off of the scene and I had to try really hard to not lose it, which sounds weird because I’m not even from Christchurch, or New Zealand, but it was one of the most poignant art displays I have seen. I can’t even imagine how the families of those lost feel but I think that that display shows tremendous respect for those who are now gone and is something that will always be in the city.

From there we traveled on and saw some cool street art and a very small art exhibit and from there caught the bus back to uni! All in all it was really great to not only get off campus but to really see the city where I live for now. It was eye opening to see the sustained damage and also to see what has popped up during this transistional period. I definitely think of Christchurch as a city of hope even though from what I’ve seen, this place has all of the hope and more because they’re moving in an incredible direction. I can’t wait to come back a few years from now and see what’s different and what has stayed the same. One thing is for sure though, Christchurch will always be a city of innovation and wonder to me.

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I’m a Survivor…

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

…For finishing the first week of uni unscathed! That’s not really saying much though it was only the first week. That being said my schedule is not consistent day to day or even week to week which is why I have manually placed it all into my iPad calendar and get reminded of everything I’m doing every day. Thank goodness for technology. Anyway here’s what I’m taking this semester!

ANTH104-Indigenous peoples, development and anthropology

CLAS104- Greek Mythologies

ENCH293-Fluid Mechanics 1

MATH302-Partial Differential Equations

Four classes alright! The smallest course load I have taken ever in my life. Also it is already quite a lot of work but most of it is reading and all of it is done outside of class. There are just a few differences between the American college system and uni life here in New Zealand, let’s review some of them ( I am not complaining about any of these, it is merely a comparison!)

1) You get maybe four or five assignments per semester. So you know how your math or other classes are constantly having you turn in problems weekly? Yeah that doesn’t happen here or at least not very often. My math class is actually on assessed on tests so whew the pressure is on to do well on the THREE tests I have this semester in that class including the final.

2) The assignment due dates will probably all be the same day no matter what discipline. For example the day before our glorious three week mid semester break occurs I have an essay due, and fluid mechanics assignment due and a fluid mechanics test, yikes. Then the last day of classes before finals I have a mythology assignment due, and take home test due and another fluid mechanics assignment due. Side note the due dates are also spread out fairly well for each individual class but this also has to do with the fact that you turn in 4 to 5 things a semester.

3) Classes can be whenever they want. At least in my experience at home uni, when I have a class it is at a set time MWF or T/TH. Not here. My mechanics class meets MWF but at three different times over those days. At first I thought this was weird, now I just embrace it because its normal here.

4) Lectures are videotaped and then put online for you! This has never happened to me although I do attend a very small school where classes are fairly small and thus videotaping lectures is not necessary I guess. In any case its nice to know that if I happened to miss something the first time in my lecture I can always go back and watch it again.

5) Tutorials. Ok so these are usually required in every class although some set them up differently, but they aren’t necessarily just for getting help. At least in ANTH and CLAS they’re for talking about ideas we have and also for helping us with our essays and assignments. Some are also mandatory as in part of your final grade comes from whether or not you participated in these. They are also not run by the person who gives the lectures but by tutors which are typically grad students in the respective field.

Those are the main differences I can think of at the moment. Now thoughts on my classes!

ANTH104 is going to be really cool because I love studying people and their perceptions of the world around them. I’m hoping that we delve into a lot of good Maori history because they are a HUGE part of New Zealand history. CLAS104 is right now my favorite class for several reasons. The first being that the professor (Lecturer as they are called here) is absolutely hilarious. He’s smart, funny and sarcastic so basically I think he’s the best. Also the way we’re approaching the study of myths is interesting and not boring like it was in 8th grade. ENCH293 so far is a bit slow but its also technically a sophomore class so we’re learning things that I learned as a sophomore like how to write a report. There are some key differences between the way we do it back and home and here so it was interesting to see those, and I’m sure we’ll pick up the pace soon. MATH302 is terrifying. There is no other way to put it. I knew that it was going to be scary though and I’m fully committed to going to office hours and the weekly tutorials because I will pass this class but its going to be my hard one for the semester.

So yeah, so far so good. Clubs day was Wednesday and Thursday and I’m interested to see how the clubs I joined turn out and what I learn and who I meet and such. Things will keep on rolling and I’ll keep you updated! Cheers!

 

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“For the First Time In Forever”

Time February 24th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Kia Ora!

Closing out my first full week in Christchurch, I have to say this city is absolutely amazing and I couldn’t be happier with where I chose to study abroad. This week was full of adventures and fun and shopping! I shall recount below.

Sunday and Monday were days of shopping and getting our bearings about us in a stange new city. We hit up the Riccarton Mall (via the bus system) which had a Pak N Save (my new best friend) where we managed to get food for a very good price. We explored the mall a bit and then headed back to our flats with all of our goods. Later on that day we explored the campus a bit to also just get our bearings and just to see what we could see. There is still alot of construction going on because even though the school did not sustain as much damage as other places in Christchurch, they are not taking any chances. All of the buildings are either going through or have already been reinforced in foundation to make it a safer campus. In any case I like the campus and I think it has a certain charm about it. There are two rivers running through it, that’s right two, talk about classy. (Pics should be at bottom of post).

Tuesday was International Orientation day which consisted of lots of talks about how to study, how to travel around the country, and how to fully register for you classes. There was also free food which was fantastic! There was also a safety briefing given by a New Zealand police officer…legit. Some of us tried to enroll that day which was nice since I had to go and get my classes approved by the department heads before I could fully enroll. I have to say I panicked a little but after realizing that I couldn’t enroll until Thursday and it was out of my control and that I would still most likely get all the classes I needed, I relaxed and went on my way.

Wednesday was beach day! Me and some of my mates went out to Sumner Beach which is absolutely beautiful. It was a bit chilly and windy that day so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time actually on the beach. We did find a very cute cafe where we grabbed some lunch and some free wifi! Wifi is so hard to come by here but luckily it is in a lot of shopping malls and in certain stores, like Pak N Save :)

Thursday was actual enrollment day and I got all of my classes! Huzzah! There was also a party at the campus pub The Foundry but instead of going to that we ventured out to a place further away called the Fox and Ferret which was a very happening place. We also managed to find a late night food place that was cheap and delicious!

Friday was the Rugby game! It was quite exciting. We were supporting the Canterbury Crusaders versus the Chiefs (I don’t know where they are from). This event was put on by the staff of the apartments that we are all staying in this semester which was awesome! They provided snacks and food before the game as well as face painting (I got Crusader colored stripes on my face), and then provided tranportation to and from the game. The game was exciting in the second half because the first half the Crusaders would get so close to scoring only to not score…They did end up losing to the Chiefs in the last play of the game which was disappointing but at least I know a little bit more about rugby than before, and I also have a Crusaders flag!

The past two days have been pretty chill and leading up to the first day of class which is tomorrow Feb 24th! For the first time in forever I am actually excited to go to class and also slightly terrified. I must remember how to student because all I know how to do now is sloth (i.e. sleep and eat). However I am more than ready for the challenge of studying in a foreign school and will be looking forward to comparing the New Zealand system with what’s back in America.

Here are some pictures for you. They are of campus and the Rugby game

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“I’m Going on an Adventure!”

Time February 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Hello again!

Yes I did choose another LOTR quote for my post title, its fine. Day 5 here in New Zealand and I am absolutely loving it here. So far I’ve been in Auckland/Whangaparaoa Peninsula! The whole lot of IFSA-Butler New Zealand kids were there (54 students) and that was really cool because I met a lot of interesting and fun people! We stayed at the Shakespear Lodge YMCA on Whangapoaraoa Peninsula for two days and nights and got to experience the outdoors and get over our jetlag. We did orienteering (spelling?), swimming, kayaking, and in my case coasteering. Coasteering essentially walking along the coast and then jumping off of rocks into the water which was super fun and also freezing. We also swam out to a ship wreck! It was fabulous! On the third day we went into Auckland and explored the town. It was awesome because the Chinese Lantern Festival was taking place in Albert Park and that was pretty and cool to see. I also perused the free art gallery with a couple of friends and saw some cool modern New Zealand art. We then walked down and stopped at a local cafe and got some REAL New Zealand coffee which was also good. After that we headed back to the bus and went to a Marae which is a Maori village and got to experience their culture. It was a really interesting and memorable experience because it was like a time machine that I never thought I would be in. Prior to our arrival we elected two chiefs who were to speak on our behalf (in Maori no less) and it was really touching because one of our chiefs dedicated his speech to one of his best friends who died two years previously. Needless to say it brought tears to many eyes and the Maori who were there were also very touched and appreciated what he did because departed loved ones are a big part of their culture. Yesterday was another travel day. We left the Marae and drove up to Mt. Eden in Auckland and took some pictures and then it was time for everyone to split up into their respective school groups and fly to their new cities! There are 11 of us here in Christchurch and so far so good! Its beautiful and I’m loving my flat! We’ve done some grocery shopping and experienced some night life! Tuesday is orientation for the University here and I’m looking forward to that! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more stories and hopefully pictures soon!

:)

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“I want to see mountains Gandalf, mountains!”

Time February 10th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello everyone!

First and foremost I would like to introduce myself, my name is Ailie and I attend Trinity University in San Antonio, Tx where I am an Engineering Science major and I am from Houston, Texas originally! So tomorrow I set out for New Zealand, and I couldn’t be more excited and/or terrified. It has been a long wait up until this point filled with a lot of emotions ranging from ecstatic to me questioning why I ever chose to go abroad in the first place. As far as I’m concerned this is all normal. A lot of people have asked me why  I chose New Zealand and although I am a self-proclaimed Lord of the Rings and Flight of the Conchords fan, I did not chose New Zealand merely for these reasons. Honestly I chose New Zealand because it fit with my engineering curriculum. The fact that I am now going to be travelling to the homeland of LOTR and Flight of the Conchords is just a huge bonus. So far I have actually learned a lot about going abroad, mainly about baggage allowance, haha. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting so many emotions, least of all the anxiety I felt when all of my friends went back to school and I was not. As I said before, this is normal. Despite the emotional roller coaster I have been on, packing went fairly easy because I made lists of things I wanted to take and kept in mind that everything I wanted to take wouldn’t necessairly go with me. So that’s my advice to any future travel abroad students..make a list! Or make multiple. It will help you tremendously! Also listen to your advisors, they know so much and are so willing to help! My final piece of advice is do not hesitate to ask questions! I can’t tell you how many times I e-mailed my program advisor at IFSA about all the things I was worried about or didn’t understand. I always receieved timely and extremely helpful e-mails addressing anything and everything I was worried about. My final thoughts about going abroad is that this is going to be one of the biggest adventures of my life and I am unbelievably excited and I can’t wait to share it with people. In other words, welcome to the adventure!

Cheers!

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