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Baby Kiwi Cont.

Time October 7th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Being abroad is a whole new adjustment, but luckily we are allotted this honey moon period where you feel like you are still a tourist.

The IFSA study abroad staff made us feel so welcome with a 4-day orientation that included kayaking, running around, visiting hot springs, and a local Maori tribe. Although there was no contact with anyone back home.

Finally arriving to our accommodation we were welcomed by a kiwi mate who was also able to show us around everywhere in Wellington and what all the good and cheap shops were! I was able to contact my family who felt at ease when I told them how the traveling went and how the orientation was.
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Mid-Winter

Time August 25th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Here in New Zealand it is slightly freezing and they call it the middle of winter. The tramping club took those who signed up on a very cool ‘social’ hike that included a steep climb up a muddy mountain to a stream and eventually a nice warm hut for those of us who were able to get there quickly enough (I had many friends who ended up in tents). It was freezing at night and the path of this social hike was not well marked. In the end it was an amazing experience but I had issues along the way including a boulder flying down toward me on a climb and locating my gift for the christmas exchange at the end of the night. During this hike we learned what kind of packs we need, the clothes we need to bring, and how to cook dinner for many people at night. These are very important skills for traveling on your own or backpacking in a group.

The next weekend I was able to go snowboarding at Mt. Ruapehu with the snowboarding club. They were helpful in booking a hostel and shuttle that brought us close to the mountain. From there we bought our own tickets and were able to take our own routes on the mountain. Snowboarding in NZ is extremely different than anywhere in the states. First of all there are no trees anywhere and you are skiing on an active volcano. Although there are many volcanic rock deposits and ‘death cookies’ or blocks of ice that are not marked and pose an extreme issue if you hit them. The snow is quite icy and the weather, like that in town, is quite bipolar.

Overall my experiences in the mountain were amazing and unforgettable! With a huge group based in the snowboarding club, they also made things exponentially cheaper! I recommend joining clubs you are interested in at any chance you get because these experiences and meeting the kiwis involved in them is really an eye-opening chance of a life time.

Cheers,
Melissa

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Baby Kiwi

Time August 25th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Following my arrival, the IFSA-Butler team made the welcoming and transition to kiwi life very easy. We were given four days of a recreational park where the Auckland YMCA was built. Here we had days of kayaking and mountain boarding (a combination between snowboarding and skateboarding) throughout the park. In addition to these fun games we were taught how to play rugby (a very crucial knowledge in NZ) and how the school system is here. It was all very informative and joyful with free meals along the way. I couldn’t be happier with the program I chose due to these amazing experiences and the many amazing experiences to come.

The first week went by in a flaw, we were given a international students orientation which gave us tips for being successful here as well as an exploration. I chose the red rocks beach which is a 2o minute bus ride from Wellington and allows you to see heaps of seals on these ‘red rocks’ along the coast. We even saw a few penguins!

Finally, this weekend my friends and I took a trip to Martinsborough where we did some extravagant wine tasting and got a feel for the kiwi drinking culture. Renting a batch and car for somewhere so close was a good experience and helped for planing future travels that included 3-day backpacking hikes.

I wouldn’t have traded my orientation or first week at Victoria University for anything, I got to understand the culture and travel here so well from those few experiences.

Cheers,
Melissa

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Later Cali

Time July 14th, 2014 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

My last month in California went by in a flash.

I went straight from my classes at the University of Redlands to my internship as a Research Assistant at Stanford University. But in the midst of my 40 hour weeks at Stanford, I made a goal to visit the places that mean the most to me in California before leaving the country. Seeing these places as well as all of my family and friends really grounded me before I left. As one of the first people to travel in my family, this was very important for me and helped reduce my anxiety and worries about my upcoming trip.

IFSA Butler is one of, if not the best program to use while studying abroad. Everything seemed to be taken care of for me and if I had problems they were resolved within a couple days. Travel itinerary, a place to live, health insurance, and an advisor are some of the many things that were given to me and at my disposal in advance. This not only eased the worries of my family but made me feel like I had a strong support system if anything was to happen and a stable bridge to a new culture.

The last few days before my trip feel like a blur of mostly shopping and packing. Making sure I had all the essentials was a two day task, but IFSA Butler even aided in this by giving us a checklist of items to bring and preparing us for the airline requirements. I was able to contact my extremely sweet and helpful advisor when I had worries about my heavy suitcase.

In retrospect, I wish I could change a few things. I would have splurged for extra baggage if I had known that everything from face wash to clothes was extremely expensive and I wish I had known that international flights have different baggage requirements than the domestic flights in the country you are traveling to. Also, many apps need to be set up in your home country unless you have some sort of international plan.

My final goodbyes were bittersweet but easier than I thought with having gone through this when I left for college and with all the apps now available to contact your family. Some of the best ones are Viber, WhatsApp, Skype, and Vonage. I used these whenever I had wifi on the plane flight. Knowing you can keep in touch with your loved ones is invaluable for ones happiness and reduces the immediate “culture shock”.

I couldn’t have asked for a better month with my family and friends or transition into a new chapter in my life.

Bye for now,
Melissa

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