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Departure Blog

Time January 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When it comes to goodbyes, it’s never easy. The saying goodbye to friends, regrets for what you didn’t do, memories of what you did do, the end of the new chapter, and the return to the old one, it never comes easy. So, I find that the only way for me to cope with the epic goodbye that was my “Hasta Luego Nueva Zelanda” was to make a list of the things I hope to do the next time I’m there, because there will be a next time, and a list of my favorite things that anyone who is going there should put on their list of things to do.

 

Things to do new Zealand Round 2 (in no specific order):

  1. Routeburn Track
  2. Heaphy Track
  3. Stewart Island
  4. Tongariro Track
  5. Actual Walk on the Glacier
  6. Track to crow Hut
  7. See a Kiwi
  8. Milford Track
  9. Wellington

10. Cape Reinga

11. Arthur’s Pass Round 2

12. Christchurch not in rubble

13. Bike a large portion of either island

14. Mueller Hut in Mount Cook

15. Abel Tasman Track

16. Nelson

17. Pancake Rocks & Elephant Rocks

18. See a Blue Penguin

19. Visit Ama, Susan, James, and Tygh (wwoofing family)

20. Wwoof again

21. Keplar Track

22. Record Bird Sounds

The list could go on for much more, but these are the first that come to mind.

 

Things that are a must do in New Zealand (aka my favorites):

  1. Mount Cook
  2. Lake Tekapo
  3. The Catlins
  4. Stay at a bach in Arthur’s Pass
  5. See a Glacier
  6. Have one fun night in Queenstown
  7. Do at least one backpacking trip
  8. Winter camp
  9. Find a penguin

10. Go to the albatross colony

11. Wwoof

12. Hitch hike

13. Hold a lamb

  1. 14.  Hike in the Rain

15. Play in the Mud

16. Camp on the beach

17. Milford and Doubtful Sound or Fiordlands in general

18. Go to Paradise

19. Head to the Northland

20. Drink a cup of coffee at Mazagran and eat a yesterday’s muffin from Govenors

21. Go to Baldwin Street

22. Go to the Otago Peninsula and hike

23. Watch a Kea on a car

  1. 24.  Moeraki Boulders

25. Watch Rugby

26. Play possum

 

And finally the list of goofy things that are strangely missed:

  1. Mullets & Rat’s Tails
  2. Bird calls of the Tui, Belle Birds, Magpie, etc.
  3. Curious Kea’s
  4. Kiwi accents
  5. Govenors café
  6. Velvet Burger
  7. The Left side of the road
  8. Highways to nowhere
  9. Hitch hiking

10. Interesting/ funny Grafiti

11. Kumara & Beet Root

12. Lifetime friends

Yet again all these are among many other things that are missed. All and all though at the end of this trip I can say that I would do it over a hundred times and still love every minute of it! I couldn’t have asked for a better study abroad experience or a better country to travel in! Thanks New Zealand and Butler for the trip of a lifetime and the stories to tell over the ages. Look forward to seeing you again down the road and reliving the dream!!

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Rugby World Cup Game: England v. Georgia

Time September 30th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So the date has finally arrived!! Rugby World Cup has hit Dunedin and the tickets that we ordered about 3 months ago are now ready to be put to use and show us a good time. The seven of us, Emily, Monique, Tara, Lena, Lauren, Sarah and myself searched the town for red and white face paint and any other colorful stuff we could find to dress up and show our support for the game. We painted up, and got pumped for what was a very exciting and fun game. Although we knew that England was for sure going to dominate the game, we decided to support the underdog Georgian team and painted their flag across our faces. The streets were filled with people as we walked over to the stadium and instead of the cars passing through the roads, people ran along in red and white, because both teams were these colors. The stadium was packed with supporters and we even had some people who had travelled all the way from Georgia to see the game sitting in front of us. The energy of the place was incredible and everybody was just so happy to be here and witness some great rugby matches. The stadium had a truly different vibe from when I had been here about a month earlier for the soccer game and it was neat to witness the transformation. People were doing the wave, coming up with their own cheers for either team, and finding any way to demonstrate their support somehow. Although the Georgian team ended up losing rather badly, it was still an exciting and fun game to be at and an incredible experience to get to have in New Zealand, to witness a World Cup Game and participate in the excitement. It was a once in a lifetime experience, the scrums, tries, penalties, and scrambles of the enormous rugby players. It will be a cultural experience I will always remember in the stadium of Dunedin.

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Swinging by Milford Sound

Time September 30th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So this trip was a bit of a whirlwind and went by way too fast, but none-the-less New Zealand showed us it’s amazing and dreamlike scenery yet again and did nothing less than impress us with this amazing road trip. We took off on a beautiful early sunny morning after and hopped in our almost too small little red car and hit the highways to the south. This time the car was filled with my good friends Tara, Tessa, Heather, and Char (aka Nar Nar) and we rocked to strong guitar melodies down the highways past the lambs and sheep, baby cows, and horses in the fields that lined the road. We stopped in Gore to check out the giant trout, and then continued on to Te Anau for PB&J’s on the beach of the lake before making our way into Fiordland’s National Park. The day was beautiful and sunny and the light reflected off the mountain-surrounded lake while we enjoyed the raspberry jelly and crunchy peanut butter. We then took off down the road into Fiordlands. We were soon stopped by a herd of what was probably around 200 sheep walking down the highway in between pastures. The sheep dogs were running around keeping an eye on the few stragglers and keeping the herd together as they trotted down the road. Something like this would never happen in the US and it was a truly unique New Zealand experience. After the sheep had made it safely into their new home, we continued on to the Mirror Lakes.

The road soon opened up and we could see the valley that ran between huge peaks, giving us a glimpse of what was to come. We pulled over at the lakes, which displayed perfect reflections of the surrounding mountains. They were not only perfect mirrors of the spectacular environment, but were also crystal clear and displayed old sunken trees and fish making their way amongst them. A New Zealand robin also landed near us on a wooden post which was a rare experience as these birds are not very common. The NZ robin differs quite a bit from the US version and was a small bodied pale blue bird with abnormally long legs instead of the usual larger bodied, worm holding robins you find in the US. We then jumped back to the little red car and continued on towards more sights. Within minutes we began the hill climb up to the tunnel in the mountains over to the sound. We passed signs warning against avalanches, piles of snow, and small waterfalls of the snow melting off the tops of the rugged snow laden peaks. After passing through the tunnel, we came out to spectacular views of the valley of mountains that eventually would lead to the sea. We slowly made our way down the curvy, steep grade while our breaks began to burn and smell until we stopped to see The Chasm. We hiked for a short distance through dense green damp forest over creeks and small wooden bridges until we could hear the sound of rushing water. When we did reach the chasm it was nothing short of impressive. It was this huge hole of a waterfall that had carved out these now moss covered fluorescent green rocks into multiple holes, circles, intricate swirls and curves. The force of the rushing water was obvious with the large logs and trees that had been lodged in between the hollowed out rocks amidst the mist of the water that poured upon them. The bridge that crossed over this larger creek allowed perfect views of the significant drop into the chasm and really allowed you to grasp the force of the water running by underneath. The scenes of the outdoors of New Zealand never fail to make me ponder over the wonders of this earth that we populate and leave me in complete awe of it’s beauty.

We then hiked back to the car and continued now on to Milford Sound. By now the sun had left and had been replaced by a light cloud layer that threatened to drizzle. When we got to the Sound, a cloud hung over the prominent peak and in the open sea, but it was still stunningly beautiful. We walked along the tidal coast rocks and enjoyed soaking up the views of Milford and the huge waterfall that was pouring out water and mist to our left. Although we weren’t here very long the place was still incredible and we thoroughly enjoyed the short amount of time we had there. I could have spent days just staring at the ocean and mountains and exploring the area looking for waterfalls, creeks, aged trees, and kiwis. However, we needed to get to our campsite to get the tent up and eat before the sun went down on our lovely and incredible day.

We set up camp in a light drizzle next to the lake and mountains and ate noodles and beetroot soup from our small stove. We ate and laughed, perfectly happy and content with our incredible day. That night we went to sleep, the five of us stuffed in a 4-person tent while the kiwi’s that were running about in the forest cried out to each other. The rain continued throughout the night and we woke up slightly damp and wet. We quickly packed up the soaked tent and blankets that we had put between our sleeping bags and the tent floor and got back in the car to find civilization and hot drinks. As we drove down the lonely road the sun rose over the mountains and we only passed two snowplows headed to the pass to clear the snow that had fallen 200m above us. We even saw a rainbow over the valley as we exited. We enjoyed breakfast and hot drinks at a small café in Te Anau and then headed for Cromwell where we would be hitching from back to Dunedin. Tara, Tessa and I hopped out of the car at Cromwell, got our stuff together, and then headed to a corner down the road where we could wait for a car to pick us up. We caught a ride with a kind old man within 5 minutes. He even took us to a viewpoint as he drove us to our next destination Alexandria. He dropped us off outside of Alexandria and we waited for our next ride, a kind mother headed to Invercargill to pick up her son. As she drove us on the sun beat through her car windows and I nodded off while Tessa kept up conversation. From here we hopped out at an intersection in the middle of nowhere as she took her turn south. For being in the middle of fields and sheep we surprisingly caught a ride within 2 minutes of being out of the car. This was our last ride and the kind father out to watch his son’s soccer game and the rugby match the next day took us all the way to the Octagon, the center of Dunedin. Hitchhiking was much easier and safer than I had imagined. It really was a pleasant experience and good end to a wonderful trip.

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Catlins Camping

Time September 29th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Within two hours of getting back from our Mid-semester break, I was back in the car yet again for another epic adventure. I went with my flatmate Pema and one of her kiwi friends and a friend of hers down to the Catlins to go camping for a night and then exploring the next day. I quickly emptied out my clothes from mid-semester break, refilled my backpack and hopped back in the car. We drove into the night and eventually were winding down curvy dirt roads through the Catlins to our campsite. We set up camp in the rain and wind and then sat in the tent for dinner, card games, and hanging out under the light from our headlamps. I had no clue where we were or what was around us, but I knew that when we woke up the next morning and I poked my head out of the tent there was no doubt in my mind that we would be somewhere beautiful. The next day the rain had mostly cleared and when I opened the tent door up, we were right on the coast of a beautiful beach next to cliffs that plunged straight into the sea. There were two surfers out on the water catching some massive waves and other than that it was just out little car. We packed up the tent after having some yogurt and muesli for breakfast and then lit the dirt roads to do some exploring. We first went to Purukaunui Falls, which was a short walk through a dense forest that reminded me of the rainforests of the west coast with big ferns and moss covering almost any surface. It was damp and smelled of decaying old wood. There was even a tree that had been hollowed out that you could crawl into and poke your head out of. When we reached the falls, they were incredible! It was a broad but short waterfall with several different levels that made it look kind of like a series of staircases linked together. After the first amazing fall, we continued on towards another, larger one, McLean Falls.

To get to this fall was a much farther drive than the first through the rolling hills of sheep, along dramatic coastline, and past the thick forests, all on curvy dirt roads. I would have been happy with the drive alone, but the several short tramps that we got to do really made the trip. We got to the trailhead and headed on our way. Not far down the trail Lydia, our kiwi friend, picked some leaves off one of the many trees in the area. She handed one of the small green and pinkish/red spotted leaves to each of us and told us that after about 10 seconds of chewing them that they started to taste like bubblegum. Originally we were hesitant to put them in our mouth out of fear of being tricked into some goofy prank, but Lydia put the leaf in her mouth and began to chew so we followed suit. After the ten seconds of chewing though I still tasted nothing, and if anything this strong spice started to burn my mouth. After a little while longer, my mouth was on fire with the bitter, spicy taste of what we now discovered was actually a spice used by people like crushed red pepper. The taste of the leaf lingered on my tongue for the duration of the day with hints of the bitter spice. We kept walking alongside a nice creek until the creek had turned into an enormous fall. McLean Falls was much larger than the first one we had seen and was more dramatic. It was a long single fall that moved into a slanted fast moving creek. The mist from the fall scattered along our faces and we climbed along the damp rocks to get a better view.  We stayed and watched the swift water pour from the tall cliffs and rush through the thick forest for a while, just enjoying the sound of the water passing by, and then headed on to our next destination.

After seeing two falls, and tasting a local spice tree we headed for the southern most point of the South Island, Slope Point. When we got there the thick forest had cleared out and been replaced by windblown slopes. Down here the Southerlies really blew, to the point where the trees here grew on a slant towards the north and were permanently sidewise, displaying the strength of the wind here. Needless to say then, the wind raged at this point. We walked through a lambing Pasteur and over to the edge of the cliff to where there was a sig showing us how far it was to the South Pole and the Equator. The wind at the edge of these cliffs was so string that you could lean your full weight into it and it would hold you up. We were thoroughly entertained by this for probably at least 10 minutes and just couldn’t help but lean in and start laughing hysterically at the force of the breeze. The waves were also stirred up by the winds, with these huge rollers making their way into the shore, breaking on the cliffs, and sending water spraying 20ft in the air. Set after set rolled in driven by the strong wind. It was definitely a barren, weathered location. From here we left back to Curios Bay where there was a petrified forest amidst the coast.

The weather at Curios Bay was quite similar to that of Slope Point, with the big rollers just beating away at the coast and that combined with the petrified forest below almost made it a somewhat eerie place, but still incredibly beautiful. Walking along the rocks near the cliffs you could see the fossilized wood and long trees. We even saw a fossilized leaf in perfect form on one of the rocks. It was a really interesting place to be in the world amidst the cliffs, the harsh sea, and these beautiful remnants of a forest. We enjoyed the sights of the rollers that were threateningly large on the cliffs and then took off for some more adventuring.

At this point in the day the sun was starting to get lower so we knew we only had time for one more thing, so we headed up the coast to see Jack’s Blow Hole, an interesting off the beaten path sight of the Catlins. The blowhole was off of Jack’s Bay, which was a beautiful beach where surfers were catching perfect barrel waves in the lingering sunrays. We walked down the path that lead through some lambing pastures and I got to see my fist close up lamb with mother sheep along a hillside where a rainbow was now hitting as well. The lamb was an adorable little white fluffy creature that you couldn’t help but let out an “Awwwe” at. Further down the path we saw another lamb, but this one was a newly born one who hadn’t even taken his first steps. He was not the same fluffy white, but rather a gray green from having not yet been cleaned by the mother who stood concerned and ready to protect her lamb nearby.  It was really neat to see such a new lamb. BY the time we had seen the blowhole and come back it was taking its first steps and baawing, the beginnings of its life as a sheep in New Zealand. We then continued down the path to the cliffs edge where you could see the sea below crashing on rocks and we were able to hear the screeches of penguins below coming into shore for the night. A couple minutes later we hit the blowhole, which wasn’t what I would consider your typical blowhole. Rather, it was a large chasm that the waves had carved out from the beach. The water would pour into it from two different hollowed out arches in the rock and then fill and flow back out. It was really incredible and awe striking seeing such a big random hole in the earth.  From here we hopped back in the car just as the sun was setting and made our way back to Dunedin. We concluded our trip with a classic kiwi fish and chips from a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant and then parted ways after a full and exciting day until th

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Mid-Semester Break Road Trip: Part 4- Akaroa and Home

Time September 16th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The drive into Christchurch from Arthur’s Pass was unbelievable. It always seemed as though we were driving into, away from, and beside the mountains. There were beautiful snow capped peaks in every single direction. It was incredible. The Southern Alps of New Zealand never fail to amaze. As we got closer to Christchurch there were more and more fields and farms, but this time as we passed by the sheep filled pastors, there were also all sorts of adorable newly born lambs. Since I have been here I have definitely seen my fair share of sheep, however this was the first time that I could remember seeing a lamb. They were just these tiny little white fluffy looking animals that still had their tails, and ears that are quite disproportionate to the size of the rest of their body. We usually saw them in pairs with a mother sheep prancing around across the green grass. Watching them out the window, I couldn’t help but crack a smile and occasionally a little laugh. We quickly passed through the outskirts of Christchurch and made our way out towards the peninsula and Akaroa, where we would be staying. The country out this was extremely rural and kind of reminded me of a larger Otago Peninsula. We rounded the corner of the hills that we had been climbing in the car to see a beautiful view of an inlet into the Peninsula and down below the small town of Akaroa. The water was a vivid blue that starkly contrasted with the big rolling green hills surrounding it.  Akaroa was what I would deem your typical small beach town, but with a starkly French flavor. The town was lined by a fantastic walking path right along the coast and on a sunny day like we had, we couldn’t help but decide to take a plunge in the winter waters. While it was quite warm out with the sun beating down on our shoulders, that was not the case for the ocean water. It was freezing, so we quickly ran in, dunked, and ran back out. Although it may have only been a quick swim, I can now say that I have swam in the South Pacific in the dead of winter. We continued through the adorable slow moving town, and decided to get drinks down at a café on the coast as the sun set. I had a delicious Raspberry Hot Chocolate and enjoyed sipping the warm drink as the sun descended past the other side of the hills. We had a relaxing night, at what must have been one of the cutest hostels in all of New Zealand.

The next morning I woke up early and too a stroll down the coast while everybody else proceeded to sleep in a little bit. It was wonderful to feel the sun, smell the surf, and hear the seagulls in the background. I got a very nice latte from a café and took it back to the hostel where I sat in the sun all morning sipping on my drink and soaking up some morning rays. When everybody else got up, we decided we needed to do something active today. So we split into two groups, one was going to go for a short hike, and the other was going to bike along the coast with the bikes that our hostel lends out. I chose to go for a bit of a cruise on the bike because since being in New Zealand I had not been on a bike. It was a blast riding along on the left side of the road, checking out the coast, the lighthouse in Akaroa, and the beautiful scenery. It was a great way to spend the last part of our break. We had a nice Indian dinner together that night and then called it an early night with the hopes of hitting the road early the next day to get back to Dunedin.

We hit the road the next day as the sun was rising and just hitting the tops of the hills. The roads were empty which was nice for the long trip we had ahead of us back to Dunedin. We had decided the day before to take a stop at Moeraki Boulders for lunch, which I was looking forward to. The drive to there was pretty uneventful and I even got to take a turn at the steering wheel. When we arrived at Moeraki Boulders we got our lunches, and walked to the coast where the boulders were supposed to be. The coastline was beautiful with a large plain of perfectly soft, grainy sand. In the distance we could see the boulders that were several perfect spheres of rock. The rocks were fascinating in their shape and I still don’t understand how they came to be perfectly circular. We ate lunch on top of the rocks in the sun and then hopped back in the car. We pulled into Dunedin 45 minutes later, our trip had now ended. I hopped out of the car with a sense of accomplishment for having seen such amazing places in the course of the week.  Being on this road trip reminded me of the original reason I had decided to come to New Zealand, for the natural beauty that it has and to get to explore it all. The trip was a success and got me excited to plan for more trips in the future.

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Mid Semester Break: Part 3- Arthur’s Pass

Time September 7th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

We woke up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday to try and get back out to the glaciers and do one more quick tramp before hitting the road to our next destination, Arthur’s Pass. Unfortunately as we rolled out of the hostel to Big B it was pouring rain and didn’t look as though it was going to clear anytime soon, but we decided to brave it anyways. We hit the track and were soaked within minutes, even with our raincoats on. We made it down the trail until we could see the glaciers and then decided that it was just not great enough weather and that we might as well hit the road and see if the next place had more promising weather. We got back to the hostel, stripped off our sopping wet clothes and threw them into the drier while we grabbed some toast for breakfast and packed up the car for some more miles. We hit the road in the gentle rain that persisted for the entire drive, which was unfortunate because the views looked like they would have been incredible.

We eventually unknowingly drove into the incredibly small town of Arthur’s Pass and straight out of it. The whole town occupied a maybe 2 block length with maybe a maximum of 10 or 12 small cabins, a store, and a café. So we turned around and drove through at probably 15km/hr until we stumbled upon the small batch that we would call home for the next 24 hours. It was a small green cabin that backed up to the brush of one of the mountains that bordered the whole town of Arthur’s Pass. The cabin had historically been one of the homes of the workers who had built the tunnel for the railway that ran along the far side of the town which made it a very interesting place to stay. I walked inside to find that it was as cute and quaint as I had imagined. It was wood on the inside with just your essential basics, beds, blankets, wood burning stove, and comfy looking couches. It was a proper kiwi batch that to me reminded me of a ski lodge or even of several other cabins that I had stayed in before in Colorado. The small windows that were on each wall lead to beautiful sweeping views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks and the occasional glimpse of a waterfall coming through the dense brush. One of the aspects that I found most interesting and comforting was that bordering the fireplace on either side were two retro wall paintings of the Vail and Aspen Skiing locations in Colorado, both places where I had been in my lifetime thus far. It made me feel even more comfortable in the welcoming batch and reminded me a little of home. We set up the bach, turned on the water, the electricity, successfully started a fire, and got our stuff situated all the while with the rain continuing to patter at the roof. Everyone else was feeling a bit worn from our travels thus far and decided to relax on the couches surrounding the fire while I decided to brave the weather and do some tramping and check out the area. I through on my raincoat, hoping that it might keep the water off, and headed off for the trailhead to Bridal Veil Falls, and Devils Punchbowl. The track started with crossing a small creek that was probably due to runoff from the rain and made me glad that I had chosen to wear my chacos even though it was winter and there was snow on the ground in places. At the fork for the tracks I decided to head towards Bridal Veil Falls on the recommendation of a friend. It was a fun track that headed off into the brush and up the slope of the surrounding hill. There were multiple creeks to cross on the nicely made wooden bridges of the track and also the smaller runoff ones that ran across the trail. It was beautiful, with the creeks to my right and the mountains on both sides, peeking out from the brush every once and a while with the clouds hanging around their scraggly peaks. I eventually made it to a lookout of Bridal Veil Falls which was absolutely gorgeous pouring out from the side of the mountain. However, equally as beautiful was the view of the pass from which we had driven through earlier this morning and the endless stream of mountains that carried on into the fog. I then turned around to try to complete the Devil’s Punchbowl track as well. Being on the trail again by myself was so comfortable and calming and instead of the rain being a bothersome factor, it ended up being very soothing and added to the beauty of Arthur’s Pass. I trekked back down the trail, across the creeks, bogs, and alongside the mountains back to the fork in the track and took a turn up Devil’s Punchbowl. This track ended up being much shorter, but also consequently much steeper. It quickly brought me to the look out of what was a very large waterfall with two different large drops that came to a creek that eventually merged with the river that ran through Arthur’s Pass. The first fall was a skinnier longer fall from the top of a saddle between two of the surrounding peaks that then came into a pool that formed the reservoir for the second broader, shorter fall into the creek. It was awe-striking, the power that the fall had and as stunning as I had expected. Unfortunately by this point the rain had penetrated the lense of my camera so I wasn’t able to get any clear pictures that did this place any sort of justice. I then turned back down the path and headed back to town just in time to catch a train pull through the tunnel and head off towards the peaks on the far side of the past that were just now starting to display the colors of a pink and purple sunset. The quietness of the slow town of Arthur’s Pass was highly peaceful and I found it easy to relax and just take a moment to be grateful for where I was in the world and this beautiful opportunity. It was for moments like this that had brought me to New Zealand and in this time I was overjoyed to be here. As I began the walk back to the bach the clouds cleared for a bit and several Keas could be seen flying in small groups around the town looking for mischief to cause. I headed back to the bach which was slowly pouring out a small cloud of smoke from the fire. We sat around the fire that night, talking, playing card games, and just enjoying each others company in the inviting bach. Eventually we each tired out and left to our respective sleeping spots. I decided to sleep on  the couch in the living room in front of the dimming fire. It ended up being an incredible spot with the flicker of the fire giving a dim orange light to the room and the window above me giving me a glimpse of the beautiful night sky. The stars were incredible, crystal clear and sparkling among a very bright stretch of the Milky Way. I was so content and just simply happy as a fell asleep that night.

The next morning we got up early as planned to try out the Avalanche Peak Track, of which we knew nothing about, but on my wandering yesterday had looked interesting. We were up just as the sun was coming up and began the walk down the track. It was originally a pretty easy and well laid out trail but as we got started on the incline up the mountain, this soon changed. Before we knew it we found ourselves scrambling up  the track using both hands to get up large rocky jumps in the path. It was more like we were setting our own, some what sketchy, path up the trail. We would search for the next orange or blue trail marker before proceeding because otherwise it was impossible to tell where it was we were going. It got so bad that some of us decided to turn back, but I continued forward. I couldn’t help but be somewhat excited by the lack of trail and the bit of scrambling that we got to do. I soon came to a nice lookout of a waterfall that we had seen down below and were now at the top of. As the sun came up the water glimmered and the snow on the tops of the peaks shone. As the trail continued it still became increasingly more difficult and became somewhat like climbing short lengths in spots, which became somewhat concerning for the way back down. We continued for a bit longer past some more waterfalls along the hillside until we came to the bush line. From here we could see that it looked like there might be a small storm rolling in, so we decided out of safety and the scramble down that lay ahead of us to turn around before things got nasty. It was an exciting and envigoring short tramp however with some beautiful sights. After making our way successfully back down with some sliding down on our butts involved, we walked back into town and  towards the bach. I decided to stop at the single Arthur’s Pass Store and enjoy a hot drink. I sat and drank a very delicious warm chai and observed as keas came in and sat on each car that came by. At one point, there was a truck that had pulled in that eventually had 5 different Keas playing around on it and quite enjoying some fun. It was hilarious to watch as they one by one came over and curiously inspected each car that pulled in. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little. I then headed back to the bach to pack up and head out only to find that when we had pulled Big Blue into the driveway, we had gone a little too far and were completely stuck in the mud. We tried pushing it, putting down flat wood under the tires, but nothing seemed as though it would be capable of getting us out of this mess. We were perplexed and I couldn’t help but laugh at our situation. Eventually some kiwi guys from town who were knewly unemployed skibums looking for a good time came by to help us out. They also tried the flat wood under the tires and although it did make a little progress, we were still stuck. They went in search of a rope to next try pulling us out with another car. Miraculously as soon as we got Big Blue hooked up to their dirt covered Four Runner we were freed from the mud. We quickly packed up and made our way out of Arthur’s Pass and on toward Christchurch and Akaroa. I was somewhat sad to be leaving the mountains and the quiet of Arthur’s Pass, but on to new adventures is always exciting.

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Mid-Semester Break Adventures: Part 1- Plan of Action and Queenstown

Time September 6th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Where to even begin this post is an absolute struggle for me. We encountered so many different beautiful places, valuable experiences, and laughs and smiles with friends. This last week of break really couldn’t have been much better. I got to spend time with people who have come to be great friends, outgoing and friendly people from New Zealand, spontaneous Kiwi’s, kind owners of wonderful backpackers and bachs in stunning places, and of course many sheep and now lambs as well. First off I guess would be to start with what our original plan of action was: 7 day road trip, Friday to Friday, around the South Island of New Zealand. We aimed to spend 3 nights in the mountain town and adventure capital of Queenstown, followed by a drive to the west coast to Franz Josef Glacier, into the mountains of Arthur’s Pass for a night, to the coast at Akaroa, and back to the Southern Alps to see Mount Cook. We   planned to horseback ride, tramp, and check out the nightlife of Queenstown, tramp and see the glacier in Franz, tramping to waterfalls in Arthur’s Pass, kayaking in Akaroa, and of course tramping in Mount Cook. However, with all good, long road trips, plans change, experiences present themselves and you learn to go with the flow and soak up every minute you can, including the endless staring and drooling out the window at awe-striking landscapes. So here begins the epic journey that was my spring break in New Zealand, the 26th of August to the 2nd of September, year 2011.

We couldn’t have asked for more promising weather on the Friday of the start of break. It was as though the weather was also expressing the happiness of all the students who were ready to take a break from classes and enjoy relaxing, tramping, or adventuring. It was a perfectly sunny, warm, and slightly humid winters day. Walking back from my last class I could feel the warm beams of sunshine beating down on my shoulders underneath my now too warm jacket. I raced home, packed, and waited in anticipation till 2:00 when we were to meet our rental car and hit the road for the next week. Monique and Sarah showed up in a beautiful navy blue, Subaru, and of course on the left hand side of the road. The car was perfect and soon came to be known as Big Blue or the Big B, Big Boy, and even Billy Boyd. The vehicle was to successfully carry us, jam packed with stuff, across the kilometers of New Zealand blasting throwbacks, Jack Johnson, Dave Mathews, and a few mixed up reggae beats the whole way.             We stopped at each person’s flat, anticipation building the whole time, and slowly filled up the car before hitting highway 1 out of Dunedin and in the direction of Queenstown. We drove alongside far after far, grass covered hillsides, and the occasional river or creek into the night.

We hit Queenstown in the dark, a slight drizzle hitting the windshield as we pulled into our hostel nestled in the downtown. We dumped our stuff and proceeded up to room 322, on the top floor, packed into the far corner of the hostel to find that we had 3 friendly, kind Tasmanian boys hitting the ski slopes of Queenstown for the next two weeks. So far they have been the first and only Australian people I have met, and they left a more than great impression on me of the lovely partner country in the New Zealand-Australian rivalry. We got to know them, spent some fun nights on the town together, and talked about everything from drivers licenses and mountain biking, to accents, to and all the awesome things about each place we were from. We couldn’t have had better hostel roommates than Ben, Sam, and Adam from Tasmania, Australia. After spending the night on the town and then staying up talking till we couldn’t keep our eyes open, we hit the hay for the night before the morning.

We woke up to a beautiful morning, stumbled out of bed to find that we were absolutely surrounded by these scraggly mountain peaks on literally every side. It was shocking and stunning, however as the trip continued this came to be more of a norm to have the mountains constantly somewhere in the background. We made some PB&J’s on the roof of big blue looking out to the peaks before heading to the trail head to climb to the top of where the gondola went to check out some views. As we hiked on the views became more and more beautiful. I found myself taking my camera out to take a picture of what I thought was a beautiful scene only to find that 5 minutes later it had become more incredible and felt the urge to grab a picture yet again. When we hit the top though there was really nothing comparable to the sight. Mountains, Lake, Sky, and snow all around. It was wonderful. In fact the views were so distracting that we failed to see that we were drooling at the scenery on top of a helicopter landing sight and were soon asked by a security person in a golf cart “Can you all read?” We had completely failed to see the two enormous signs saying not to stand on the helicopter pad at any time hahaha I was just on a natural high from the beauty that nature and New Zealand has to offer. We continued around the top of the mountain and ran into a friend of ours who we got to watch do a bungee jump from one of the platforms looking out to the lake. My stomach dropped just watching him leap off the plat form and bounce back up and down several times before coming back up. It wouldn’t be the adventure capital of New Zealand though if there weren’t some adrenaline, a little fear, and some sort of extreme. We decided to hike back down instead of our original plan to take the gondola and enjoyed sliding in the mud a bit and doing some rock hopping on the way back to town. We then checked out a nice little local craft market down by the lake and the warf. I sat in the sun and sand just marveling at how crystal clear the water in the was and the reflections of the snow capped mountains in it while the ducks played in the small surf that the boats generated as they went by.  We watched the All Blacks (New Zealand) vs. The Wallabies (Australia) rugby game with our roommates and got a little taste of the rivalry between the two countries. After another long, fun night we turned in so we could get up early the next day to head out horseback riding.

In the morning, we woke up to perfect blue skies and sunshine, the first time I think I can say there wasn’t a cloud in the sky to be seen in New Zealand. We made our breakfast of choice oatmeal with peanut butter and banana, grabbed an apple, and headed on our way to meet up with the people who were going to take us out to the stables. We met them at the street corner to find a van with a roof so high that you could practically stand a 6-foot person inside it without having to slouch a little. The young guy drove us speedily down the winding road that ran the coastline of the lake, lined by mountains on both sides down to the town of Glenorchy where we were outfitted with knee high boots, helmet, and gloves, signed waivers, and got to peek at a couple of horses. We then hopped back into the can and headed practically straight into the mountains down a rough dirt road to meet up with the horses we would be riding. When we arrived the mountains were spectacular and looked like they could have been out of a dream or painting. We were then introduced to each of our horses we would be riding. My horse, named Biscuit, was a majestic but wily, mahogany brown horse with a beautiful mane. I was directed onto the horse and told how to steer him, and naturally I got my directions wrong the first time around before figuring it out. I felt clueless on top of Biscuit, but slowly became more comfortable with how large he was and the balance of being in a saddle. After each of us had been set up on our respective horses which included Pip, Elmo, Elvis, Presley and one more, we headed out down the path into the country know literally as Paradise. We trotted through beech forests, past creeks, and through some open rolling hills, the whole way our tour guide pointing out different locations that had appeared in movies such as The Lord of the Rings, Wolverine, and Prince Caspian as well as several others. It was beautiful and such a different perspective to be seeing all the wilderness on a horse. We then tried to canter on the horses and Tricia took a bit of a tumble, only to proceed to get back up onto the horse, quite valiantly might I add, and gracefully faint onto the horse. After giving her some recovery time we made our way back as the sun was beginning to approach the horizon. I said goodbye to Biscuit and headed back into Queenstown as the sun set on the lake and mountains. That night we stayed in and played some classic card games with our Australian roommates. We taught them several classic card games from America, including my family’s personal favorite, rummy, and also learned a few very fun Australian card games as well. It was a really relaxing and lighthearted night. We went to sleep that night prepared for an early start to the day tomorrow to head to the west coast and the glaciers.

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Spring Break in New Zealand: Part 2- Franz Josef Glacier

Time September 6th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

We woke up early on Monday morning to pack Big Blue back up to the brim and take off for the west coast of New Zealand, through Wanaka, Mount Aspiring National Park, Haast, and farm country to eventually reach Franz Josef Glacier. It was again a nice sunny day which meant that we would be able to see the views out the window with spectacular clarity and without clouds covering the many snow topped peaks of the mountains that lined the road. The views were spectacular from the time we left Queenstown. We started out with a left turn onto a road marked scenic mountain pass route, and up we went into the mountains, past Cadrona ski resort and onwards to Wanaka, listening to my music of choice Atmosphere, Bob Marley, Citizen Cope, Incubus, and some Modest Mouse scattered throughout. I couldn’t help but think of the road trip that my Dad and I had taken from school earlier this summer and driving along the Sierra Nevada’s listening to my entire playlist of Modest Mouse. We reached Wanaka, a small ski town similar to Queenstown, nestled between more mountains and bordered by a large lake that was lined by the scraggly peaks. We made a quick pit stop for groceries before we headed to the next two very small towns where little would be available and we munched on some delicious cheese bread, a new favorite. ON the road again we drove into Mount Aspiring National Park where I spotted waterfalls and creeks with crystal blue water, all run off from the surrounding mountains. It just went on and on. You would take a turn away from one set of mountains and come around the next bend to be welcomed by another daunting peak. I was just ecstatic as we drove into the thickening brush and toward the rainforest of the west coast. We finally hit the coast and caught glimpses of the Pacific Ocean now from the Western side of New Zealand. It was incredibly blue and pristine with the cliff faces and surrounding ferns. We pulled into Franz Josef with just enough time to throw on some tramping clothes and go and check out the glacier.

Although we unfortunately couldn’t get onto the actual glacier without paying obscene amounts of money that the broke college student can’t afford we were able to get a very nice view of it and the natural scenery along the track up to it. It was stunning and I wish that I had known more about glaciers before going so I could have understood a little better about how something like what we saw forms. There was a huge plain of small carved out rocks leading up to the glacier which was situated between two large mountains. There were waterfalls coming off both sides of the surrounding hills and some very interesting curved rocks that looked like slides. We were able to walk up to what looked like an entrance into the glacier from which a creek was exiting and see some of that blue tinge associated with ice and glaciers. I was dying to say just jump the fence telling us that was as far as we could go without an experiences glacier guide, but I remained behind the boundary and marveled for a bit. We then proceeded to check out some of the waterfalls coming of the sides of the mountains and munched on Sonya apples on top of a nice lookout on the slide rocks onto the glacier. We left as the sun was setting just on top of the glacier and went back to our cozy looking hostel. We hit the bunk beds early that night so that we might hit the road early again in anticipation of tramping some more.

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Tramping and Cultural Activities

Time August 23rd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Tramping and Cultural Activities

 

To start this out, this week I got to watch my favorite movie, one that really seems to hit close to home and remind me what I’m living for, Into the Wild. It was such a great part of my week as it always is every time I watch it. This time watching it was a little different however because seeing all the red rock of the canyon, deserts of Arizona, and the pictures of nature that I call home really made me miss the unique beauties of the desert and home. My favorite quote from there also seemed to take on a bit of a new meaning and gave me some needed strength for the week or in moments that I find myself missing home. The quote goes:

“I know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions facing the blind deaf stone alone with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.”

This quote reminds me of the study abroad experience just a little bit because at times you feel weak, and very much alone, but it is often from these times that we learn the most because you are alone trekking along creating for your self this amazing experience and learning so much along the way. It reminded me that when I’m feeling different or alone it’s okay, as long as I remain confident in myself and this experience I’ll be able to make it through and come back with an abundance of valuable moments. The rest of the movie of course as always just inspired me to get back out into nature and all the beautiful places that New Zealand has to offer. So given such of course I went for a bit of a tramp this weekend with some friends.

We headed out on the Otago Peninsula on the early morning 8:57 bus to conquer the Harbor Cone, an extinct volcano on the peninsula with a rather steep slope. We arrived at our stop, Bacon Street, which of course we all joked around and soon started out on the tramp down the quaint road and onto the Bacon Track which started out through a nice little tree grove. I saw my first couple of lambs at the beginning of the walk which was exciting. We then switched over to the Harbor Cone Track and began the climb up. Yet again it was beautiful with the view of the city and harbor behind us, Hoopers inlet and the pacific in front of us, and the Pacific and Allan’s beach to the right. It was such a great day filled with sun, which was the first in the last week since the big snowstorm. There was even the last little bit of snow in places towards the top, reminding us that even though it was sunny and beautiful it is still winter down here. When we got to the top the sights were amazing and we actually got to see some sheep being herded by a farmer and his dog, It was really cool to watch because the sheep moved so quickly like a white wave across the hillside the small dot of the dog running the hillside next to them directing them from one place to the next. We soon after began our way down and onto a smaller track that ran along the ridge of the hillside and then down into a very very muddy valley. We cut down through some very thick brush on the hillside and had to use the roots of trees that were more like vines to keep ourselves from tumbling down the whole hillside, into the mud and brush. But it was a blast and absolutely hilarious to watch each person resist slipping and skating through the mud and moss. We eventually made it to the bottom where it now just appeared to be a swampy mud filled marsh, but it was equally as beautiful. The track had a couple of nice planks on which we crossed a couple of creeks and extremely wet places. The mud though was never ending. It seemed as though with each step I took was a battle between me and the mud to keep my shoe on my foot. I would watch myself take a step, see my shoe disappear into the mud, and then fight to pull it out followed by a nice squishing noise. It was a constant fight to keep from falling splat in it, but remarkably we all made it out without falling in it. We then walked past a herd of sheep and cows and back to the road running along the inlet. We then headed back into Portobello where we soaked up the sun while drinking chai at the only café in the town.

Soon after catching the bus back into Dunedin, I showered and then took off to a soccer game at the brand new stadium to watch the Wellington Phoenix take on the Australians from Brisbane. The stadium was filled with somewhere close to 15,00 people all bustling with excitement. We sat in the second row of what appeared to be the student section where cheers just constantly ran out under the bright lights of the stadium. Although the Wellington team lost badly and didn’t play so well it was still a blast to be in such an energy filled environment and to get a little taste of the sport culture here in New Zealand.

We then took off down the streets filled with people exiting the game down to the Octagon where we were going to watch the Rail Jam. We stopped at an Indian Restaurant to get some of my new favorite snack, naan, and then continued down to the heart of the city. When we got there the center of town was bustling with people and a local was rapping up on a stage while the volunteers were packing down the snow on the ramp to get ready for the next session of boarders and skiers who were hoping to nail some nasty tricks. It was a pretty fun scene, the music was great, and really fun to watch the snow enthusiasts crank out some tricks.

By the end of the day I was completely exhausted, but I figure that’s the sign of a great day filled with experiences and adventure. I went to bed that night happy to be in New Zealand and looking forward to the next chapter of New Zealand, our road trip across the South Island for mid-semester break the next weekend.

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Snow and Ice Adventures: Naseby Trip with IFSA Butler

Time August 23rd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Snow and Ice Adventures: Naseby Trip with IFSA Butler

 

So a lot has happened in the last couple of weeks, lots of school, little adventures, meetings of new people, and some cultural events in there too. We went to Naseby two weekends ago for some very adventure filled lugging and curling. The drive out there, about 3 hours by bus, was pretty intense. Of course it was another snow filled morning so the entire drive there was consumed by wind, ice, and quite a bit of snow, especially as we went up and down the constant rolling hills. It was beautiful though to see the snow covered hillsides and the apparently empty appearing roads that just went on into the storm. When we got to the foot of some larger mountains where Naseby was located the storm had clamed down to a more gentle, peaceful snow with some larger flakes in there. It seemed to fit very nicely with the quaint and small town atmosphere of Naseby. We ate some delicious croissant sandwiches while walking the streets before heading over to the area where we’d soon be lugging and curling. I started the afternoon out with lugging with a small group of friends. It was awesome to get to try it out because my family used to always watch the sport when the winter Olympics were on and we’d sit and joke about it and how it might be any of ours last chance to make it into the Olympics. After trying it though, I can say it definitely is more difficult than it may seem on TV. We slipped all over the ice and managed to clumsily score a couple of points in the house. The best part however was watching everybody try to start the push of the balls with the sliding onto the knee position. Basically everybody fell over, some onto the side, some flat on their back, and others almost into a face plant. I haven’t laughed as hard as I did then in a long time. If we had been taping each of us try and fail and put it on America’s Funniest Home Videos I think we would have had a shot at winning it all possibly. We then moved onto lugging which was definitely the higher action of the two sports, but we weren’t really any better at it than we were at curling. We began on what at the time seemed like barely a bump equipped with our helmets, shoes, and sled. We each proceeded to turn the wrong way, hit the wall, and then eventually make it around the corner, all of us laughing the whole way. We progressively moved farther up the course until we had some longer runs at the end.  Myself and a couple of others were a little slower at picking it up than the rest, for me probably because as many of you who know me well know I have trouble with my rights and lefts haha but we eventually caught up to the group. It was so much fun flying down the ice with the bit of snow still flurrying and every once and a while bumping the sides, and of course that touch of adrenaline rush fueling large smiles on all our faces. It was super fun and a really great break from Dunedin and schoolwork. The drive back was probably a thousand times more beautiful than the drive there. The views now that the clouds and storm had cleared were breath taking and the snow that we had gotten probably made it even more spectacular. It looked as though we were just driving in towards this huge mountain pass. The big rolling hills of farms scattered with sheep all up against big snow covered mountain ranges that seemed to go on forever. It reminded me of the drive my dad and I had taken back from school at the beginning of this summer along the Sierra Nevada’s, except with farmland, sheep, and many more rolling hills. The road just curved along through the hillside, towards the mountains, and then in towards the coastline and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. It was a really lovely drive, and although I was exhausted and probably at least half the bus had fallen asleep I was completely transfixed on the scenery around me and couldn’t let my eyes rest and miss out on the beauty that nature and New Zealand has to offer. I might also add that I must have seen at least 3 or 4 hawks which reminded me of the red tailed hawks I would see plunging out of the sky back in Arizona on the long drives through the desert. We got back had some delicious pizza and then got back to work and school the next week. This trip however made me so excited to get out and see the rest of New Zealand soon to come.

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Pushing the Limits, Getting Involved

Time August 1st, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Week #2 & 3

Some absolutely amazing things have happened these last two weeks. I have a solid group of wonderful friends who are kind, goofy, sarcastic, and adventuresome. Don’t know if I could ask for much more, oh and did I add there are a couple of great cooks amongst us as well. Sweet as!! My flat is bonding through lovely baked goods that have included pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, biscuits, the American kind that is, lemon bars, and banana bread my personal favorite! We also had a lovely snowstorm of about 2 inches that shut down the city. It unfortunately postponed our trip to Naseby but instead I got to spend some time with a family I know in New Zealand from home. They have two little kids and are in a very nice rental out near Brighton Beach. I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful roast, spend the night, sit by a fire, watch some Indiana Jones, have breakfast with them as well as play Uno, go fish, and match with the kids.  So great to be around a family again, a warm house, fire, and friendly faces. I also got to try some new food, both of which were delicious, crumpets and crackle. I think at this point I am well on my way to becoming a scarfie! Classes are good, although it still feels like I’m away at summer camp or something. They should be interesting and provide a new perspective. In these last two weeks I started working on getting involved in the school as well. I joined the Flying Discs Enthusiasts Club and got to play some real Ultimate for the first time since hurting my ankle. It was mostly Americans at the first practice, but still an amazing time to get to run around, throw some discs, slip and slide in the mud, and just have a great time while meeting new people. I also started the Bone Craving class that I had signed up for through the University with some of my friends. It is such a wonderful skill and although the bone originally scarred me a little bit, it has been so rewarding to see the finished product which will be going to my little sister when I get back home. It is amazing what you can do with a rough, gross piece of bone. I also went to a Bollywood Dance Workshop with some other friends that was put on by the Indian Students Association at Otago which was fun, different, unique, and with my clumsiness and lack of dance skills absolutely hilarious! It’s been great to get to know new cultures here. Finally to wrap up a great two weeks we did a breath taking hike to the highest point on the Otago Peninsula. It was incredible. We didn’t see a single person the whole entire time, but there were more sheep than I could ever have counted. They were spotting the entire hillside, just little white fluffs at the tops of hills and quietly eating, strolling, and the occasional BAH. Picturesque doesn’t even begin to capture how beautiful it was. Water on three different sides, huge green hillsides on all sides, the unique birds chirping, cows, sheep, and seagulls, and the waves crashing on the beach. We climbed to the top of the mountain and then rushed down, slipped in some mud, and hiked it back to the bus stop back to school and the All Blacks vs., South Africa game. A great end to a great set of two weeks. So happy to be here and getting out there in all regards. Looking forward to new experiences and adventures.

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Back to School Week!

Time July 19th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Week #1 of Classes

 

Back to the books we go. Say goodbye to the sweet short summer break and a little bit of respite for the mind because it’s time to hit the books again. As always I had those first day of day of classes jitters except this time over and over again because each day my schedule is a little bit different and none of my classes are ever in the same location. Plus there may have also been the added aspect of the first day of school being my 20th birthday, which is just insane. I never thought I’d be going to classes on my paper and have it snow being that usually my birthday is in the summer, but we’re just switching things up here in New Zealand. Overall the classes seem like they are going to be really good looking back on the week. They are definitely structured different and the lecture style a little more loose than I am used to. There is as everyone has been telling us much more emphasis on the work outside of the classroom, which makes the lectures a bit more of a brief and quick summary than the full blown detail that I am used to in classes back home. It’s going to be very interesting to get a totally different perspective that seeps into some of the discussions as well, especially in my sociology class which will have me reading about a NZ conscientious objector during WWI which will explain the war I’m sure from a different view as well as just the basic social interactions and customs that we might explore. Already in that class in regards to talking about the invasion of personal space there have been references to how Americans always walk down the wrong side of the sidewalk and how it makes it difficult to give way and interrupts the normal social custom of move left and causes the person to possibly invade your space. I am also taking a Zen Buddhism course which will lend an interesting and new religious perspective as well compared to the primarily Catholic or Christian classes I have had back at Gonzaga. Perhaps the class I am most excited for however is my Microbiology course on Infection and Immunity, which seems to be an epidemiology course. I think it will fit with my interests very well. In general however, the classes are much larger than I’m used to. Walking into the big lecture theaters that could easily sit 400 people and pick a seat among the already 180 people sitting can be very intimidating and just give the whole situation a completely different feel. I am used to the intimate 20-35 person class where you usually know at least several familiar faces. Now I look into a crowd of strangers, but hopefully I’ll come to know some of them. My last class is a Spanish class which is weird to take in NZ and is by far my smallest class. The mix of the Spanish accent with the kiwi accent leads to a very unique pronunciation in that class. Every thing seems to be off to a good start and hopefully will continue to be that way.

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Mixing It Up

Time July 7th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

06/07/2011: day #9

 

Today we had the international student orientation with all the students from countries around the world. It was incredible not only to see how many of us there are studying here at Otago but also the number of countries that we come from. The list was as diverse as including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Scotland, England, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark , Portugal, and Spain to Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, China, Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, and Papua New Giunea to Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Chile, and then the majority being the US. It was just a beautiful thing to be included in a group of such adventurous students covering such a wide array of cultures. We then went and signed up for the bone carving class and walked through the gym and past some parks and the new rugby stadium on the way home. I ate some lunch then went back to St. David’s café to meet with Leila and get all the information on places to see and eat at in Dunedin. She is just an amazing person and I love hanging out with her…even if it’s just mostly us bombarding her with questions. We then got back together and hung out at in the basement of the international building. Of course, we yet again made family dinner together but this time we invited over some of Sarah’s French flatmates friends and ate with them as well. It was very interesting to be cooking and listening to their American music but to still hear French being spoken fluently in the background. It really is a beautiful language. We then went to a get together at one of their friends places. It was really neat because not only were we surrounded by very kind and friendly French students but also students from Canada, Finland, and Germany. It really is just incredible to be in a place where you can be surrounded by 3 or 4 different languages and nationalities at the same time enjoying each others company and all trying to understand what the person next to you is saying. People’s friendliness has just failed to amaze me. I think the best part of my day came next though. We walked to a church turned into a bar for an open mic night. There were maybe 10 people including ourselves there total, small, quaint, warm, and welcoming, all of us sharing a love for music whether it be playing it, listening, writing, composing, or performing. There were several kiwi students, a young guy from Canada, and us. It was so lovely. Everybody sang with so much soul and emotion. It was a very intimate experience and just so beautiful. I want to go back next week and listen again for sure. It felt kinda like being at home doing some studying and heaing my dad play guitar in the background. I couldn’t help but imagine how happy and eager he would be to hop up on that stage and pull out some familiar jam and just rock out to it with our little group of 10 people. One of my best experiences in Dunedin yet J

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First Week in New Zealand Recap

Time July 5th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

28 June 2011: Day #1

 

Today has been absolutely incredible, from hearing the pilot announce that we were now beginning our final descent into the Auckland airport and the immediate rush of blood to my head and flutter in my stomach of the announcement, to customs, immigration, phone calling cards, and meeting the entire group finally. It has been a brilliant day. New Zealand has already impressed me with the kindness of it’s people and the beauty of it’s sights. So far it is wetter, greener, and hillier than I would have expected. The sunrise at the airport while tossing a Frisbee was incredible. It began with a stream of grays mixed with tints of pinks and purples to a full spectrum of colors and the sudden eruption of golden light from the sun into the sky. It was hard to not want to take a picture or not to marvel at what a beautiful first light on this country it was and how many more beautiful lights lie ahead of this journey. The group is also amazing. We seem to have come from all over the country and all are eager for this adventure, to meet others, and to explore and immerse ourselves.

 

The orientation site is lovely as well. Stunning green rolling muddy hills onto the coastline where you can see the city in the distance or the volcano or other small islands. Today we walked to the top of the park and around to the beach, went sea kayaking across the peninsula and explored some  tide pools, went to a hot water spring, and tasted some of the local brew at a small pub. All in all a beautiful day, but now it’s time for sleep so we can start this all again.

 

29 June 2011; Day #2

 

Today was wonderful. Felt so incredible to finally get some sleep and work away some of the fog that had been covering my brain and eyes yesterday. We have eaten here more than I can possibly imagine. It seems like I had 5 meals today, but it all has been such amazing and wonderful food and of course that means I’m loving it. We started out with a quick pub-less quiz on different facets of New Zealand, from safety to tramping to sex to politics. We covered it all. My team Double Rainbow did quite well and we ended up winning it all. Next we did an activity called ROGAINE which was basically an orienteering race around the park to see if you could find the  landmarks and get back in 40 minutes. It was such a blast! Running up and down the hills and coastline, slipping through the mud while it tried to consume your shoes. So much fun and I got to get nice and dirty in the process. It was crazy though because I got so focused on the game that I forgot to even take a look around to see where we were, but I’m sure that the views were phenomenal. Then we had some time to choose from a variety of activities including archery, mountain biking, climbing, a small walk in the bush, or just something on your own. So naturally I chose to do some climbing. The wall was rather small and holds large. But it was still very fun. I got sketched out by the belay system at first, which was just two people walking backwards with the rope, but it seemed to work efficiently. The wall did have one climb which I wa s unable to complete, an overhang. The foot holds were just not in very convenient places, even though the hand holds were solid… Next time. Then we played some rugby which definitely took some getting the hang of. Had a blast! And then info about the marae visit up for tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to it and getting a little glimpse at the Maori culture.

 

30/06/2011: Day #3

 

Today we went over the academic information for Dunedin and the basics of the city, university, and the flats. It sounds like Dunedin is going to be a very fun town and a very high concentration of young, lively people. The planned ifsa butler events also look absolutely fantastic! I definitely plan on doing them all, especially the weekend trip to the doubtful sound. I’m super excited for that trip in particular. Next we learned how to play cricket and I was the first one up to the plate. The basics of the game are protect the whicket, hit the ball, and then run as fast as you can to the otherside before the defense hits the whicket with the ball. But basically, Protect the Whicket. It was rather fun, even though I got out super early on. The day was just in general beautiful, not a cloud in the sky and super sunny and warm. It was stunning. Next we packed up and left for the Aukland museum. The focus of it was a war exhibit displaying New Zealands role in WWI, WWII, and other wars throughout history. However I most enjoyed the displays focused on Maori culture and volcanoes. The Maori pieces were incredible, super intricate wood carvings and the boats that they traveled in were enormous. The volcanoe display was also very fun because it had a virtual room which imitated what would happen if one of the many volcanic cones in Aukland was to erupt. We then left to head to the Marae. It was dusk when we got there and I was super nervous about the visit. I didn’t want to offend their culture or do something incorrectly. We all stood in a group in front of the Marae. You could see the performers, dressed in traditional garb: straw/bamboo like skirts and then stripped tops for the girls and the guys were shirtless. The girls also wore the same stripes as headbands and each individual has a unique necklace and earings or a single earing. Three warriors then came running out of the marae shouting, yelling, bulging their eyes, and sticking out their tongues in acts that sought to scare us away. They came out with weapons in hand and running in such a way that it looked as though they were doing but kicks or something similar, super light on their toes. They then stopped about 10 ft. away from us and displayed their weapons and spent a lot of time shouting and displaying their eyes and tongues. They then put down the leaf, which Ted then accepted and then they slapped the flank of their leg indicating that we could follow. The woman’s call from the marae could then be heard in unison with the Maori leader who had joined our group. We then walked towards the Marae and took off our shoes just before we entered into the Whare. The speeches then ensued and for the first time I felt very out of place, unable to understand a single word of what was being said in Maori. It was very humbling. They then continued and eventually we were welcomed in at which time we sang our songs, officially now becoming guests in the Marae. The performers then continued to perform several songs and dances of the native culture which were absolutely beautiful. I really enjoyed this event. The haka was then performed both with the guys in our group and by the Maori performers alone. We ate traditionally baked food from the pit and  had a wonderful dessert called pavlova. We slept in the Marae amongst the carvings and pictures of the ancestors of the tribe.

 

01/07/2011: Day #4

 

Today we ate breakfast at the Marae and then cleaned up and left midmorning. We then stopped at a lovely park and hiked up to the top of one of the many volcanic cones surrounding the Auckland area. The view from the top was beautiful. You were able to see most of Aukland, the harbour, ocean from all sides and the surrounding volcanic cones. We then proceeded on to a winery in the area where we received a tour and then got to participate in a wine tasting. It was really enjoyable and I learned a lot more about wine, how it’s made, how to go about tasting it, and some of the different types. We then left and headed to the airport for our flight to Dunedin. The flight was beautiful over tons of mountains and snow peaked tops. Upon arriving in Dunedin there were many, many green rolling hills and sheep. It seemed like more farmlike country than the North Island. We went to some delicious pizza and then departed for each of our respective flats. Mine, 91 Dundas St. seemed rather old compared to others, but I will make it home. Tomorrow we’re headed off to get phones, 18+ cards, food, some warmer clothes, and possibly bikes and to gain access to our internet.

 

02/07/2011: Day #5

 

Today I met up with the other IFSA-Butler kids and we ran errands around the town of Dunedin. The town seems to be very beautiful and to have just about everything that you could need.It seems very urban compared to what I was expecting for the actual size of the city. The architecture is all victorian based buildings which gives it a very European feel. For the most part it feels very much like America minus the accents and the lack of central heating. Definitely much colder than I was expecting it to be.  We got breakfast together and then got phones and went to the grocery store. Groceries are a little more expensive than in the USA but gotta eat haha I had a very nice dinner with some of the other girls from ifsa butler. We made some pasta and salad together and ate and enjoyed each others company. It’s good to feel like I’m making some friends. I then came home to find that my power was out….shoot. So I spent the night at Monique’s flat and was so much warmer and there was power woohoo. Tomorrow I plan to figure out how to get the power fixed before my other flatmates come into town.

 

03/07/2011: Day #6

 

Today we went to the Warehouse and got some more basic supplies like shampoo and things. We also found a pretty awesome recycled clothing store and I got these absolutely awesome pair of boots, I’m psyched about them! We then went to this dairy that had a great deal on delicious icecream scoops. I then finally got to skype with my family, which was really nice even though I felt like I cried the whole time I talked to them haha I also met my kiwi host and her mom for just a minute. Her mom seemed to be really nice as well as my Kiwi host. I wish she was sticking around so I could get to know her and have somebody in the flat but it was so nice to meet her. I’m really looking forward to getting to know her. . We then had dinner together again as a group, but at Sarah’s house this time. I made enchiladas for everyone which turned out to be surprisingly good for how little Mexican food supplies there were at the grocery store. We met one of Emily’s  flat mates who was from Denmark and was super super nice! The girl from Brazil who was supossed to show up today wasn’t here so I guess that’ll just be a surprise when she comes. I’m ready for some company around here. Overall another sucesssful and good day in Dunedin.

 

04/07/2011: Day #7

 

Happy Fourth of July from New Zealand…so a day early in the states! Today was a pretty awesome day. We had a short meeting with the international crew and got some more info and meetings that we needed to go to and then we headed off to salvation army to get some warm clothes. I found a wonderful merino wool undershirt for $5 so I was pretty excited about that. We then took care of our 18+ cards and got some delicious icecream yet again.  We then met with Leila again in the afternoon and went on a bus tour of New Zealand and out to one of the most delicious dinners I’ve had. We had a nice big 3 course meal of mussels, salmon, potato, and cheesecake mmmmmmm I then went to a pub with some of my new friends and participated in the pub quiz and did horribly but it was a blast! We’ll have to work on learning more about New Zealand pop culture because I felt like a deer in the headlights haha I then came home to find that my flat mate Pema had arrived. She seems really nice and friendly. I think it should work out well. Looking forward to another day. Can’t believe it’s been a week in New Zealand already and so many more to look forward to!

YAYY WEEK ONE COMPLETE :)

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On the Way

Time June 22nd, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So the big adventure is about to begin, 4 days until departure!! Summer went by so fast, maybe because I’ve been waiting in such anticipation for New Zealand. I’m just beginning packing and getting the last details worked out such as do I bring just one checked bag or pay the extra and go with two. I am just a jumble of emotions: excited, nervous, ecstatic, stressed, a little scared, and just about anything else you can think of. More than anything though I am excited for this huge experience ahead to be able to grow, learn, change, make some amazing memories to add to this life I’m the creator of, and well to do some good old living and loving of life!

 

Of course as you can expect there are many, many questions on my mind and lots of pondering that is occurring. I have never been out of the United States, not even to Mexico or Canada both of which I am a days drive away from either at home or school. So lots of questions and discovering of answers await, such as what to expect at customs, how are Americans viewed abroad, how hard is it going to be to understand the accent, or what new words do I get to learn the meaning of. Through the many of questions though I plan to jump in with two feet and experience as much as I possibly can. So plan on finding some interesting stories here soon :)

 

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