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Week 3: Re-orientation

Time March 4th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

We had to move out of Christchurch so now we are settling into our new school, The University of Otago, in Dunedin.


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Week 2: Disorientation

Time March 4th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by


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My Experience of the Christchurch Earthquake

Time March 4th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

11:00pm Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Well this morning I woke up thinking I had my Media Studies class. But, I checked my email and the lecturer emailed saying class didn’t start for two more weeks because it is a 3 hour lecture, rather than a 2 hour lecture. It ended up being very good that I didn’t have class at 1:00 today. In disbelief that I didn’t actually have the class I was expecting to, I skyped my mom. I had plans to skype a few of my other friends later on in the day. I was talking to Mom and she had the laptop sitting at the kitchen table at home and I chatted with her while she ate dinner. About 10 minutes into the conversation the whole world started shaking. It was the scariest feeling because I had no control over my body or anything around me. At first I thought it was just a little aftershock ,but as it kept going I realized it was more serious. My words to Mom were, “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God!” I could see Mom’s horrified face over Skype. It froze as my computer blipped and the power went out completely.
After the power went out it continued shaking for about 20 more seconds in which time I unplugged my computer because my first instinct was to avoid damage to it since everything was falling off of my desk and shelves. As everything was still violently shaking I just focused on shutting down my computer fully and putting it on my desk chair. At that point the first round of shaking had stopped. I heard my British flatmate, Jess, yell “Emily, are you alright?” and I anxiously replied, “Yeah, I think so.” in a shaky voice. We both walked to the common room and as we did that round two hit. It lasted about 30 seconds compared to the first one of 45 seconds and we both just stood in door frames and watched our cupboard open and things spill out.
I was happy Jess was there and I wasn’t all alone. We started to clean up the mess in the kitchen and then Jess decided to still go to her 1:00 class, leaving me in the suite alone. I went into my room and grabbed my purse, room key, my home cell phone and New Zealand phone. I locked my door at which point the second big aftershock hit. I stood in my flatmate’s door frame for the following 4 large aftershocks. I wasn’t sure whether to leave the building or not since I was on the 4th floor. No one had taught me what to do in an earthquake so I proceeded to stand in the door frame and anxiously texted both my Mom and Dad from my US cell phone. I knew the cost of the texts wouldn’t matter in this situation. It was hard to text though because my hands were shaking so much.
At that point my emotions hit me because I realized Mom would be panicking after seeing me scared and having the power go out. The aftershocks were still big and I didn’t know what to do with myself or when they would stop. I just stayed crouched in the door frame. Then, after probably about 3 minutes which felt like a life time, I heard an RA in the hall saying “Is everyone alright? Get out of the building if you can.” At that point I pulled myself together and headed to the lawn where all the Ilam students were gathered. The general consensus was everyone was freaked out, even the Kiwis. But at that point, none of us knew how bad it was. A friend of my flatmate came up looking flustered and said her boyfriend was in the city center and he saw a building collapse in front of him. That was my first sign that this one was a big one and possibly even worse than the quake in September.
The guesses of the Kiwis was that it was a 6 or 7. It ended up being a 6.3 followed by a 5.5. We all waited on the lawn for further instructions and then ended up moving further away from the buildings because one of the residence buildings had a crack in the ceiling. The building was the one right next to my building so that freaked me out a little more. We then moved in front of the common room at which point I called Mom to tell her I was alive because I wasn’t sure the texts had gone through. I was right, she hadn’t gotten my text yet so she spent 57 minutes waiting to hear from me. She was obviously relieved to hear from me and I asked her to call my family and friends that would be worried. Then, we all got the idea to listen to the radios on our phones to hear how bad the damage was in the city. This was our only real communication since the power was out and we were still standing outside in the rain. Mom told me the news had shown the cathedral crumbing and that was definitely the wakeup call that changed all of our moods. The radio told us that buildings had collapsed and waterlines burst and there were fatalities expected.
Then, we got the go ahead to go back into our flats. We all sat around in the flat sharing stories and pieces of information that we had heard about the damage, all while fighting the aftershocks and pausing the conversation to hold onto the walls about every 2-3 minutes. These aftershocks were scary because they were enough to knock glasses off of the table but you didn’t know when they were going to end or how strong they were going to be. Lindsay and I were feeling overwhelmed and stressed sitting on the 4th floor again so we took a walk to get out of the building. We saw collapsed chimneys and cracks in the roads. Also, we saw liquefaction bubbling up from the ground which was actually really cool. Most of campus was roped off though. Because the power was out, dinner consisted of cold French fries left over from yesterday’s dinner.
All of the Butler students met in Will’s flat to watch the news once the power finally came back on around 8:00pm. We still didn’t have internet though. The news was depressing. The freakiest thing was hearing the alarms and sirens live on the news and hearing them out the window at the same time. That made it feel so close to us. The Kiwis are much more affected than the American students because this is their hometown and since phone lines are jammed many are still waiting to hear from friends and family. I think I’m handling it better now (11pm the night of the quake) but it really freaked me out for the first two hours simply because of the unknown and the entire lack of control I had over the situation and my wellbeing at the time. I feel so lucky because I was in city center two days ago and we were all headed into the city in two hours for our Catch-Up Dinner. I’m so lucky.
To put it bluntly, city center Christchurch really got beat up. The cathedral crumbled, buildings collapsed, the streets are flooding and there are liquefaction tide pools everywhere. Rubble and dust clouds fill the city. And it’s all a 45 minute walk from me right now. It’s so hard to wrap my head around it. I’m still in shock. The epicenter of the quake was at the beach I went to on Friday. Crazy. We continue to have aftershocks getting up to about a 4.5 that tend to last 5-10 seconds each and they are happening about every 10 minutes. They are enough to rock my bed. It feels much worse up here on the 4th floor. We’ll see how sleeping goes tonight. I feel emotionally drained and in a daze of disbelief because my mind can’t comprehend what just happened. My whole body aches, especially my legs from being so tense and bracing myself during the constant shaking all day. I flinch and grab something every time I hear a loud noise. The noise before an aftershock comes sounds like thunder or a train coming. The big quake was hard to describe. My entire body shook about a foot in each direction back and forth. The feeling was terrifying and unexplainable. I’m sure it was scarier for Mom though since she was Skyping me at the time and had to wait so long to find out if I was okay.

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Week 1: Orientation

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

This is a brief account of what orientation week was like in Auckland.


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Kia Ora New Zealand!

Time February 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The last week has been one of the busiest and most emotion filled weeks of my whole life!  My journey on Monday morning got off to a rough start.  I woke up at 4:00 am to get to the airport on time for my flight out of Harrisburg.  I got to the airport, checked my bags, said my farewells and everything seemed to be going smoothly.  Then, things got interesting.  As my plane was pulling away from the gate, it came to a stop and pulled back into the gate.  The pilot then told us that the door wasn’t locking properly so we needed to delay the plane and have maintenance check things out.  After sitting on the plane for an hour (and therefore missing my connection in Charlotte) they let us off and cancelled the flight all together.  Needless to say, all other flights out of Harrisburg were booked for the day and chances of making my group flight in LA were looking slim.  Thankfully, our travel agent with Advantage Travel was amazing and kept me calm and booked me on a flight out of Philly that left in three hours.  So, my mom had to come get me at the airport and quick drive me to Philly to catch that flight.  Once my goodbyes were said again I made it on the flight to LA with enough time to make the group flight!  Everything ended up working out fine in the end, but there was more excitement than necessary.

The 13 hour flight from LA to Auckland was not nearly as bad as I was anticipating.  I managed to sleep about 5 hours which ended up being very good since Orientation the next day was so busy!  We arrived in Auckland at 8:30am to the warm welcomes of the Butler staff.  Via the free internet in the airport we could send a quick “I’m safe in NZ!” email and then we were off to Shakespeare Park just north of Auckland for orientation.

Orientation was absolutely amazing.  The highlights from the first day include sea kayaking to an old ship wreck, relaxing in volcanic hot springs, and going on a sunset hike to see the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen.  The next day of orientation included a physical fitness scavenger hunt called a Rogaine, archery lessons and a rugby lesson by the beach.  Our final full day of orientation was a bit different.  We packed everything up and went into Auckland to the War and History Museum.  Then, we had the privilege of experiencing a traditional Maori marae.  This was the Maori way of formally welcoming us into the country.  They taught us songs in their native language, put on a performance for us and then fed us an amazing meal.  After that, we all got to spend the night in their meeting house which is full of ornate wood carvings.  It was a really amazing experience to feel welcomed by the first nation people. 

The next morning we packed everything up once again and headed to a winery tour and wine tasting at the Villa Maria winery.  The wine tasting was quite fun even though I wasn’t really a fan of wine.  Finally, we headed to the airport to say farewell to our new friends in the Wellington program, and flew off to Chirstchurch to see where we will be spending the rest of the semester.

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And the countdown begins..

Time January 10th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, today is officially one month from when I fly to New Zealand.  It seems so close yet so far away.  Most of my friends who are studying abroad have already arrived in their new countries and my friends still at home are now headed back to school.  But not me.  I’m still here in Hershey just trying to imagine what the next five months of my life are going to be like. 

A smart use of my time would probably be to start packing… I’m sure it’s going to take close to a month to figure out what to bring (or more importantly what not to bring!)  My biggest concern was how to pack a sleeping bag since apparently we need one for orientation.  Luckily for Christmas I got this super compressed mini sleeping bag that won’t take up too much room in my suitcase, so that solves one of my dilemmas.  I also have quite a few tour books on New Zealand now though, so I suppose the rest of this month will be spent reading up on everything there is to know about the Kiwis!

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