Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Getting Oriented in Aotearoa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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