Signal Hill and Rugby
I can’t quite believe it myself, but already another week has passed in Dunedin since I last posted. Time always has a way of getting away from you when you have a never-ending list of things things that you want and need to do.
As usual, I’ll attempt to address the more mundane aspects of my life before digging into the more exciting aspects. With two weeks of classes under my belt, I now feel (almost) qualified to make some fair comparisons between Valparaiso University and the University of Otago. Class sizes here are definitely bigger (for the most part) than what I am used to, but that’s something I was prepared for since this school is serving a student body of 20,000 students rather than the mere 4,000 at my home university. And for me, being in all 300-level humanities major (senior classes under the three-year undergraduate system in New Zealand) shielded me from the truly gigantic lecture halls that most students here in the sciences are accustomed to.
One thing that I was not ready for, nor am I sure that I really care for, is the fact that almost all of the classes are lecture-based, with a bi-weekly tutorial thrown in, where you may actually get to speak. Getting talked at for 50 minutes does not seem to be an effective manner of teaching, especially when some people (myself included) tend to clock out right around the thirty minute mark. To be fair, some of the professors do try their best to facilitate some kind of back-and-forth with their students, but that really is a difficult task to accomplish in a room with 45 students. The tutorials also are helpful in that you can break into smaller groups and discuss the works you are reading. While all the professors are very intelligent and knowledgeable in their particular specialty, I prefer the discussion-based classes at VU.
However, I also must acknowledge that there is one class that completely breaks the mode of my three other classes. My New Zealand Christianity class, one that I added in place of the New Zealand Film paper, is one that I am quite excited about. There are only nine of us in the class, and the professor is very much a fan of basing the class on actual interaction between himself, the students, and our various guest lecturers. It’s a taste of home, but on a topic largely foreign to me, so I think I will really be able to take a lot from it. I also am the class representative, which basically means I am the supposed to present any issues that my classmates bring to me about how the course is running. I also must meet with the head of the Theology department several times during the semester to share with them how I believe the class to be running. I can see how this may be necessary in a larger class, but with only nine people in the class, and such an approachable professor leading the paper, I cannot see there being anything for me to do. I also don’t really think I was the most qualified person for the job either, seeing as I am an American student at Otago for only one semester, but no one else was willing to volunteer, so I stepped up. At least I’m getting the full range of student experiences through seeing how that works.
The partying in Dunedin (thankfully) slowed down quite a bit after Orientation week. We also discovered that, strangely, in this city, Friday is not a good night to go out. A group of about ten of us went out to a bar (after another one of our flat’s Friday themed dinners…we made lasagna and called it “Italian Night” this week), and we made up over 50% of the people there. However, we largely made up for it by going to the Highlanders rugby game. It was a completely new experience for me, and a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more enthusiastic crowd at any game for any team I’ve attended in my life (not that I’ve been to a ton; my family would probably spam this page if I claimed to be a manic sports fan), and their excitement was infectious. The Highlanders won, which I guess they were not supposed to, which made the crowd all that more pumped after the game. While I can say that I definitely prefer rugby to football, since it is much more fast-paced and exciting (though you wince every time someone gets tackled since they don’t have anything to protect themselves from the impact and they usually end up underneath a pile of people), baseball (and the Chicago White Sox) will probably always have my heart because I prefer the more laid-back atmosphere. However, I enjoyed myself immensely (though I could have done without the girl behind me who kept petting my fuzzy Northface), and will definitely try to make it to one more game before I go back to the states. At the very least, when my family comes to visit, my brother will probably drag me to a game, since he’s a sports junkie.
On Sunday, I was finally, for the first time, able to take advantage of the beauty that’s right outside our doorstep in Dunedin. A few of my flatmates and other friends woke up (relatively) early that morning and walked up to Signal Hill. The walk there was not the most fun of my life (the hills are HUGE and I was reminded of the fact that I am not yet in the best shape of my life), but the views once we reached the top were absolutely stunning. But, as usual, pictures fail to capture even half of what you seen when you are actually up there. The way back was much more fun, as we found a mountain bike trail and followed (and fell and slid) that home. It also worked its way down to the bay so we had a nice view of the water rather than following the road. It was a wonderful end to the weekend and a good way to ease any lingering mopey-ness I was feeling. Because that hike embodied all that best of what being in New Zealand has been so far. I was surrounded by rreat people, beautiful scenery, and filled with a feeling of exhilaration and joy to be alive and lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel and learn so much about myself and others during this time. And to think, it’s only been three weeks since I left home…
As a side-note, I went a bit crazy with the camera this week, so enjoy the long-overdue shots of campus and Signal Hill, along with a few pictures from the rugby game.