“It’s starting to get beautiful now”
So I made it through my first week of classes (cue applause). I enjoy my courses for the most part, but it is taking a bit of time to get used to the course structure here. At home I’m used to set times for classes, for example: you meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:00-9:50, or Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00-11:35. That is definitely not the case here. My Antarctica class meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. My Freshwater Ecosystems class meets Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. And my New Zealand Biodiversity and Biosecurity class only meets on Mondays and Fridays. The sessions for each class also don’t meet at the same time every day so it’s kind of awkward and a little difficult to get used to. Class sizes are also another big adjustment. Susquehanna has a student body of about 2,000 students. UC has between 15,000 and 20,000. Fortunately, it seems as though I have “small” classes. The other annoying thing is internet usage. Free wifi essentially doesn’t exist. Instead of paying monthly fees for unlimited internet usage, you pay by data usage. So if you want to watch movies (or watch your recorded lectures) or even skype your family and friends at home, you’ll eat up your internet quite quickly.
Now that I’ve gotten some complaining out of the way, on to the other things I’ve been doing. The first class I had in New Zealand was Antarctica: Life in the Cold. And it has definitely been living up to my expectations. That night we went to an orientation event where we were given free pizza (what college student doesn’t love free food??). According to some Kiwis, “American Pizza” doesn’t exist in New Zealand. In other words, if you’re trying to find a plain cheese pizza, you’re out of luck. Either way, “New Zealand” pizza is still delicious.
I think I’m really going to enjoy my Tuesdays. The only class I have on Tuesdays is Freshwater Ecosystems, which is an 8:00 class. As I headed back to my flat to drop off my books, there was a free waffle stand. Unable to turn down the free food, I filled up on breakfast and met up with another IFSA Butler student, Alyshia. We caught a bus into Hagley Park and toured the Botanical Gardens (or what was opened of them). It’s a really nice place to walk around. I kind of compared it to Central Park in New York City, but this one is better. Once we got done exploring the park we realized it was only about 10:30. So we decided to catch another bus into the Central City where we walked around the Red Zone. The Red Zone is an area of the Central City that has been closed off from public access because it was heavily impacted by the February 2011 earthquake.
The more time I spend in Christchurch, the more I realize what an impact the February 2011 earthquake had on this city. For example, I bought a cheap fruit bowl at this place called “The Warehouse” and the cashier told me about how the earthquake destroyed her beautiful china fruit bowl that had dolphins on it that she wanted to pass down to her kids. Walking around the red zone was such a moving and humbling experience. It was one of those moments where you don’t realize how bad something is until you put yourself in the middle of it.
After we finished walking around the Red Zone, we hopped on our bus to go to a place called DressSmart. We saw an add on one of the buses and figured we should make our way there. When we arrived we celebrated our luck in successful navigation of the bus system. We shopped around a bit. I bought a black scarf and a red hat to wear to the Christchurch Crusaders Rugby game that we are going to this weekend.
And then we had to make our way back to UC. We don’t exactly know the bus routes around Christchurch, and we were pretty far away from UC. So we just hopped on a bus that said it was going to the city and figured if it went past where we had to get off then awesome, but it wouldn’t be a big deal if it went back to the center city terminal since we weren’t in a rush to get back. Well, we made it back eventually. The bus turned out to be a local bus so it went through all of the small neighborhoods and took quite a while. It was still early (only about 1:30) so we grabbed our books and headed for a bite to eat at the Greek place on campus and then spent some time in the library.
Tuesday night was a “Night Market” but essentially a club night where we got to sign up to participate in different clubs. I signed up for Cake club, a volunteer club, tramping club, and a snowboarding club (don’t worry mom: we only signed up to submerge ourselves in the kiwi culture). We then headed back to the Ilam Village common room for some comedy and more free pizza.
Wednesday night we attended our first Tramping Club meeting. In New Zealand, hiking is referred to as tramping. They plan a lot of cool trips, so I am pretty excited to go on them.
The University of Canterbury also has a program for new international students called Operation Friendship. It’s kind of like having a host family except that there are far too many students to match each one up with an individual family. So a few families get together and take in a group of international students.
Saturday night, we had another IFSA Butler sponsored event. We met up for pizza, and then put on some face paint and headed for the stadium to watch the Christchurch Crusaders vs Western Force rugby game. We passed another shopping center and made a mental note to make our way back there at some point.
The next morning we decided to go to that shopping center and made our way to the bus stop to hop on The Orbiter, which is a bus route that goes around the city. Unfortunately, we hopped on The Orbiter in the wrong direction. It was a beautiful day out, and figured we would eventually make it to our destination so we stayed on the bus. The bus driver soon pulls off at a gas station to take a bathroom break. Fifteen minutes later he stops for ten minutes for his actual break. After we get back on the road, the receipt printer decides to break. The driver gets it fixed, and soon after the rear door breaks. So we have to get off the bus to transfer. An hour and a half later we make it to the shopping center, only to find out that this place is really only 15 minutes down the road from the university.
Alright, so I might have gotten a little bit distracted by life in a different country so it’s taken me a little while to finish writing this blog post. Another week of classes has gone by since I first started writing, so I suppose I should continue with my second week here. I still find class timetables to be slightly confusing, but I’m slowly getting used to it. I’m still loving my Tuesdays where I get done at 9:00 am.
This past Wednesday, I decided to join the Canoe Club, or rather kayak club. I found out that they have rolling classes on Thursdays. So I grabbed my togs (or bathing suit) and gave my best attempt at learning how to right myself when my kayak flips over. It’s definitely pretty hard, but I don’t think I’ll give up any time soon.
This Saturday, we had another IFSA Butler event. We met early to hop on a bus to Hanmer Springs. Even though we had to wake up a bit earlier than I wanted to, the drive to Hanmer was absolutely gorgeous! It wasn’t until we were about half an hour away from our destination that Kylie, our SSC, said, “It’s starting to get beautiful now.” I was kind of in shock, since I thought the whole drive was beautiful, I couldn’t imagine it getting any better! Well she was kind of right. It was difficult to take pictures while quad biking since I don’t have what they call a “life proof” camera. When I wasn’t worried about breaking every bone in my body, I actually enjoyed quad biking. It was a really cool experience, especially since it is something that I would never decide to do on my own. We then went into town and enjoyed a nice soak in the hot pools, which definitely helped soothe our aches and pains from quad biking.
I cannot believe that I am about to start my third week of classes. I know it’s still early on in my study abroad experience, but I cannot help but feel as though it is all moving much too quickly. A good portion of this week will actually be devoted to studying. I’m looking forward to this coming weekend, as I travel to Queenstown.