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

Ready for take-off?

Time February 17th, 2017 in 2017 Spring, New Zealand | 1 Comment by

My plane leaves for Auckland, New Zealand in less than 24 hours.

Am I finished packing? Nope.

Do I have all the documents I need in a neat little pile? Of course not.

Do I know what to do with my phone when I get there? Not really.

Honestly, the only thing I really have going for me in terms of preparedness is that my Chacos just arrived in the mail. And you know what? I’m not worried about it.

One of my closest friends spent last semester studying in Wollongong, Australia, and she’s been my go-to girl for study-abroad related questions. Earlier this week I texted her in a moment of panic, convinced that I am going to show up to New Zealand and be totally lost, lugging around two suitcases full of nothing that I actually need. And the only piece of advice she had for me was,

“That’s part of the adventure. It’s no fun to be over-prepared.”

So I’m sitting here in my chaotically messy bedroom with a half-full suitcase and I know that if I left right now, I would be laughably under-prepared for a semester abroad. Not just because all my socks are still in the laundry, or because I can’t find an umbrella in the house to save my life, but also because I have no idea what to expect out of the next five months. And when Ellen told me that it’s not the end of the world to show up to a new country unprepared – that it may actually make my experience more memorable – I embraced my nerves and my anticipation for the upcoming semester. As far as “stuff” goes, I can always find a Target (or whatever the New Zealand equivalent of a Target is) and pick up what I need. But for me, the most important thing is to be mentally prepared to show up unprepared and take on the adventure of studying abroad.

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Spring Break Down Under

Time December 6th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

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The End

Time December 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

Here it is December 5th.  I just got back into the States a week ago today and I can not believe it is already over.  Since being home I’ve seen family and friends and they all ask me that one simple question, “How was it?”  I wish the answer was as simple as the question.  My common response is how unreal it was and what a beautiful country New Zealand is.   However, that doesn’t seem to do it justice.  Living abroad was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  All the good times, tough times, and everything in between ultimately made me so happy to have had that experience.  Being abroad for five months teaches you a lot about the country and yourself.  I have gained a new perspective, made new friends, and have found a new home in the world, despite it being thousands of miles away.  I plan on going back to New Zealand at some point; I definitely want to see it in their summer time.  (It was tease leaving when it started to get really warm out and then coming back to the Northeast where there is snow on the ground this morning.)  But, if I never do make it back to NZ, I’m satisfied with my time there and what that time meant.  If anyone is reading this on the fence about studying abroad, the least you can do is just submit an application.  Go through the process, look more into your country, talk to people who went.  Prepare as much as you can, but remember there’s only so much you can prepare for.  It will be new and maybe uncomfortable at times, but that’s part of the experience.  Don’t rule out study abroad without giving it some serious thought, because looking back, I definitely would have regretted not going.

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End.

Time December 2nd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

Alas, my semester abroad has come to a close. In fact, it’s been over now for a few crazy, holiday-filled weeks. I must say, it’s been absolutely wonderful. As great as it was to be abroad, I truly missed my family and friends back home.

I feel like the “culture shock” of re-entering the states is either severely delayed or a lot less shocking than I expected. I’m not shocked at all. I feel almost overwhelmed by love and affection in a way that I am now much more grateful for, after having spent so much time on my own this past semester.

I honestly believe that time strengthens bonds, and the 4.5 months that I was away strengthened all of my relationships back home. I feel so lucky and so loved.

My last week in New Zealand was hard. Unfortunately, it was heavily affected by the weight of the election. I felt a constant need to be surrounded by people who understood how I was feeling, yet all of those people were across the world. It was much harder for me than I ever would have expected to be alone at this time in my life.

And suddenly, it was the end.

I packed my bag, dropped off my key, cooked the last of my food, drank one last coffee, waited for the shuttle.

I got on two planes, hardly missed the earthquake, slept a few stiff hours in a middle-of-the-middle seat, came back through customs.

The next day, my flight from San Fransisco to Hartford got rerouted, leaving me with a 40-minute layover in Houston. The flight from San Fransisco to Houston got delayed due to mechanical difficulties and I was sure I would miss my flight and have to spend the night in Houston. Fortunately, they pushed back the departure time of the second flight, and I made it home safely at midnight on November 14th.

One checked bag, one carry-on, one handheld item.

10 flights.

Countless hours in a car.

One abroad experience.

Goodbye New Zealand.

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Piece of Home

Time November 16th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

I was lucky enough to have a piece of home with me to travel with for a couple weeks. My older brother and I went to Auckland where we did the famous SkyJump, visited the aquarium and also checked out Waheiki Island for some zip lining before heading back to Wellington. While in Wellington, we took the Seal Coast Safari to see the seal colony at Red Rocks, and hiked the iconic Mount Victoria. The next weekend we traveled to Queenstown where we bungee jumped and saw the beautiful Milford Sound. We took a cruise around the sound and saw many amazing waterfalls and animals, such as New Zealand fur seals and dusky dolphins. 

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The Last Wisps of Beauty

Time November 9th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

It’s unbelievable to me that I leave in four days. This semester has gone by in a flash and yet, at the same time, it has taken eternities. Now, with so little time left, I am filled with both excitement and sadness. During my exam period, I was lucky enough to travel around the South Island and see the most incredible places. However, it was also during this time that I began to do some more exploring of Dunedin. Within the last few weeks, I have spent more time in the “Botans” (Dunedin Botanic Gardens) than I did all semester. I let myself get lost among the flowers, trees, and birds. As it is (finally) spring, the flowers are in full bloom and are stunningly beautiful. I can’t help but occasionally take a moment to close my eyes, hear the sounds of the birds and smell the sweet life of the plants around me. These little things are filled with just as much beauty as the grand glaciers and crystal lakes.

If there is one thing New Zealand has taught me, it is that there is beauty everywhere, in everything. Sometimes you just have to search a bit Read More »

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The Top 5

Time October 26th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

Well, campus here is officially in study mode.  Everyone is locked in the library or another study space for hours on end.  Most of the finals count for like 50% of your grade so it’s pretty important to do well on them.  Just as important studying is, I want to make sure I’m soaking in my last few weeks in New Zealand.  Last week, I visited Mount Cook/Aoraki and hiked the Kepler Track.  These definitely cracked the top 5  NZ experiences so far and I definitely recommend making trips to both.  It’s kind of weird writing this post because I think it’s my last one…?  I feel like I should be reflective and get all sobby about leaving NZ  in a few weeks.  But I’m not going to do that.  I’ll just give 5 pieces of advice for those lucky enough to enjoy this country next.

  1.  Aioli makes everything better – What is Aioli, you ask?  Pretty much garlic mayonnaise and let me tell you, this is a gift from God.  That thing goes with sandwiches, cheeseburgers, chips (fries), etc. Definitely going to look into getting some back in the States.
  2. Be Open Minded – I considered myself a pretty open minded person before I came and I think that served me well in coming here.  Try new things, get outside your comfort zone.  It’s strange at first, but it may be one of the cooler things you do in NZ.
  3. Get Outside – That’s almost a given.  New Zealand scenery is by far the most beautiful nature I’ve ever seen in my whole life.  Even the views from the road will take your breath away.  Nothing is more picturesque than a million sheep grazing in a green field with snow-capped mountains as the backdrop.
  4. Road Trip – One of my best memories is spending a week in a campervan touring the North Island with friends.  Sharing a living space as small as a van teaches you a lot about what you need and don’t need.  It also shows you really don’t have to shower that often!  You learn a lot about yourself and also about the other people you are “vanning” with.  Also, you get to see some of the sickest things in the country.
  5. Positivity is Key – Alright, a little deep on this one, I’m sorry.  But this is probably the number one thing I’ve learned while being in New Zealand.  As great of a country it is, you’ll go through some rough times.  Everyone does, it’s just part of it.  There are some things you can’t control, but you can always control your mindset.  Being positive will help you get through anything and once you do overcome it, you’ll be a better person.

 

So I think that’s a wrap.  If not, I’ll write another one and be back at it with something else to say.

Cheers to you, New Zealand and all that you have taught me over the past 5 months.

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Centering, Connecting, and Creating with Coffee

Time October 24th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

I am in a chair. It is a wooden chair at a gleaming wooden table, lit up by the adjacent window. Outside, cars whoosh past, birds scavenge for food off the sidewalk, students hurry past leisurely couples, backpacks tight against there backs. Soft music plays in the background. Sometimes it is Hozier. Sometimes it is Sara Bareilles. Always it is calming. Always it is good.

This is my seat.

During my first two months at the University of Otago, I traveled around town, with the goal of eventually getting to every cafe. After a while, this goal became futile, as I discovered that some cafes were much more enticing than others. I had favorites, and I didn’t want to risk spending money on a coffee that wouldn’t compare.

Soon enough, the workload for school increased, and my favorites (RDC, Modaks, The Perc, Morning Magpie), though wonderful, didn’t meet all of my needs. It was at this time that I started coming to Governor’s Cafe. Prior to this time, I’d held a grudge against Governor’s, as I thought it was too close to school. In my ideal world, there wouldn’t be other students at my cafe, which would allow me to forge my own way through the semester. However, I soon learned to appreciate how close Governor’s is to campus, along with many other things.

Let me tell you why Governor’s is so great:

  • It has wifi (necessary for most of my work)
  • It is only a twenty minute walk from my flat (not close, but only five minutes farther than the library)
  • It is open until 7PM on weekdays (and as a student, sometimes studying must be done later than 4PM–when all the other cafes close)
  • The coffee is fantastic (especially the mochas)
  • There is a $6 coffee + slice/scone/muffin deal (anyone who knows me knows I can’t resist a good deal)
  • No one seems to know about the upstairs room (meaning I’m often able to study alone)
  • The food is good (although, being a broke college student, I haven’t had the opportunity to try much of the “real” food)
  • They have a “Buy 4 coffees, get the 5th free” deal (AGAIN with the deals!!)
  • They know me (seriously. They all know me now because I come here so often)

Governor’s has become MY place, here in Dunedin. It is my place to come and drink coffee and talk to the workers and read and write and draw and study and FaceTime my parents and edit my brother’s college essays and socialize with friends and procrastinate doing my homework. It is one of the few places where I can always count on feeling at home. Humorously, the man who owns the place is American–he’s from Colorado. I never even registered his American accent until Holly, my friend from class who works here, mentioned it to me. I think I was too intimidated by him to notice his accent… let me explain:

One Sunday, I came to Governor’s to spend the day studying for a psych test. I got the $6 deal and ordered my mocha and one of the savory scones. “Can I have my scone in like, an hour, though?” I asked, in as charming a voice as I could muster. He just looked at me.

“Sure.” He said, unaffected.

“I’m sorry for being so difficult.” I chuckled, hoping he’d smile and make me feel better about being so difficult.

“It’s really not that difficult.” He said, totally stone-faced. “Just come up here when you’re ready.”

And I did. An hour later, I went back up to the counter and was like, “I’m ready for my scone!” He just shook his head and went to the back to warm it up for me.

After that day, I was terrified of him. I really thought he hated me for being an annoying American customer. Turns out, I was wrong. He must’ve been secretly charmed by my dorkiness because now he always smiles and talks to me when I come in.

But that’s just it. They all know me, here! When I come to Governor’s, I don’t get treated like a stupid, obnoxious, American tourist. I get treated like a regular. I get treated like I belong here. They expect me and I love being expected.

Governor’s has become my place. It has become the place that I will miss the most when I leave. Obviously, I am going to miss more than just one coffee shop–I will miss the adventures and the people and the beauty of New Zealand as a whole–but as a singular, specific, entity, Governor’s is the place I will miss the most.

So thank you. Thank you to every person that works at Governor’s Cafe. Thank you to every wonderful mocha, warmed muffin, and slice that I swore I would save half of for later and then ate the whole thing anyways. Thank you to this chair next to the window and outlet upstairs, where I have spent numerous hours studying, writing, drawing, and reading.

Thank you, Governor’s, for making a home for me in New Zealand.

gov1 Mocha + Muffin gov2 Mocha + Vegan Apple Loaf me-in-gov Me in my chair with my mocha and food governors-chair My Spot

 

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Adventuring Around the South Island

Time October 18th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

In the midst of my coffee drinking, singing, and studying, I have gone on a few adventures around the South Island. Each place is more stunning than the next. I constantly find myself questioning how it’s possible that there can be more beauty in the world–and even more, how my brain can continue to process it. I worry and wonder whether any place will ever seem as beautiful, now that I have experienced New Zealand so intimately. Below, I’ve attached photos of a couple of the places I’ve explored recently. Lucky for me, I’ve made a handful of friends who enjoy taking pictures as much as I do, so I never miss out on opportunities to take pictures of beautiful people IN all these beautiful places. Enjoy! Read More »

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Singing With Kiwis

Time October 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

I am a singer. I’ve been singing my entire life and I consider it to be a major part of my identity. However, in the context of school, I am a science major. Back home, I am a member of an a cappella group and I participate in student-run theater. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get involved in music while abroad, but–luckily–I was wrong. All semester, I’ve been involved in a paper called “Musical Theater Voice.” Class each week involves taking voice lessons, choosing songs, and singing them. My final examination is a concert, in which I will perform four songs (yes, THIS IS FOR CREDIT). The paper also involves a weekly GROUP class, in which a large group of us learn, sing, and (sometimes) dance to full-cast numbers from musicals.

I think this paper has been very enriching for me, both as a course and as a cultural immersion. I am the only international student in the group, and it’s been so special for me to intimately get to know a group of kiwi students. I feel as though the American abroad experience can be somewhat limiting in who you get to know, as international students tend to mainly interact with each other. This course has made it possible for me to truly befriend a group of Kiwi students and they are absolutely wonderful.

3girls Fiora (left), Sam (right), and me before our lunchtime concert

 

We had a performance a week ago, in which we performed a handful of group and solo numbers. My small group performed a song called “A New World.” The six of us had worked on our harmonies and blending for weeks prior to the concert, so it sounded incredible the day of. The large group numbers came together nicely–practically everyone remembered the choreography! I could feel the support of the group around me, and it filled me with warmth. It just proves that music can bring anyone together, no matter where you come from.

perf The final pose from “I Got You,” one of the major group numbers

 

After the concert, we all met up at Eureka, a cafe/bar right next to campus. We sat and ate chips (fries) and wedges (wedges) and the most delicious brownies. The conversation centered around the weird little differences between America and New Zealand. For instance, our desserts at home are served with whipped cream or ice cream, as opposed to whipped cream or yogurt. Along with that, an “iced coffee” at home would be cold coffee with ice in it. In New Zealand, it is a blended drink made up of coffee, ice cream, whipped cream, etc. No wonder it costs so much more!!

brownie The most delicious brownie ever (and yogurt) at Eureka

 

If I appreciate anything from this experience, it will be the people I’ve met and the things they have taught me. Living in another country is only half the battle–to really immerse yourself in the New Zealand lifestyle, you must befriend the people.

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The Treadmill that is New Zealand

Time October 3rd, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

It is officially October here, which means there are officially two more weeks of classes left!  Exams go for a month after that, but even still, the semester is coming to a close!  I absolutely can not believe I’ve been here for a little more than three months now.  Time has just flown by.  People ask me if I’m ready to come home at this point or if I just want to stay forever.  Honestly, it’s a mix of both.  My time in NZ I have left kind of feels like I’m on this treadmill going really fast and I’m trying to keep up with it.  I still have so many things I want to do and see, but so little time.  For a country as small as New Zealand, there sure are a whole lot of things to keep you busy.  This past week I visited Queenstown for a few days, but even in that time, I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to do.  It was an amazing time hiking and exploring the area, but there is always something more to do.  I’m fortunate enough to have my dad come visit and travel with me for a few weeks after exams end, but even during that time, there will be so much of NZ that I don’t get to experience.  That’s ok though.  There will always be something else, something more you want to do, but time (and especially money) sometimes doesn’t allow it.  But that does not mean I can’t come back here and pick up just where I’ll leave off.

At the same time, I’m excited to go home and see my family and friends.  This study abroad experience, although it went by fast, was a long time away from home.  I think it’s longer than the time my friends in Europe will have.  It’s crazy to think about I started my travelling in late June and here it is early October already.  When November comes, I know I’ll be ready to see my family and be home.  FaceTime and Snapchat are starting to get old.  I’m excited to see everyone back home in person again.  Nothing against New Zealand, but five months is a long time.  So to answer that loaded question I posed earlier, I’m both ready to stay in New Zealand for longer, but also ready to come home.  It’s a strange mix, but encouraging.  It means that I have to make the most of the time I have left and that I already know I want to start planning my next trip back!

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Becoming a Wellingtonian

Time September 19th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

Settling into my new home in Wellington could not have been an easier transition. The small city has a nice feeling of home, and my flatmates are all incredible. It was amazing to find spectacular views and wild life only a short walk or quick drive away from my house. I spent the first couple weeks exploring the city and hitting popular attractions such as Mount Victoria, Westpac Stadium, and Cuba street. 

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Spraang Breeeeaaak

Time September 9th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

Last week, all of the Uni students were off for spring break.  It’s still weird thinking spring break is in August/September, but then I realized I’ll have TWO spring breaks this year, so I can’t complain.  Students travelled all over NZ to get a look of some of the greatest things the country has to offer.  I knew a lot of people who traveled to the north of the South Island to Abel Tasman.  That place is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the country, which was confirmed when my flat mates came back from there and showed me their pictures from the beach tramp they did.  A few of my mates and I decided to do something a little different.  We figured this would be the best opportunity to travel to the North Island and see what’s happening up there.  We wanted to be adventurous and what’s more adventurous than renting a campervan and living/traveling in it for a full week?!  Let me tell you, this was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  Not only did we get to see the beauty of the north, but living in a van with four people was mean (Kiwi for cool, good, etc. I hope I’m using that right).  Everything is so tight you have no choice but to get to know the people you’re with and lucky for us, we all got along, no problems at all.

We started in Auckland and picked up our van, which we eventually named Rhonda because every car needs a solid name.  Then we began our trip going north to Matakana where we were able to take in an incredible sunset on a beach.  We travelled back down the east coast, stopping at Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula, which is better than advertised.  We continued down the coast driving through Tauranga and then moving inland through Rotorua and Taupo, three amazing places that I wish I had more time in.  We finished up in Wellington on Friday afternoon and were able to experience the Wellington Night Market and try some pretty unique food.  We flew back from Wellington to Dunedin on Saturday, exhausted, smelly, but with some of the best memories we’ve made since being in New Zealand.  Going back to school this week was not easy after such a great trip, but it definitely reignited the travel bug and I can’t wait for my next adventure!

 

If you want to read a more detailed version of my trip, check out my other blog https://theinexperiencedtravelersite.wordpress.com/ .  In the next few days, I’ll be putting up a day by day break-down of where we were and what we did .  Cheers!

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Snow Sports!

Time August 5th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, New Zealand | No Comments by

Last weekend, I went on a ski trip to Wanaka, which I had the opportunity to ski on a beautiful mountain for two full days.  Wanaka is about four hours north-west of Dunedin.   It’s safe to say that trip is one of the highlights of my study abroad experience so far.  Thinking back on it, that weekend was a trip of many “firsts”.  It was my first time skiing since my Freshman year of high school, but I was excited to get back on a mountain and try out the whole snow sport thing again.  It was my first time staying at a hostel, which was a really nice hostel.  The whole idea of hostels is fascinating to me.  It’s pretty much a community house that brings random people together who have similar interests and you live with them for a few days.  There was a map of the world in the lobby with push pins indicating which part of the world people who stayed there have come from. Running a hostel must be one of the coolest jobs to have because of all the people you meet, each with their own story.  I think I’ll add it to my list of possible retirement jobs (the other one being an airline steward). Read More »

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Preliminary Explorations

Time August 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Need to come up with new adjectives to describe this country and my weekly adventures other than “awesome”and “unreal”…but yeah, this week was (once again) both of those things. New Zealand has it figured out – icecream, skiing, landscapes that make you believe in witchcraft and wizardry. In the last 7 days I’ve attended class, had the first of many Adventure Wednesdays and first weekend excursion away from the coast.

Wednesdays seem to be a pretty light class day for a group of my friends here, and last week it was a beautiful sunny and 50+ degrees so we decided to hop in Kristina and Suzie’s newly purchased Subaru (named Momo) and head out to the Otago Peninsula, a quick 20 minute drive from campus. We picked a quick hike/walk called Lover’s Leap, a path that lead us through farmland to the top of some very impressive cliffs above the Pacific. It was gorgeous and arguably the nicest weather we’ve had since I’ve been here. We agreed that the landscapes looked like they’d been created by some sort of magical wizard and couldn’t possibly be real. The hillsides and ocean around here are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Gandalf, most likely. Also – it’s true, about the sheep. And don’t worry mom and dad – I made it back for my 5 pm class which I attended in muddy hiking boots.

Thursday night flatmates and extended flatmates (complex-mates) headed over to the Speight’s Brewery  for a tour that included a 30 minute stint in the Brewery bar. Oops. Good fun, though.

This weekend I headed out to Wanaka (in Momo) to ski. Wanaka was so beautiful I decided to go back next weekend! I’m not even going to try to describe it, so check out some pictures. It’s an amazing place, I’m trying to live there one day. Shania Twain has a house there, dream big friends. On Saturday we skied at Cardrona, 25 minutes outside town. We drove Momo to the base of the access road, parked and hitched a ride to the top. The access road is something similar to the Mt Washington Auto Road – 20 minutes of winding dirt road up a pretty steep face without guard rails or much in the way of lanes. The base of the lifts is at the top of the road – exciting stuff. On Sunday I opted out of skiing and instead decided to rent bikes and mountain bike around part of Lake Wanaka before getting in the car and coming back to Dunedin. At home last night we made hot chocolate and watched Moonrise Kingdom, topping the weekend off flawlessly. I’m already psyched to get back out there next weekend. Spring break plans are evolving, among others. Stay tuned.

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Milford Track

Time November 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

At 4:45 Sunday morning I started my journey back to the south island to hike the Milford Track. It is a four day hike through Fiordland National Park that ends at Milford Sound. I went there by myself since no one else really seemed by for the journey. By 2pm I was on the boat that takes the walkers to the start of the track. Only 40 people are allowed to hike independently per day. There is also a guided walk option but they stay at different lodges. Looking around the boat I noticed that most of the people hiking were couples. After taking some picture though I noticed that there were some people my age. There were two girls from Sweden that are taking a gap year between high school and college. I also met Tyler who is from St. Lewis. He graduated college and is traveling around for a year before settling down. We ended up hiking together the whole time and also hiked with the girls a lot of the time.

The first day was an easy 1 hour hike to the first hut. In comparison to the rest of the trip that views were not that great. Yet they were still better than anything back home. The huts are all really nice. They have a separate bunk area, bathrooms, clean running water and a kitchen. No showers though. It turns out that everyone besides Tyler and I brought food to cook. I was fine with my bars and PB&J but it was hard to not get a little jealous when people started actually chopping up potatoes and making a full meal. Ross was our ranger that night and he took us on a nature walk and showed us all the cool plants around the area.

The second day took about 6 hours and was a gradual uphill walk. We had to pay for a helicopter before leaving for the hike so that if the avalanche danger was too high that day we could get a ride across. Luckily it was a perfect day and we were able to hike the whole way. There were tons of waterfalls and lots of avalanche hazard areas. You are not supposed to stop in the avalanche areas or “danger zones” but that seemed to be where all the best views were so we did. But just long enough to get all the pictures…and pose for some group photos. The last part of the hike was a little steeper but still nothing hard. We got to the hut around 2pm and were greeted with views of Mackinnon pass which we would hike up the next day. The ranger that night told us that the vies were best early in the morning and if you leave at 6:30 you can see the sun rising over the mountains. So that’s what Tyler and I did.

This day had the best views by far. Sadly my iPhone died right before reaching the top but my backup camera didn’t do too bad. Only about five people had point and shoot cameras and I was the only one using a phone but the photos came out ok. They don’t even come close to doing it justice but I don’t think any camera could do that. There was frost and ice at the top of the pass. The wind was really strong and it was odd to think that earlier in the morning we were in t-shirts and shorts. I forgot my gloves so I had to decide between keeping my hands warm or taking a picture. My fingers actually had trouble clicking the button sometimes since they went a little numb. The highest point on the path was 1154m. Once we got over the pass though it warmed up and was t-shirt time again. Once we got to the hut a few people went for a swim. I ran in only to get a brain freeze then run back out. It sure was refreshing though and welcomed after a couple days without a shower.

The last day was the longest length wise but took about the same amount of time as the previous day since it is flat. The four of us hiked together the whole time that day and we took lots of photos. I didn’t get many group ones since I felt bad making people take pictures of us with so many cameras but we all exchanged contact info so they should get on Facebook at some point. Around 1:30 we reached the end  and got on the boat to take us on the quick ride to Milford Sound. I hiked 33.5 miles over the course of the track and had a blast! At the ferry terminal the four of us said our goodbyes and I was off to Queenstown for the night. I got some dinner from my favorite places in town and went to bed nice and early. The next day I made my way back to Albany.

Words can not describe how great of a trip it was. The views were jaw dropping, the weather was sunny the whole time (which is very rare since the track is in a rainforest. They tend to get 200mm when it rains), I made some new friends and had a nice relaxing time. It felt like a retreat since there was no technology and no one cared what time it was. If you like hiking I highly recommend putting this on your bucket list.

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Rotorua

Time October 18th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Rotorua is basically the heart of adventure on the north island. There is tons of thermal activity and lots of thrilling activities. IFSA-Butler brought us down to Rotorua for Adventure Weekend about a month ago. We got to go mountain biking, lugeing and sailing to hot springs. We were supposed to go white water rafting as well but sadly the river was too high. The mountain biking was pretty intense. Getting up the hill was by far the hardest part and my group didn’t even go that far. Once you got to the top the trip down was worth it. It felt like a roller coaster ride except that I was in control which complicated things. I’m not the most coordinated person so I ended up holding on to the handle bars for dear life. At the bottom of each track I had indents in my hands from the grip on the handle bar. It was really fun though and helped work off some of the extra Tim Tam weight.

The luge was the highlight of the weekend for me. It was the funnest thing I have done in a long time. We got five rides on it and we made the most of it. The first ride they made us go down the scenic route to get the hang of things. The next time though we went straight for the advanced track and it was much more exciting. You are actually able to get air at one point on the track. Our tour guides for the weekend organized some races which were all very exciting. I got cut off in one and ended up crashing into a sand pit. The next time I actually caused an accident but I ended up moving forward two places thanks to it and no one got hurt so it was a success in my book.

The next day we went on a boat for a little cruise. It was a really nice boat and we sailed around for a bit before going over to some hot pools. The weather was terrible, it was raining, windy and cold so the hot springs felt really nice. After hanging out for a bit we went back on the boat sailed back and had some lunch before going back to Auckland. Even though this weekend was great I felt that I hadn’t fully experienced Rotorua and still really wanted to go white water rafting so I decided to go back with some friends from my accommodation.

We went white water rafting first. Since we went on a Tuesday it was only the three of us and three instructors. It was really nice not having to wait for other boats. We went over the largest commercial waterfall which is 7m or about 21 feet. I was a little scared but it ended up being ok. We had a really smooth landing and the rest of the trip was great as well. I had never been rating before but have been white water kayaking. I felt much more comfortable with the rafting but if you are looking for a true thrill kayaking is the way to go.

After tat was done we went to go zorbing. It was such a fun experience. Overpriced but fun. If you don’t know what zorbing is it’s when you go into a giant ball and get rolled down a hill. They put some water in there with you so that you don’t get any friction between you and the plastic. It basically feels like a really fun and crazy waterside.  We got three rides and tried a different course each time. The first time I went down the one called the drop. It went slow at first then turned a corner and went down a steep drop. The second one was the zig zag which was really crazy. I got thrown around a lot and had no clue where I was going to go next. The last one we all went in one zorb together. You have to go down the straight path if you go together but we went really fast. We were laughing the whole way down.

For our last activity we went to Wai-O-Tapu which has a bunch of hot pools to look at. There is all kinds of different colored water due to the minerals which made for some really pretty sites. I’m really glad that we went because I have been wanted to see some natural hot springs for a long time. Every time that we went to go swimming in hot springs I thought they would be natural but it always ended up being a pool with just the water pumped in from the springs. It was too hot and dangerous to go swimming in these  springs but just seeing them was really fascinating. The trip was great and if you are ever in New Zealand be sure to check out Rotorua. I think the luge was my favorite activity overall.

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Spring Break: Part 3

Time October 10th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

After an exciting week in Queenstown we continued on to Te Anau in order to experience Fiordland. We did part of the Routeburn track which I really enjoyed. I wish we could have done more of it since we only got to hike about three hours out before turning around. We made it to our goal though which was an amazing waterfall. It was a great day and really got me excited for the Milford Track which I will be doing in a few weeks. The views throughout the hike were amazing and even the ride in was fun due to all the views.

The next day we went to Milford Sound. We hit snooze a few too many times and were running a little late for our cruise that we pre booked. This caused us to do a little speeding to make up time. I do not recommend it. The road to the sound is extremely curvy and it was quite a scary experience. We made it just in time though. We literally had to run out to the boat as it was pulling away from the dock. The cruise was well worth the stressful morning though. It started off a little slow but once we got further out in the harbor the views were amazing. We were lucky enough to have it rain too which usually would be a bad thing. In this case though the rain adds to the beauty. Whenever it rains tons of waterfalls form along the rocks. Even though it wasn’t raining hard it was still a site to see. Also, we encountered a pod of dolphins which was a really nice surprise since I didn’t even know that was a possibility. Milford Sound was really nice but it didn’t fully live up to my expectations. It seems like everyone thinks that is the number one thing to do in New Zealand but I personally think the glacier walk was more interesting. That night we just relaxed at our hostel which was much needed.

The next day we thought it would be a good idea to drive to Dunedin via the scenic highway. We drove all the way down to Bluff so that we could be at the southern most point in New Zealand. We got some oysters there which were amazing! Expensive but amazing. Then we continued with our journey and drove up along the coast. We stopped at Nugget Point right as the sun was setting. We kind of underestimated the amount of time we would spend in the car so we didn’t get to do all the little side trips we would have liked but it was still a nice day. We arrived in Dunedin around 8pm and after getting some food we all went to bed since we were so tired. I never want to be in a car for ten hours in one day ever again!

On our first full day in Dunedin we took a few tours. We started the day with a tour of Cadbury Chocolate. It was the most delicious tour ever since we got so much candy. They even gave us little cups of melted chocolate which was the highlight for me. After the tour Caroline, Lauren and I went over to the University of Otago campus to get some lunch. The campus is really nice and kind of made me wish that I studied there. After filling up on some cheap food we made our way over to the Speights Brewery for another tour. It was really informative and was a lot better than the wine tour. After we finished walking around the brewery they took us into a room where we could sample the beers. I didn’t plan on starting to drink at 2pm but who am I to complain. After the free beer tasting we went next door to the pub and met up with Adam and Nick who are in Megan and Lauren’s group. After a while we decided we needed some food so we went to this mexican restaurant near the octagon which is the center of the city. It was the first place with real mexican food so I was pretty excited. That night we went back to the hostel and played some drinking games with the other people staying at the hostel. It was really nice to hang out in the common room since before this part of the trip we were always too busy or tired to just hang out. I met people from England, France, Hong Kong, Germany and Ireland. It was really fun and talking to them made me change my views on travel. I always thought traveling was something that people who couldn’t find jobs after graduation did. But now I really want to travel after I graduate. Everyone I met was so happy and social that it seems like a really fun thing to do.

On our last full day in Dunedin we went to Baldwin Street which is the steepest street in the world. Megan and I ran up most of it but got a little tired before reaching the top. We then made our way to the botanical gardens. They were not as good as the ones in Christchurch but there was a really cool aviary. Once our friend Adam finished his tour of Cadbury we went over and picked him up to go to the peninsula. We went to the only castle in New Zealand which was a little underwhelming but still a cool thing to say you saw. After that we went on a quest to see some penguins and sea lions. Sadly we couldn’t see any penguins without taking a tour which we didn’t want to pay for. We did end up seeing a sea lion though. That night a big group of us from the hostel went out in Dunedin. It was a blast and was the perfect way to start wrapping up the trip.

On our last full day on the south island we went back to the peninsula to try and find more sea lions. We ended up finding quite a bit and even got to roll down the sand dune on our way to the beach. After hanging our with the sea lions for a bit we started the trek back to Christchurch.

The next morning we woke up before dawn in order to catch our flight back to Auckland. I couldn’t have had a better spring break! It was a blast and really made me start to thing about what I want to do after graduation. I now know that I want to have a year of just backpacking around at some point in my life.

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Spring Break: Part 2

Time October 1st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

We spent three nights in Queenstown during the middle of our trip. I think this was the most fun stop for me. The first night we did a pub crawl. It was a great deal, we got pizza, five free drinks and entry into the local ice bar for only $25. Getting into the ice bar alone usually costs $30. We ran into some of the people that we hiked the glacier with was a nice surprise.

The next day I went hiking with Caroline. We hiked up to the top of the gondola which is right outside of town. We were planning on continuing on to summit a nearby mountain but it started to rain so we figured we would stop at the top of the gondola. After the hike we went back to our hostel and enjoyed some free dinner. The hostel was great by the way. If you are ever in Queenstown I highly recommend Nomads. We even ran into most of the IFSA crew which was really exciting since I didn’t know if I would see the Wellington people again. That night a few of us went out to Cowboy which is a western bar. We were by far the youngest people there but we had a great time signing along to some country songs!

Sunday was our day of adventure. Megan, Lauren and I went bungy jumping at the nevis which is the tallest bungy in New Zealand. I also big the giant swing. Both of them were really fun but the bungy was better. I was shaking before jumping but I did it! After that we picked up Caroline and all went jet boating through a nearby cannon. It was a lot of fun and they got the boat within inches of the canyon walls. That night we went out again and I ended up running into one of my friends from Saint Michael’s. We had been trying to meet up but kept on failing so it was really nice to run into her. I think I saw just about everyone that I know thats in New Zealand while we were in Queenstown. It was the place to be! The next day we woke up bright and early to continue our road trip.


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The First Week

Time July 16th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t believe I have been in New Zealand for over a week. It seems like ages ago when I was siting in LAX waiting for my flight. Luckily for me, lots of IFSA-Butler students arrived at the airport early making my 7 hour layover a little more enjoyable. I knew right then that it was going to be a great orientation. After an enjoyable 13 hour flight we landed in New Zealand. We quickly made our way through customs and loaded our stuff up on the bus. Before leaving we had some kai (food). This would be a common occurrence throughout the weekend. I felt like a hobbit with all the meals and could not be any happier about it.

I felt as though we were in Jurassic Park on the ride to Shakespear Regional Park due to all the fog. Emily and Amy served as tour guides for the hour and a half bus ride but there wasn’t much to see since the fog was so thick. Once we arrived we had a meeting and the fog lifted. It was quite a sight seeing the countryside for the first time. The lodge we stayed at is situated on farmland and not far from the ocean. In short, a terrific location. Over the next few days there were many outdoor activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, archery, wandering (hiking) and mountain biking.

The red roofed building is the lodge we stayed at.

 

Not a bad view :)

We also got to go to a hot springs water park. It was a little cold since its the middle of winter but Icouldn’t help but go on the slides.  Luckily since we were the only crazy people not sitting in the hot pools there was no line. I’m pretty sure the slide would be illegal in the U.S. since my legs went over the side of the pool when I landed but it was awesome! We went to stay at a Marae for a night in order to get a sense of Maori culture. Although it was not as authentic as I was expecting, it was still a cool experience.

Some Maori carvings.

After a stop at the Auckland Museum we were taken to our schools. Since I was the only one in the group who picked to study at Massey Albany, a cab came and took me and one of the staff members Greg to my flat. I’ve go ten all settled and love it here. I can walk to wherever I need to go and can take a bus to various parks. I look forward to starting classes this week and to the many adventures that are sure to unfold over the semester!

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One Week

Time June 28th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi, I’m Mike and I’m going to be a junior at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. I’m a biology major and business minor and in one week I will be leaving for New Zealand.

It’s crazy to think that the day is almost here. I have been preparing for this moment ever since last October when I had a meeting with the study abroad advisor at my school. I walked into her office not knowing much. In fact, the meeting was a little overwhelming. The first question she asked was, where do you want to go? I kind of thought that was what we were going to figure out at the meeting but I guess I was a little behind. I knew that I did not want to go to Europe. I figure that would involve lots of museums and old building which I don’t have any appreciation for. I would much rather be in the middle of nowhere with an awesome view. Luckily I had been thinking of this question a little bit before the meeting and was able to come up with two places: Africa or New Zealand. I think Africa would be an incredible experience seeing as I love the savannah. We were quickly able to decide that if I were to go to Africa, I would do a program in Tanzania that focuses on Ecology since that is what I’m interested in. The program seemed a little strict for my liking though and didn’t seem to offer students the opportunity to explore the country on their own which is something that I want to be able to do.

This led me to focus on New Zealand and after much thought and some advice from friends who have been there I decided to study with IFSA-Butler at Massey University. The orientation and excursion activities look amazing and I can’t wait to experience them. The school is only a 20 minute drive away from Auckland which is the biggest city in New Zealand but it’s even closer to beaches, great hiking and hot springs. The biggest ski area in the country is also only a few hours away. Then during our breaks I plan on going down to the South Island to get in some more hiking and an adrenaline rush from Queenstown. This promises to be a crazy semester and I promise to keep you up to date on everything that is going on!

As of now not much exciting is happening. I’m working at a grocery store so I can save up for my trip and am starting to say my goodbyes to friends and family. I’m currently working on starting the packing process just to make sure everything will fit and that I don’t go over the 5olb limit. Each day I watch a video or read something about New Zealand in order to learn about the country and start figuring out all the things I want to do while I’m there. I’ve found that it is best not to do this right before bed seeing as last week I was reading a blog from last year and got so excited that I couldn’t sleep for hours. I’m really hoping that I will be able to sleep next Tuesday night so that I’m not tired for the trip but knowing me I will once again be too excited. I hope everyone is having a great summer and I can’t wait to share all of my experiences with you!

P.S. This map below isn’t exciting now but I will be using it to track where I go throughout the semester so it’s sure to get a lot more interesting!

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Rugby World Cup Highlights

Time September 14th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Rugby World Cup Highlights by

I spent my Spring Break in Auckland, New Zealand with the main goal of experiencing the Rugby World Cup. These are the video highlights from the Opening Ceremonies and Opening match.


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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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Packing in the Snow

Time February 8th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Just in case the video doesn’t embed, here is an html link: http://community.ifsa-butler.org/video/preparations-1


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Comparison of U.S. and NZ Education

Time December 6th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Comparison of U.S. and NZ Education by

I have compared six different aspects of two education systems, the U.S. and NZ in this post. Compared below are no. of hours spent in classes, labs, writing lab reports, no. of students in a class, final exam’s percentage towards grades and no. of hours spent on assignments every semester at University of Auckland and Trinity University. These are only estimates based on averages that I have experienced. 

Comparison of Hours Spent in Class
No. of Students in a Class
Final Exam’s Weightage
Average Hours Spent on Assignments
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