Kia ora everyone! I have been in New Zealand for five days and Christchurch for two, and am just starting to get my bearings and figure things out. With a loose grasp on how my life will look for the next five months, I figure now is an opportune moment to bombard this blog with an update about life in New Zealand that’s almost as long as my flight.
Speaking of my flight, this study abroad experience began with a missed connection — unfortunately, not the romantic kind. After flying from Philly to Chicago, I was supposed to catch a 4:00 PM flight to LA that would have gotten me to California at 6:30 and given me a glorious four hours to navigate international security checkpoints. Instead, my flight out of Chicago was delayed by four and a half hours and I arrived in LA at 10:20 PM, just in time to miss my 10:30 flight to Auckland. Desperately sprinting through the California summer to an international airport terminal while wearing two sweatshirts and a rain jacket (gotta love Air New Zealand luggage weight restrictions) is always a fun time.
Luckily for me, there just happened to be three flights going to New Zealand that night, and there was exactly one seat left on the last plane out of America. Despite my earlier ordeal, Air New Zealand is actually a very good airline, and calmly placed my panicking self on the final flight, served real fruit (!!!) on the plane, and managed not to lose my luggage even after transferring planes at 10:29 PM. I arrived in Auckland ready for Arcadia’a orientation, if a bit late and disheveled.
Arcadia’s orientation was a nice introduction to New Zealand, and I got to meet other students studying abroad though Arcadia. The orientation group included the 8 students at Canterbury, 3 from Lincoln University (also on the South Island), 11 from University of Auckland, and 19 from Victoria University in Wellington (the capital city of NZ). We explored Auckland and then headed to Rotorua, where we were introduced to traditional Maori culture (I will definitely have a blog post on this in the future), attended a “farm show,” tried zorbing (an adventure sport invented in New Zealand that’s a big part of their identity), and tramped through some beautiful geothermal areas. After a few days, I could barely even notice the pervading smell of sulfur in the air from Rotorua’s famous hot springs.
At orientation, I also had a chance to get to know Jane, who coordinates the Arcadia NZ programs, and Pragnya, who is a grad student at Canterbury and here as a resource as well. I really like the 7 other American Canty students. We’ve hung out a lot because there aren’t a lot of people on campus yet (classes start Monday) though we all want to branch out and truly immerse ourselves. But it’s also nice to have a support group; we are like a little family. Yesterday was International Student Orientation and we were all able to meet some new people. There are only 150 exchange students at UC this semester, which is an incredibly small number considering the school is roughly the size of Temple. But also good, and why I chose UC — less competition to meet/eat the kiwis, depending on which kiwis you’re referring to. A smaller group of international kids will make immersion that much more complete.
Although I haven’t had a chance to explore Christchurch yet, I did “have a look” at campus. UC has a very quaint, charming, New England-esque feel. Much different from Temple! Although I know that I will miss living in a city (as opposed to a bus ride away from one that was destroyed by an earthquake — more on that later) I also think that my semester at UC will be a nice change of pace.
Flatmates and Friends
I’ve also met 4 out of 5 of my flatmates. I am living in Ilam Apartments, which are off-campus apartments sponsored by the university. Nearly all study abroad students live here. I am living with Erin, a Kiwi woman who already graduated and works as a lawyer (in NZ, law is an undergraduate degree), Ching, an older woman from Hong Kong who is doing her PhD, Jae, another graduate student from Korea, Celine, a third-year undergrad from China (uni is three years, not four), and Olivia, a Kiwi from Wellington who is also in her third year. Olivia is coming back to campus on Friday, but the others are nice. They’ve invited me to go to “high tea” on Sunday, and introduced me to a few of their Kiwi friends. People in New Zealand are really nice — you don’t have to ask for help, they just notice if you need it and provide. After hearing about my night sleeping in fleece-lined leggings, fleece pants, two pairs of socks, a long sleeve shirt, and a sweater, they gave me warmer pajama pants and a space heater, all unsolicited. (Last summer, I thought the lack of air conditioning in Paris was bad, but it’s got nothing on the apparent lack of any heating systems during the South Island winter. What do these people have against being warm? They have some very thick skin, unlike my central heating-dependent American self). Celine and Erin also helped me set up my Internet and gave me a free adapter for my laptop, and Erin is going to put me in contact with a friend of hers who likes “tramping.” I also get lots of free food and we watch Kiwi cooking shows together. Although I didn’t expect it, I think it will be nice to come home to a nurturing, home-y environment like this while I’m in another country.
Classes start Monday, and I’ll spend the next few days orienting myself a little more and meeting more people. Today I set up a bank account (or at least attempted to set up a bank account) and managed to find a thrift shop to get some much needed clothing. Although UC seemed a little unpromising at first, this semester is shaping up! I’m really looking forward to my experience here. Cheers!