Two weeks and one day in New Zealand and finally getting a blog started. I have been keeping a journal of my study abroad process since August, but I promise not to bore you with those tedious details. I’ve been working with the program AustraLearn to make this possible. My journey really began on February 11, 2011 when I boarded a place in Detroit, Michigan, at 9a. I landed in San Francisco, California around 10:30a. Waited around that airport until 7p, when my flight departed for Auckland, New Zealand. We landed around 5:30a on February 13, 2011, crossing the entire Pacific Ocean, International Date Line, and Equator. The first night here was spent at a lovely Best Western in Auckland near Queen and Victoria Streets (a prime location to walk up and down the main downtown area). Early Monday, we departed for Rotorua, with a pit stop in Matamata where Hobbiton Tours are based out of (add to list of things to do).
In Rotorua, we got situated in our severely cozy hostel rooms. We received a lesson in the traditional Maori Haka. That is a dance like custom that is done for new visitors to Maori villages to determine if the arrivals are friends or foes. On Tuesday, we had our “Day of Adventure,” which we had a choice from a few options. I decided to go whitewater rafting and enjoy an afternoon at the Polynesian Hot Springs Spa. Whitewater rafting was incredible! All the scenery around us was beautiful and it was a rush flying down the river through all the rapids.
Wednesday, we were split into two groups to do different activities. My group got to visit Rotorua’s Thermal Village. Twenty three Maori families live in the village with a combination of modern and traditional. We saw natural pools of scalding sulfur water and several geysers. The village is situated over the thinnest crust in the world. We also saw a performance of Maori dances. Later in the evening, we had a more extensive lesson in Maori culture and attended a Maori dinner, called a hangi. The food was cooked in the naturally heated ground and was absolutely delicious. Thursday, we were treated to an adventure of cave diving. I was able to go “blackwater” tubing—which meant laying on inner tubes and pulling ourselves along a rope in the pitch dark, only glowworms lighting our way at times.
Friday, our AustraLearn group of about 70 students were separated and taken to our individual universities. Around twenty of us made the three hour trip back to Auckland to move into our flats. I moved in with four other Americans (since then, one has moved out and a second year Uni Auckland student took her spot). The first few days were busy with grocery shopping and buying necessary household items that I left behind for the sake of saving weight on my luggage. Took an afternoon to walk around One Tree Hill Park, the location of a Maori monument and a high enough point to see over the city of Auckland.
The past week has been orientation sessions, travel sessions, and general acclimating to the city. I am planning future weekend adventures (especially since I do not have classes Friday) and will hopefully start planning my two week spring break (even though Albion is starting their spring break this upcoming Friday). I have successfully completed my first day of classes. My psych class is 570 students and my history class has around 80 students. A much larger campus to adjust to.
For now, I am enjoying the wonder of technology and will Skype with my parents so that we can watch the Academy Awards together.