Oh my goodness, Kia Ora! It has been a while since my pre-departure video, and it has been almost three weeks since I arrived in Auckland New Zealand. These past couple weeks have been absolutely amazing and more than I ever dreamed. After many delayed flights due to Cyclone Gabrielle, I arrived at the airport and was transported straight to my accommodation. I was able to meet a couple of people who were also participating in my program and was already overwhelmed and ecstatic about being in a new country with new friends.
Having arrived two weeks prior to the start of school and having orientation week delayed too, I was worried about how I would make the most out of my free time, meet locals, and deal with massive jet lag. One piece of advice I got from my Student Experience Coordinator (SEC) was to make sure I did not sleep before 8pm. That was not an easy feat, but thankfully, I started to fill the time by going out with some friends to explore the city. This was quite a shock to me because though I knew I was going to Auckland; my brain did not register that I would be in a city. I am not from a city, nor do I attend school in the city. I have gone to NYC a couple of times for two to three days max, so living in one has been very different and very interesting. People on the street are incredibly nice and I have been greeted quite a bit which has made me feel already welcomed.
The first weekend I was here, my program coordinators planned an overnight stay at Shakespear Regional Park where we were able to take a guided tour of the conservation, recreation, and farming sanctuary. It was really lovely to see the important work that is done to preserve the rich environment of New Zealand. Here, we were also able to kayak and swim in Army Bay. The beach was like nothing I’ve experienced before. It was incredibly blue with so many amazing cliffs. We were able to see for miles out as well as the Rangitoto, a volcanic island just off the coast that I plan to summit. There is nothing like watching the sunset and taking an early morning swim in the freezing, beautiful water. We were not only graced with these experiences but were thoroughly introduced to New Zealand with a game of rugby, a tutorial on flax weaving, and playful quizzes on NZ history and Māori culture. Rugby, a treasured sport in NZ, is a game I have minimal experience with. I played for a year at college and decided to stop because of scheduling conflicts. Learning the game here however has been amazing. It was so fun to watch the love that kiwis have for the game and learn from people who have played for years. I was also taken aback and in awe of the gorgeous art of flax weaving with New Zealand’s native plant, Harakeke. We were taught how to make simple creations like a flower and a fish, but the amazing ladies who taught us are skilled in making baskets, cloaks, and much more. They showed us the important ritual of karakia (prayer) to thank the plant and cutting at a diagonal to avoid the plant’s heart. It was incredible learning the traditions and importance of Harakeke and an experience I will always remember and appreciate.
When we returned back to Auckland, our SEC made a list of suggested things to do. One of which was attending Te Matatini, an important cultural festival displaying the hard work of Kapa haka (Māori performing arts). It is a three-day bi-annual event that takes place in a different location in NZ. It just so happened that the event was this year and in Auckland! I was able to take the train to Eden Park and dive headfirst into Māori culture. As a theatre major, I have much adoration of different performing arts and was absolutely captivated by the combination of dancing, singing, and chanting. It was both strong and emotional. I was also able to talk to some vendors at the festival who were more than willing to explain the significance of the festival and performances.
I have been so fortunate to experience so much and be so welcomed in my short time here. I am so excited to get more involved, meet more people, and take more adventures!