I have officially been in New Zealand for a week now, and what a week it has been! After landing in Auckland, the IFSA group spent the next two nights at the amazing YMCA Shakespear Lodge for orientation events, surrounded by gorgeous beaches, bush, and wild animals. Everyone was so hospitable and helpful, and we were definitely spoiled as we learned about what our semesters in New Zealand would be like. There were so many interesting activities offered—archery, coasteering, mountain biking, etc.—and the amount of food would have been enough to satisfy any hobbit with breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, and supper being served. Okay, that might have been an exaggeration but it definitely felt like the greatest summer camp combined with a delicious, never-ending buffet.
After the informational orientation at the YMCA lodge, the IFSA students had the privilege of being welcomed onto the Te Hana marae in Auckland. At the marae, there were many traditional protocols to follow. Our group of students had to be invited in by the Maori female elder, and then it was our two elected “chiefs” who led the way, then all of the women, and finally the men at the rear. Before we entered the building, we all had to take off our shoes as a sign of respect and to honor Mother Earth. Once inside the building, the Maori elders traditionally welcomed us with prepared speeches and songs, and our American “tribe” exchanged greetings and songs sung in Te Reo. To be honest, the songs were super catchy and have been stuck in my head ever since!
That evening, we were treated to a performance of the haka and multiple songs before being led throughout the village by our Maori guide. We learned a bit about Maori burial practices, architectural structures, symbolism, traditional education…it was a VERY informative evening. The next day, we followed the protocols as we said our farewell to the marae. We finally did the hongi, the Maori tradition of touching nose-to-nose in order to exchange the breath of life; before, I was sort of nervous for the hongi as I am usually averse to touching strangers, but I wanted to honor their traditions and I think it went okay! Finally, it was time for the flight from Auckland to Christchurch, and at last, the other four IFSA students and I moved into our University of Canterbury flats for the semester on the 13th.
So while these past few days have been an amazing whirlwind, that’s not to say that I didn’t have a couple of hiccups to figure out on my own. First of all, I had to figure out how to make my phone work in New Zealand. That meant I had to figure which phone plan would be best for me, locate and walk to a store that sold the Skinny SIM cards, buy the right one and switch SIM cards, figure out what topping-up meant, and hope I did it all right. And I’m proud to say that I did all of this alone during my three hours of free time in Auckland, and my phone seems to be working alright—data and all! The process of navigating a foreign city alone, buying the correct SIM card, and ultimately succeeding reminded me that I am capable, independent, and smart—which was very encouraging especially at the start of a new semester in a foreign country.
I had to hold on to that reminder when I navigated University of Canterbury’s enrollment process on Thursday. I swear, Kiwis love rogaine so much that they made the enrollment process a sort-of scavenger hunt. It was very different from my home university’s process for course registration where everything is online and instantaneous, and I’m still not technically enrolled in all of my classes and sections yet. I guess when you’re used to the instant gratification of adding and removing courses online without needing departmental approval, the NZ process of requiring the enrollment, international, and financial offices’ approval seems a bit overly complicated. But I’m sure it’s because the NZ system is trying to make absolutely sure that students are placed at the correct academic level, that they are meeting all of the student visa requirements, and that they can afford the courses they want to take.
Hopefully everything will work out though, as tomorrow is officially the first day of classes! I’m excited to see what this next week has in store for me—who my classmates are, what my professors are like, what my internship will be, etc. As this blog documents my learning experiences, I will try to end every post with some things I learned during the past week as well as things I hope/need to learn in the future. Without further ado, the things I learned this past week:
- Kiwis drive on the left side of the road so therefore, most naturally walk towards the left as well.
- New Zealand’s three official languages are English, Te Reo, and sign language.
Things I still need to learn:
- The local bus system of Christchurch and the national bus system of New Zealand
- How to buy groceries and cook like a functional adult; no more eating out, no matter how tempting it is!