It is important to not let fatigue and uncertainty overwhelm you when you’re trying to figure things out. While being forced to completely revise my entire itinerary due to several flight delays and issues, I reminded myself to not let stress overcome me. Right from the moment I stepped off the plane in Auckland, everything started to happen so quickly. I felt somewhat foolish walking around the airport with all of my luggage, but there were at least fifteen other people that were in the same exact boat as I was. After going through customs, I had to be redirected to another flight, for I had missed my last connection to Dunedin. This put me very behind schedule…to say the least.
Instead of taking a direct flight to Dunedin, I had to fly to Queenstown instead and then take a 3.5 shuttle bus ride to Dunedin. The other option was to take a direct flight to Dunedin nine hours later. At that point, I just wanted to get to my final destination. It seemed as if the first option seemed to be the most efficient one. That being said, I sprinted to the gate and boarded the flight to Queenstown.
In the end, my decision turned out to be the wisest one. The two hour flight barely seemed like two hours long, for my eyes were glued to the window the entire time. This must be the scenic route, I thought as we flew, but it was just a typical course. I watched the geography of the country become a reality. As the plane entered the south island, I became anxious to see more of the country. The surrounding mountains of Queenstown were extraordinary. The closer the plane came to landing, the more impressive and surreal they became. I hadn’t even walked off the plane and I was already significantly impressed by what was before my very own eyes. Once we landed and the doors of the plane were lifted, a small wave of brisk air hit my face almost immediately, indicating that it was winter.
I was even more awed by the scenery from our shuttle bus ride to Dunedin. The rolling hills and vast lands were nothing like I’ve ever seen. Pictures could not do it any justice, no matter how hard you tried (I was unable to take any because my phone was on its way to dying and my camera was inaccessible. Besides, the driver’s driving was quite reckless in a way that made it difficult to stay stabilized and get a decent image. Although I do admit, the roads were fairly hilly and windy due to the geography). I began to appreciate winter in a completely new way.
And never before in my life have I seen so many sheep. Left and right, hundreds of them were grazing. I must have seen at least 2,000 throughout the duration of the drive (that’s most likely an underestimate). Apparently, there are approximately 60 million sheep in New Zealand, which is 15 times the amount of people.
I was overcome by my first surge of nervousness once the shuttle driver dropped me off at my address. I didn’t see my house instantly, which concerned me. So there I was standing out all alone in the streets of Dunedin with all my bags in the darkness and cold air. Fortunately, it only took three minutes for me to figure out that I had to walk down an alley to get to my flat, making it a slightly more secluded area.
As I opened the doors of my new home, a wave of housewarming smell overcame my senses. Lucky for me, my Kiwi host, Jenny, was currently in the process of cooking my flatmates and me a home cooked meal, which consisted of my first New Zealand lamb and vegetables. My flatmates, Erling from Norway and Andras from Hungary, were all there to greet me as well. I don’t know what was more shocking to me: the immediate welcoming nature of the flat or that it felt like 11:00 pm when it was actually 7:00 pm.
Many of the Kiwi hosts have done their best to make all the international students feel at ease throughout the first week. Since a majority of the international students live in close vicinity, it is a very tight knit community and it has been easy to become close with one another. My friend Lee is a one minute walk from my flat, so it’s nice to have a familiar face very close by. Everyone has come to New Zealand for many different reasons and interests; yet, we all have the same intention of getting out and wanting to see the country. Whether it be a potluck dinner or a party, different flat areas will host events almost every night, inviting everyone in the area, for the Kiwis genuinely want to meet and befriend as many people as they can.
Orientation has been fairly simple and straightforward so far. There was a two hour meeting the first day, providing the basic, important information to all the students. Following that, everyone had to go through Course Approval, which required students to obtain all of the necessary signatures from professors in order to officially enroll for their class. This semester, I will be taking Evolution, Microbiology and Musicianship Skills (for my General Education Visual Arts requirement).
I’ve had many chances to walk around the city of Dunedin in the past few days. I was not expecting the surrounding area to be so busy and urban-like. It is very different from what I’m used to, but I’ve adapted to this new way of living without difficulty and I enjoy it. The only thing that I find challenging is grocery shopping and making my own meals, for I was a never a chef to begin with (Erling likes to give me a really hard time about my poor cooking skills, which really helps support the American stereotype, sorry). Regardless, everything I need to live is easily accessible and a simple ten minute walk away.
It feels strange celebrating the Fourth of July outside the United States. It’s difficult to honor America when you’re surrounded by people who are currently oblivious to this holiday. I’m sure that they are aware of what the holiday is. But if they were reminded that today was the day, it would just be passing information to them. To have no parades, cookouts or fireworks on the Fourth of July just seems so out of the ordinary to me. But then again, I’m in a a different world. In New Zealand, Independence Day isn’t on their calendar.
Instead of sitting on the shores of the harbors of Boston and watching the fireworks jet off into the night sky, I found another way to celebrate the Fourth with all of the other Americans that are here. After all of the Independence day festivities that took place here in Dunedin, I figured that it’s not necessary to be in the United States to celebrate the holiday. Leaving home and getting over here was quite gruesome and hectic, but so far that journey has definitely been worth it.