Instead of leaving my dorm room and walking through the forum in front of Gottwald, I find myself leaving my flat and walking beside the Leith river that runs by the Clock tower in order to get to class. If I walk even further through the campus of the University of Otago, I would easily wind up in the busy streets surrounded by shops and stores three minutes later. Instead of living in Richmond’s enclosed community this semester, I’m completely immersed in the middle of the city of Dunedin.
A typical day in Dunedin is not even remotely similar to a typical day in Richmond. Instead of strolling right through campus, I have to stop every so often at a crosswalk. The cars that pass by are driven by people that perceive us as not primarily students but as pedestrians. The shortest walk that I have to make to one of my classes is 12 minutes whereas in Richmond I would consider that to be my longest. There are constantly masses of students walking on the streets, so it becomes easy to get lost in the crowd.
Walking past the shops and stores on George Street (one of the most main streets in Dunedin) is quite congested as well, for it is full of both students and everyday people. It’s not hard for the two groups to integrate since the university buildings are immersed throughout the city. George Street seems like it is an ongoing avenue that is full of endless amounts of shops, restaurants and public services, making a lot of essentials very accessible. Instead of driving when I have to do an errand, I simply walk. As you make your way down the street, the sidewalk is completely covered with a vast awning due to the fact that it can rain at any point in time. Instead of having a well-predicted forecast, the rain usually makes its way to Dunedin without warning.
As city-like as Dunedin may be, the mountains that are just outside of town are in plain sight. All it takes is a glance down the street and you can see Mount Cargill and hills overlooking the entire town. The peninsula and beaches are within easy access, for there are several roads that run alongside the water. The vast, green countryside is even considered fairly close. All different kinds of life surround town. Even in an urban setting, New Zealand still exhibits it’s extraordinary nature without fail.
Not only is the general atmosphere of the University of Otago very distinct from the University of Richmond’s, but the classroom experience is very different as well. Instead of being into a classroom with 15 other students, I am surrounded by at least 100. The university is so large (20,000 students which is almost seven times greater than Richmond) that the odds of me running into someone that I know is slim. At Richmond, I have become so accustomed to having the professor know exactly who I am and having their assistance at hand. Conversely, the class sizes are so much bigger at Otago that the professors barely have any time to get to know all of their students individually. With over 100 students in a lecture hall, getting to know everyone one by one is just not realistic.
Not making a direct connection with the professor does present some challenges. I’ve come to realize that the nature of the student-teacher relationship is not as personal. Instead of having professors know my name, I have gotten used to the fact that my grade is the only thing they actually know about me. Their help is not as accessible, for they do not have the available time to meet up with every single student that seeks them out.
Even in both of my biology labs, there are differences. Instead of wearing goggles, we wear lab coats. We have not one teaching assistant, but five. Some of the laboratory techniques that are used are also slightly modified from the ones at Richmond. They seem to be a little more meticulous. Moreover, there is also less guidance provided throughout the procedures, which makes it a little harder to follow exactly what’s going on. Fortunately, there are several teaching assistants walking around that provide all the help that I may need.
When you come face to face with a challenge, it becomes easy to feel discouraged. The easiest choice to do is to back out and give up. But that’s not a choice here. The challenges that I’ve encountered may have generated some frustration, but I’ve learned to adapt. Living in an urban area has helped me form a sense of direction (to a certain extent) and confidence. Not having all of the necessary assistance just around the corner from professors has made me more independent and a better problem-solver when it comes to work and studying. Walking around an unfamiliar town has made venturing out more interesting. The unpredictable nature of the area has never failed to amuse me. I have only become more and more comfortable in a completely new environment.
So instead of walking through the Tyler Haynes Commons, I pass by the Otago Museum on my way to class. Instead of eating at the dining hall, I make my own meals at home. Instead of considering these changes as a burden, I see that in the end, learning to adapt to new circumstances will only benefit me!