Journals from University of Otago
2009-07-13 First Week and First Impressions
Taieri Gorge Train Trip
I have been at Otago for a week now but it feels like I have been here much longer. I have already done and seen so much. When I got here, I was homesick almost immediately which came as a huge shock to me. I expected to feel homesick at some point, just not so quick. It was hard because when I got here, none of my flatmates had arrived yet and I had to stay in my flat all alone my first night. I started to think, What have I got myself into?! I should go home!
Luckily, there were a lot of things that were able to help ease my longing to go home. I am staying at the Toroa International House which is about two blocks from campus. There are about 120 students here from all over the world, including New Zealand. Toroa organizes a lot of different events for its residents to become involved in " this really helped with my homesickness. I arrived on Monday morning and that afternoon the RAs of Toroa were leading people on a walk to Baldwin Street. Baldwin Street is the steepest street in the world and a major tourist attraction in Dunedin. Baldwin Street is famous for its annual Jaffa Race where over 300,000 Cadbury chocolates are released from the top of the street as a fundraiser. The Jaffa Race is this Friday!
Some other Toroa events I have participated in are movie nights, a lunch of Soup and Rolls, and Karaoke Night. Through these events I have been able to meet a lot of other people who live in my area and have been able to integrate into the community which has really helped to ease my feelings of homesickness. Some events coming up that Toroa is hosting are a Penguin visit, a Carnival, potlucks, a foosball competition, 80s Disco, and the Toroa Ball.
Getting out of my flat, staying busy, and hanging out with friends have been key to reducing my homesickness. The International Student Orientation was last week and they had a lot of different activities for us to do. On Wednesday we were brought into a lecture room and they piled us with information about classes, the school, where to go if you need something, etc. It was cool though because they started the presentation out with a group of middle school students doing traditional Maori dances, including the Haka. The mayor of Dunedin also welcomed us at the Orientation with Opera style singing! On Thursday, we had class approval. Getting into classes at Otago is much different than at Linfield where everything is done online and completed in about 10 minutes. We were given a course approval sheet that had the classes on it that we had expressed interest in on our application and were then thrown into these huge rooms with tables from different departments all over the place. We had to go to each department of the class we were interested in and have them sign us in. The whole course approval process took me about 3.5 hours.
On Thursday night, the International Offices organized a party for all the new International students at a local bar. It was cool because they rented the bar out for just us for a certain time slot so we were able to meet a lot of other people. On Friday, the Otago IPO organized a train trip into the Taieri Gorge. The entire train was reserved for International Students and it took us through beautiful country scenery and at the end of the ride they had a barbecue waiting for us. It was fun to see a different part of the country and to meet other International students.
Being involved with all of this and making new friends has really helped to ease my homesickness. While there are things I miss about home, I am now confident that I will be able to handle living here a whole semester and that I will have fun. I know that homesickness is natural and part of the process, but when it is at its worse it is hard to imagine that it will ever end. I recommend to others who are experiencing homesickness to get out and do things. Try to meet people and organize things to do. It has helped me to find people from the United States who are here and to talk to them about things from home. It has also helped me to talk to people from home. For some people, talking to their parents, family, and friends makes it harder, but for me it has helped me to talk about the things that I have experienced and to hear them be excited for me.
Now, I am ready for classes to start! It seems strange to have to use my brain during July.