On June 28th, I started my journey to the University of Otago. I couldn’t believe that after more than half a year of planning and talking about studying abroad I was finally going to be there. Prior to leaving, I had run into a couple of Kiwis at the restaurant I work at over the summer. They were so excited to hear that I was studying abroad in New Zealand that they even gave me their number just in case I ran into any problems during my stay. From this experience and simply hearing other people talk about New Zealand, I couldn’t wait to finally experience it myself. Though the overall excitement of getting there, I also felt anxious about finding my way there. I was mostly worried because it was my first time traveling internationally and I was doing it alone.
The flight to Dunedin was simply beautiful. Because it was an early flight, the sun was just rising behind the mountains on the North Island and the sky was engulfed in an orange glow. Despite the scenery, I fell quickly asleep knowing that in just a few short hours I was going to be arriving in Dunedin. When I woke up, we were flying over an array of snowcapped mountains which I soon learned were the Southern Alps. Simply put, it was beautiful. The sun was just starting to rise above the peaks and it revealed the snowcapped pointed mountains of the Southern Alps and the clear blue sky above.
I was the first one of my flatmates to arrive at my apartment. It was a two-story apartment that was less than a minute walk from campus. If I could describe it in one word, it would be “homey”. My room had a window just above the bed tucked into a cubby hole that was big enough for two people to sit inside. I decorated my room with pictures and tapestries I had brought from home and settled into what would be my new home for the next five months.
The next week was spent meeting my flatmates, friends, and finding my way around Dunedin. On the first full day I spent in Dunedin, my “Kiwi host” took me on a tour of the city of Dunedin. He showed me all of the top tourist destinations in Dunedin including Signal Hill, St.Clair beach, The Octagon, Baldwin Street, and the Dunedin Botanic Garden.
Everyone here has been so nice and everything has been so beautiful that I can’t believe I’ll be living here for the next few months! I feel so lucky to have this experience and I’m looking forward to my time here!
Wow! Where do I start? The beginning of my adventure began in the Vancouver, BC airport. While waiting for my 15.5 hour flight to Sydney, Sophia (also a Linfield Student going to Townsville, aka my travel companion) and I met a group of Australian track athletes and coaches returning from a big track meet trip. We began talking to them about their US experience, to sum it all up, they were amazed at the fact that we had squirrels (crazy I know). After our very long flight, we hopped off the plane and had less than an hour to make our connecting flight to Townsville. Long story short, we were running through the airport like maniacs, each carrying two 50lbs bags, trying to find where our gate was. Basically, we get to the gate five minutes before we board, not to mention we were both hungry after not eating for approximately 5 hours. Anyway, to conclude my travels, the JCU arrival service found us at baggage claim and drove us to campus along with more US students who had arrived 30 minutes previous to our flight.
The next few days consisted of meeting tons of US international students and becoming best friends two days later. Many of the Aussie students were not on campus yet due to the fact that it is winter break. After days of orientation and meeting other international students across the world, our friend group had many adventures planned. We went to the mall in town, called Stockland, which is only a ten minute bus ride away. We went on a hike looking over the whole city of Townsville, took a dip in the river by campus (which contains crocs, but they’re called “freshies” because the are only found in fresh water and are not fans of eating humans) and then we took an afternoon trip to The Strand, which is the long strand of beach in Townsville that contains shops and restaurants. We quickly learned while swimming in the ocean that we were not in the “safe zone” this meaning we were actually swimming in croc infested waters (salt water crocs are known as “salties” AKA the human eating, scary looking crocs). It was only until an Aussies walking on the beach told us to get out of the water and walk down The Strand half a mile to find a lifeguard station, as well as, two massive flag poles dictating where it is safe to swim.
The past few days have been very fun just waking up and figuring out what adventure we want to go on next. The Aussies have been nothing but nice to all of us clueless Americans who can’t help but walk on the right side of the sidewalk. There isn’t too big of a culture shock, but sometimes I still don’t understand what the Aussies are saying. Gday Mate how are you going? This is a common sentence that translates as “What’s up?” but of course we didn’t know that, so we would just stare at them with a blank face and reply, “umm to the gym?” thinking they were asking us where we were going.
To summarize my past week here in Townsville, it has been quite a fun ride. Next week we start classes, which I am excited for, considering I am taking interesting classes, and it will give me a little bit of structure with my schedule.