Studying at Otago


Kia ora!

The past two months spent at Otago has been simply incredible. Other than going on adventures every weekend, I have also been thoroughly enjoying my papers (papers are what they call courses here). My courses include Māori society, Pacific Societies, Plants: How They Shape the World, and Understanding Environmental Issues.

My favorite paper so far has been Pacific Societies. The class focuses on how different societies in the Pacific Ocean arrived at each island, why they decided to migrate, and overall the history and culture of specific countries. Most papers have a lecture and a tutorial or lab you also have to attend. One of my favorite things about the classes here is that most of the lectures are recorded and posted on blackboard. In this way, if you miss a class or are gone for a trip, you are still able to watch the lecture. This has become especially useful for my science course since many of the lecturers go through the slides faster than I can take notes. The other interesting thing about papers here is that all of them have more than one lecturer. Lecturers will usually only teach one or two topics and then switch to another professor when the topic changes.

About two weeks before our mid-semester break, we had midterms. Overall, I had three tests and one essay to write. All of the information about your test and essay is included in the course outline you receive on the first day. Tutorials, which are usually required, go over everything that will be on the test. Even some of the practice questions that we answered in tutorials were on the tests. Most exams here are taken outside of class time and are organized by last name or tutorial time. Unlike Linfield, scantrons and all test material are provided by the class. The other interesting thing about school here is that there are minimal assignments throughout the school year. Other than my science course that has a lab due each week, the remaining classes only grade by participation in tutorials, and the required essays, and exams. Though the workload is a lot less substantial, it causes the big assignments to be worth more. Depending on how well you are at writing essays or taking tests, this factor could either work for or against you.

The huge class size here at Otago has made me appreciate the small classes at Linfield. So far, I have not even spoken to any of my professors since TA’s are the instructors for tutorials and labs. Even with this, I still feel that I am learning just as much as I would at Linfield.

Overall, it has been easy getting used to classes here at Otago and I’m thankful that I get to experience a different university. I’ve really enjoyed taking more cultural classes here and I’m looking forward to learning more in the last few months.



Netball, Field Trip and Billabong Sanctuary

Time is flying by! We just started Week 6 here at JCU. Linfield just started their fall term and I can’t believe I am almost half way finished with my semester abroad and my friends at home are just moving in. It is safe to say this week I have been getting serious FOMO (fear of missing out) with everyone moving back to school. In times like this when I am sad I am missing out on my friends and family at home, I remind myself, I’m in Australia!

These past few weeks have been full of fun events. Let’s start with Netball. Each dorm has sports teams and the first sport to play during the season is netball. Netball is a mix of basketball and handball. This sport is one of the biggest sports here in Australia. Safe to say when I told the Australians I have never heard of it before, they were shocked. We have a men’s and women’s team and we watched them play games against the other dorms. Even though we didn’t make it past the semi finals, it was extremely fun watching our friends play a sport we Americans have never seen or hear of before!

This past Sunday I went on a field trip with my Linking Indigenous class. We learned about the Aboriginals who are the indigenous people of Australia. It was very interesting learning about their customs and their beliefs, as well as, their way of living. We toured around indigenous land and looked at their art and different plants they eat and use in their daily lives. We also visited a burial site. We were taught how aboriginal people are buried, in addition to learning about their arranged marriages. I was in awe how the Aboriginal people live.

Lastly, I went to Billabong Sanctuary! Which is basically an Australian Zoo. It was so much fun! We fed kangaroos, watched crocodiles being fed, saw some emu and held a snake and a koala! I haven’t mention as to why I chose Australia as my study abroad choice. When I was in second grade, we had a habitat project. I was required to build a habitat for my favorite animal, which at the time was and still is, a koala. I researched information about koalas and Australia and I absolutely fell in love. Throughout this project, my mom pulled out a photo album of her when she visited Australia at age 25. She showed me a photo of her holding a koala and from that point on, at age eight, I have wanted to visit Australia, especially to hold a Koala. Now that I am finally here and experiencing some of the same things she did, I am living my dream!Holding a Koala.

Almost half way through my time here in Australia and I am loving every minute of it. Oh yeah, the school is great too!



The gateway to perspective

The last 10 days have had their fair share of challenging and beautiful moments.

One thing about me, and my friends and family can probably attest, is that I love talking. Probably too much. Having genuine and raw conversations with people is one of the few things in life that fulfill my soul.

The most difficult thing about studying abroad in a country and only having a rudimentary set of language skills, however, is that I feel like I can’t fully be myself. I feel sometimes like the language barrier is impairing my ability to have this type of conversation that I so desperately crave.

Fully submerging myself into a Spanish-speaking culture has been incredible and I’m already learning so much, don’t get me wrong. But peering into a circle of Chileans talking with Spaniards, Mexicans or other Chileans is beautiful to hear and tough to decipher. I can’t help but feel like I’m just one step behind everyone constantly.

On the other hand, since it’s still difficult for me to sustain a conversation for more than 15 minutes, for the first time in my life, I’ve been truly listening.

The principal observation I’ve made is that all of us kids are the same. Before I came here I had these preconceived notions about how much different Latin American and European young adults were going to be from me. But we’re all the same. We’re all here for the same reasons and we all want the same things out of this experience.

I mean I met a kid from Andorra this week. I met kids from central France and northern Mexico and eastern Spain this week. And we all talked and laughed for hours. I think that if people would stop focusing on all the different colors and accents and customs and religions and realize that we’re all just trying to do this life thing to the best of our abilities, the world would be a much more kind place.

Que les vaya bien,


Myself, Melvin and Augustin Le Roux Deligières, the French foreign exchange student.
Myself, Melvin and Augustin Le Roux Deligières, the French foreign exchange student.
The tutors and international students in Concepción, Chile.
The tutors and international students in Concepción, Chile.


Episode 1: Portland -> Dorfgastein

Hallo from Austria!

Boy oh boy has it been an amazing first two weeks. From Dorfgastein, Austria to Salzburg, Austria and now Vienna, Austria. However, let’s start from the beginning. Our group of 7 flew out of Portland, Oregon straight to San Fransisco. From there we had a 10 and a half hour flight to London Heathrow airport(LHW). This is where our trip truly began and our 2 days of travel turned into 4 days of travel…

We had landed in LHW with a couple hours of layover time and decided to relax. After a few hours Ana, another group member, and I checked our flight and found out that it was canceled! Yes canceled! After a few hours of waiting and speaking with the airline, they helped us find a new flight the next day to Madrid then Vienna at 10am. However, this flight happened to be flying out of a different airport 1 hour away! The airlines supplied us with transportation to get there and they told us we would be able to get a hotel there as well.

After arriving at the new airport, London Gatwick, we went to the airline desk and told them our situation. At this point is was roughly 9:30pm and we had been awake for roughly 13 hours. The desk at London Gatwick told us that they had no hotel rooms to give to us seeing as they’re flights were canceled as well. Therefore, we were left with no hotel room. We stayed in touch with Linfield and the director of our school in Vienna as we tried very hard to find a hotel.

Around midnight we decided, as a group, to stay put and not find a hotel. While the group found a comfy spot in the airport, Ana and I managed to negotiate with a small hotel within the airport for a room to shower in, the catch: we had to wait until 4am. After agreeing and thanking them dearly, we waited the 4 more hours siting comfortably in the airport. Once 4 am came around we all rotated through the room to shower. Around 8am we checked into our flight and headed to Madrid. After landing and being on planes for well over 24 hours, we were finally off to Vienna. Along with flight cancellations we ended up missing our 2pm train on the 10th of August seeing as we landed later that day. We ended up finally staying in a hotel the night of the 10th in Vienna and catching the 2pm train to Dorfgastein on the 11th.

While in Dorfgastein we stayed at the Pension Theresa. Monday was our first full day that was filled with lots of hiking and eating. (Dorfgastein is located in the Gastein Valley and is part of the Austrian state, Salzburg.) Our hiking began with a gondola ride up the side of the mountain above Dorfgastein. From the top you could see the long mountain ranges and small towns neighboring Dorfgastein. You could also see the Spiegel See which is used in the winter time to create more snow for Skiing and Snowboarding.

A view of Spiegel See in Dorfgastein

On the way down we ate at an Alm. Alms are mountain farms where many people bring their animals during the summer. The animals typically recieve better nutrients while staying at the Alms due to the nutrients within the valley region.

Heading to the Alm!
The Alm we ate at for lunch.


After lunch we hiked down to the Mittelstation (Middle Station) of  the gondola. From there we rode the gondola back down to the bottom of the mountain. Ending our first amazing day in Dorfgastein.

And after our wonderful travels and amazing first day in Dorgastein, our adventure continued…

Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading!(:

Melissa Rockow

Ana on top of the mountain.
Herrmann (AAIE Director), Ana, Vanessa and Michaela looking out over the Alps.
Another view of the Alps while in Dorfgastein.

The first seven

The last three months have been some of the most chaotic of my life.

I was supposed to study abroad in Ecuador this semester, leave in late August or early September and go with a group of about 10 other Linfield students. But instead, here I sit in my bed in central Chile eating yet another empanada that I probably don’t need.

Three of us got an email from Profesora Sandra Elena Terra in May asking if we wanted to embark on the first ever Linfield study abroad program to Chile, and Melvin “Mel” van Huck and myself accepted without hesitation. After a summer of scrambling to apply for my visa and then flying to San Francisco to pick it up in person, I said goodbye to my family and just left.

People kept asking me: “How do you feel? Are you ready? Aren’t you so excited?” And honestly, the day I left home was one of the most emotionally draining days of my life. I was worried about all my legal documents, insecure about my Spanish and dreading saying goodbye to my family. I almost felt guilty for not being completely excited.

But now I’m here in this beautiful house with a lovely family and I can say with complete confidence that I’m eager for the opportunity to learn Spanish in this gorgeous country.

So far, Mel and I have been getting accustomed to our host families, spending a little time with our tutors and trying to become experts in the public transportation systems here. And through all of that, through coming over 6,000 miles away from everything I know and constantly listening to a language that is not my native one, I feel at home. And it’s because of the people.

The first person I met here was Florencia, an English professor and mine and Mel’s advisor at the Universidad del Bío-Bío. She picked us up in Santiago the day we flew in and drove us four hours south to our host families’ houses here in Chillán. She has such a huge heart, and is always telling us that she’ll take us out for coffee if we ever get overwhelmed or homesick. The way she physically lights up when we discuss the classes we’ll be taking and the places we’ll be exploring makes me excited for this journey.

Claudia is my host mother, and she and I have had a great time together so far. She’s taken me to the mall, out to coffee and to the university a few times, and she’s taught me more about Chilean culture in the first week than she probably realizes. She’s caring and empathetic about my situation as a foreign student, and she makes homemade food for us every day– she’s all I could ask for in a host mom!  

These first seven days have been everything from hectic to relaxed all at the same time. But I’ve realized that as much as I was worried about this experience and doubtful that I would be able to communicate at all, let alone form relationships with people here, those concerns are slowly fading away. My host family is great, my advisor and my tutors are sweethearts, and my brain is already starting to understand more Spanish; the next part is now just actually speaking it.

I can’t wait to start classes and explore more of Chile and South America these next few months. ¡Nos vemos!

Camille Botello 

All of the international students with some of our tutors. There are seven from Spain, one from France and Mel and I from the United States.
All of the international students with some of our tutors. There are seven from Spain, one from France and Mel and I from the United States.
Graffiti on a brick wall saying Sonríe. Smile.
Sonríe. Smile.

Toga Party, Floor Games and Meeting New Mates!

I cannot believe I have almost been in Australia for a month, it feels like four.

The amount of relationships and people I have already met in the past three weeks is crazy. I look back on the first day of orientation when I knew one person and now, I know all of these amazing people, American and Australian! JCU does an great job of creating unity within the University, especially the dorms. Every semester, JCU holds a toga party. This toga party is one of the biggest parties all semester. JCU sells toga kits, containing a sheet, a flower crown and a rope. Everyone gets dressed up in their yoga attire and heads to Uni Bar across the street. This night was extremely fun because this is when I was able to meet a lot of the Aussies in my dorm. Another event that was held just this past Saturday was Floor Games. My dorm, Uni Hall, put together multiple games for everyone to play while competing against other floors. To go more into detail, we also had a theme on each floor. For example, my floor’s theme was super heroes, the floor above me dressed up like animals, another floor dressed up as things that don’t exists (unicorns, fairies, etc.) Anyways, we played fun games such as tug of war, dodgeball and water balloon toss. This was a fun way to meet new people on our floor.

As for adventuring off campus and exploring, our friend group these past two weeks haven’t gotten around as much as we’ve wanted to.

These past two weeks everyone has settled down to focus on our studies and adjusting to a different university. We do have a few places on our to do list that we will hopefully be able to cross off in the next week or so. We did go to lagoon pools which is a public pool right on the river. It is only a few miles away from campus, but unfortunately a long bus ride around town!

These next few weeks will hopefully be a bit more adventurous for my friend group. We also are planning our lecture recess (spring break) soon! Keep ya updated!!



Exploring Dunedin


Kia ora!

Wow! Time has flown by so fast this past month. Here are just a few things I’ve done over the course of my first few weeks here:

Kayak Polo:

My “kiwi host” is heavily involved in Kayak polo. If you’ve never heard of it, I suggest looking up a video on YouTube as it’s quite the sport to watch. You are basically strapped into a single person kayak, given a paddle, and are to throw a ball around just as one would do in water polo. Because of my “kiwi host’s” enthusiasm towards the sport, he made all of us play a game one night. Though our team lost badly, we still had the best time trying to figure out how to balance on a single-person kayak and throw a ball at the same time.


Surfing at Aramoana:

Two of my flatmates, both from Spain, were both so excited to hear that I was from Hawai’i because they had recently gotten into surfing. To their disappointment, I wasn’t a very experienced surfer. However, this didn’t stop me from going out and surfing with them a couple times.  I have seriously regretted not going surfing more back at home. Especially since it’s so cold here that we have to wear thick wetsuits. My most favorite memory surfing has been spotting a penguin swimming just ten feet in front of me!

Surfing at Aramoana; this beach is situated on the western side of the entrance to Port Otago, South Island of New Zealand. The sand bottom beach break is known for its hollow and powerful waves produced from wedging peaks.
Surfing at Aramoana


Skiing in Cardrona with OUSSC:

During orientation week, I went to a club fair where I joined a couple of clubs on campus. One of them happened to be OUSSC (Otago Uni Snow Sports Club). It’s one of the most popular clubs on campus and sign-ups for ski/snowboard trips usually fill out in less than ten minutes. Luckily, my friends and I were able to make the sign-ups on the first trip. We weren’t able to ski the first day at Cardrona due to weather, but the next day we were able to ski a full day. Even as a beginner, I had the best time and am already planning on going skiing again this weekend.


Overall, this past month has been so incredibly fun! I’ve met so many great people, seen the hidden gems of Dunedin, and am now looking forward to exploring the rest of the South Island. Even with all of this, I am still able to attend tutorials and labs for classes. Reflecting back on this past month, I’m feeling so grateful to be here and can’t believe that a whole month has already passed.