Back to Campus

Kia ora!

I am back on campus at the University of Waikato after two months away from campus, staying in Thames with people who have become so important to me. I had no idea that the lockdown, something so uncertain, frustrating, and overwhelming would end with me forming some of the most wonderful relationships with my New Zealand whanau (family in Te Reo Māori–the Māori language). I am so lucky that I had such a wonderful place to stay and was able to build such special connections. In the last few weeks that I spent with them, we went on a drive around the Coromandel Peninsula, went fishing for snapper, and played lots of games! 

A view of the blue ocean with a blue sky and sparse white clouds behind. There is a green tree in the foreground.
I am already missing the beautiful views of the ocean in Thames!

The drive around the Coromandel Peninsula was absolutely beautiful! Exploring the area had been something that I wanted to do before I even arrived in Thames, and had actually been my original plans for the Easter weekend–before the lockdown. During the lockdown, we couldn’t go out for a drive, so we waited until we finally got to Level 2 to explore. It was a perfect day with great weather. We ate a tasty fish and chips meal and got to stop for all the beautiful views.

The Coromandel Peninsula is a popular vacation spot for Aucklanders, especially during the Christmas holiday, which is summer here. During that time, the roads are packed, but when we went, it was busier than it had been in a long time due to the lockdown, but was still relatively quiet. I am so happy that I got to have this adventure, even with all of the disruption that happened during this semester. 

A view of a green hill with the ocean behind it and the blue sky.
One of the first viewpoints that we stopped at. It was a clear day, so we could actually see the Auckland skyline in the distance.
A green hill with a tree and the blue sky behind it.
Another amazing view while driving around the Coromandel. New Zealand is such a beautiful country!

The day after we went on the drive around the peninsula, we got up early in the morning and went fishing for snapper. We left at 4:45 AM and drove out to the boat launch site with the brother of my wonderful host. He took us out on his boat into the Firth of Thames, which isn’t open ocean, so luckily I did not get seasick, which I was a little worried about, since I do get motion sick when riding in the car. We went out while it was still dark, so I had no idea which direction we were going. The ocean was kind of rough while we were driving out, so I got splashed and was already wet before we had even started catching any fish, despite wearing a waterproof jacket! I was a little worried I had made a bad choice to go along, because I was already cold and wet and we were still trying to find a good fishing spot! 

The ocean with a blue sky with clouds and golden sun
The sun coming up while we were out on the boat

It was then that we spotted a barge, which I expected to be like the cargo barges that I see on the Columbia River or taking goods across the ocean. Everyone was so excited to spot the barge and wanted to go fish next to it, which I did not understand, because the barges that I am used to would not make for a good fishing spot. As we got closer, though, I realized that this was not a cargo barge. This was a mussel barge, harvesting mussels from the farms that are all across the firth. They were pulling up long ropes covered in mussels, while machinery stripped the mussels, filled huge bags with them, and then dropped the ropes back into the sea. We dropped our fishing lines and within seconds, there were snappers on the hooks. The waste from the mussel barge attracts the snappers, making it the ideal fishing spot. We were the first boat out, so we had the best spot, right next to the barge. Within minutes, other boats started to show up, and there were about twenty five boats, all crowded together, trying to keep from hitting the barge and each other as the waves tossed us around and pulling up fish almost faster than we could manage. Fishing by the mussel barge lasted about twenty minutes before they finished the farm and sped off to go unload their harvest. In that time, we caught about twenty eight good sized fish. We moved into another area and reached our limit, thirty five fish, within the next fifteen minutes. I even caught a few and took them off the hook myself! In the US, I do not really fish much, I am usually the person who goes along but doesn’t fish, so this was a crazy experience for me. To fish for snapper in New Zealand, you do not have to have a fishing license, each person just cannot catch more than seven fish per day. I really enjoyed going fishing, and as soon as we started catching fish, I forgot that I was cold and wet, and by the end, the sun came out and I was warm. It was a really nice time!

A large boat harvesting mussels. There is a crane on the boat and the sea is rough.
The mussel barge. We got much closer to it to fish!
Fish in a cooler
Thirty five fresh snapper fish

Later that day, we made raw fish, which is sort of like ceviche. We cut the fish up and soaked the pieces in lemon juice and salt to cure. You could see a visible change in the fish as the color changed to a more opaque white hue, much like when it is cooked! We mixed it with cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, and bell pepper, and then tossed it all in coconut cream. It was delicious! We also had Māori style fry bread, eaten with butter and golden syrup, which was so tasty. I went back for seconds and thirds of that meal!

We took the remaining fish fillets and the rest of the raw fish to family and friends around town, so at the end, we had a meal of fish and then none left. This is the normal way of doing things here, if you are fortunate enough to get a large amount of a food, you share with your friends and family to make sure that they have enough to eat too. Everyone shares with each other, which means no one hoards and no one goes without. I thought this was a great way to care for others and very selfless. I asked, and was told that this is just the way they do things here, why wouldn’t you want to share with those that you love?

White fish in white sauce with sliced veggies
The delicious raw fish!
Golden colored bread on a white plate
Hot, fresh fry bread

Now that I am back on campus, I am focusing on finishing up the semester! My final for my Māori culture class is next week and then in the next three weeks, I have an essay and a test for my Anthropology class, and a rewritten essay for my Food Writing class. I cannot believe that this semester is already coming to an end, I feel like I just got here and the semester was so different from what I thought it would be. I have been spending so much time with my friends on campus and we have been catching up after not seeing each other for such a long time. This weekend, we are planning a night out for my birthday, since restaurants are open with social distancing guidelines. 

A green tree and an orange tree in front of white buildings and a clear blue sky.
It is getting into autumn here, so the trees on campus are turning colors. My internal clock expects spring, so this is a strange sight for me!

I am proud of myself for handling all of the disruptions and disappointment that happened this semester. A lot of positive things came from this time, like new relationships and personal growth. I wish that I could stay here longer because I could really settle in and get my plans back on track, but I am lucky to have had the time that I did! Here is to making the last month in New Zealand amazing! 

Stay healthy and safe!


A Move to Level 3

Kia ora!

A lot has happened since I last wrote. New Zealand has moved from Level 4 to Level 3. This does not change my situation much, as I am not yet allowed back to campus housing and everyone who can work and learn remotely is still being asked to do so. We can extend our bubbles by one person if necessary, and we can travel a bit more in our region if need be. In a few days, we should know if we are able to move to Level 2 and when that will be. At Level 2, I will be allowed to return to campus. I have a little less than two months left in New Zealand and I am determined to do as much as I can in the time that I have left. Since we can travel a bit more in our region, I got to go mushroom hunting and rock fishing! We went out to some paddocks owned by the family of my wonderful hosts and picked mushrooms. I don’t really enjoy eating mushrooms and I was worried I was picking the wrong mushrooms the whole time, since I don’t eat them. I was assured over and over that I was picking the right ones and that they were edible. It was such a cool experience, because I had never picked mushrooms before!

A paddock with green grass and a blue sky. A pine tree is in the background of the image.
The paddock where we went mushroom hunting.
A red bucket with white mushrooms in the bottom, held over green grass.
Picking mushrooms!

I also got to go fishing from the rocks at the beach, which is allowed in Level 3. We woke up  and drove about ten minutes to a nearby beach at 6:00 AM. I got to see the sunrise, which was beautiful. We were fishing for snapper, and we did not catch any because the season is coming to an end, but it was so wonderful to get out of the house and be in the fresh ocean air and see a beautiful sunrise. 

The ocean coming up to dark colored rocks with a sunrise in the sky behind them. The sky is pink and blue with a few clouds.
The sunrise over the ocean at Whakatete Bay, where we went fishing.
A fishing pole stands in the rocks with the ocean in the background. The sun is just starting to come up and the sky is deep purple and blue.
One of the surf fishing poles, just waiting for a bite when we first got to Whakatete Bay.
The sun is beginning to rise over the mountains. The mountains are dark and the sky is deep purple with some pinks.
The sun rising over the mountains. I couldn’t resist sharing one more beautiful picture!

One issue I have recently run into is that of prescription medication! I brought 90 day supplies of my prescription medicine with me into New Zealand, which is the most that you can legally bring with you. We had planned for my mom to send me refills of my prescriptions when I ran out, and her sending of the medicine kept getting pushed out due to my insurance in the US and the Level 4 stopping the delivery of packages here in New Zealand.

She went to mail my prescriptions today, and then we learned that sending prescription medicines via the mail is actually illegal! It completely makes sense that it is illegal, and so I have had to reach out to the Student Health Center at the University of Waikato to see if they can prescribe my medication to me here. Living without my medication will not necessarily threaten my life, and so I am really lucky that I don’t have more serious conditions. However, taking my medication does greatly improve my life and I need to figure out how to secure those prescriptions here. I hope that if anyone reading this story is planning to study abroad, you consider how you are going to get your prescription medicine while abroad, if you need any medications! I am going to get this figured out, so it will not end up being a big deal, but rather just something to learn from. 

Small red fruits in a plastic bag.
A new fruit I got to try! Everyone here calls these guavas, and they are not what I would think of as a guava, but I don’t know what else to call them! They are sour and sweet and so delicious!

Last week, I used feijoas, my favorite fruit here, to make a loaf (like banana bread) and a cake! I covered them with cream cheese frosting, and they were DELICIOUS!! I loved getting to make something and share it! I love cooking, and it always makes me feel better to make something in the kitchen!

A feijoa loaf, a baked good, with cream cheese frosting on top, still in the pan.
The feijoa loaf, covered in cream cheese frosting.

I also made my speciality – calzones. They are my family’s favorite thing for me to make and they always request it when I am home. I used my recipe from home, but altered the fillings a little with what we had available here. They turned out amazing and everyone loved them! Usually, in the US, I serve them with a pizza style tomato sauce on the side to dip into. When I said that here, my hosts went to the fridge and brought me back a bottle of ketchup, which they call tomato sauce here. I had to backtrack and say I needed something like pizza sauce, but unfortunately, everyone in New Zealand seems to be making pizza, because tomato products are one thing that the grocery stores are consistently out of. They ended up eating the calzones with barbecue sauce, because they put that on their pizzas here. They loved them, and that is all that matters to me! 

Three calzones, fresh out of the oven on a baking tray.
Calzones in New Zealand, fresh out of the oven!

I am hoping for good news in the next few days regarding a move to Level 2, since for the last two days, we have had ZERO new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. That is absolutely incredible and I am so thankful to be here and be so safe during this scary time. I hope that you are all healthy and safe. Keep washing your hands and practicing social distancing!

A pink rose blooming with greenery in the background.
The weather has been unseasonably warm, and the roses are still blooming!


A Birthday in Lockdown and Updates

Kia ora!

I am writing from day 27 in lockdown. Originally, the lockdown was scheduled to end on day 28, April 23rd, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern decided to extend the lockdown to 11:59 PM on Monday, April 27th. This weekend is an important holiday, Anzac Day. This holiday is celebrated on the 25th of April and it is a day of remembrance for New Zealanders and Australians who have served and died in wars and all of the commitment and contribution of those who served. The holiday is celebrated in a similar way to our Memorial Day in the United States. There are barbeque parties, gatherings, and celebrations. It makes a lot of sense that Jacinda Ardern decided to extend the lockdown through this holiday weekend to prevent people from gathering and ruining all of the progress that the lockdown has made! After the lockdown ends, we are moving to level 3 for at least two weeks. After the two weeks, the government will evaluate the situation and see if we can move to level 2 or if we need to stay at level 3. 

A bagel with avocado, cream cheese, and smoked salmon on a white plate on a white tablecloth
A delicious lunch of a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and fresh avocado! We have been getting avocados fresh from the tree, and after tasting them, an avocado from the grocery store will never be the same!

Level 3 is going to be really similar to level 4, at least for me. Some people can go back to work, like construction and forestry workers. However, the government is encouraging us all to work from home if we can, and stay in our “bubbles.” We can extend our bubbles a bit, but we have to be exclusive with those who we let into our bubbles! Meaning, we have to only extend to each other and then stick to that! We can get take out food, which we are all excited for! We can also travel in our regions, but are being urged to stay close to home and stay away from activities that could lead to emergency services being called. Schools are being opened for young children whose parents have to go back to work, but, if children can be kept at home, they should be. 

Yesterday, I celebrated my 21st birthday in lockdown! This was truly a birthday that I will never forget. We had homemade pizza for dinner, my favorite, and delicious pudding for dessert. I got to talk with my family in the United States, which was very nice! It is hard being so far away from family and friends who are familiar and comforting during this uncertain and overwhelming time, but I am really thankful for technology so that we can talk, especially because mail is not really being delivered during this time.

Overall, it was a nice birthday and I feel very thankful. I was supposed to be in Australia during my birthday, so I am definitely still dealing with some disappointment with the way that things have turned out, as we all are to some degree, but I am doing my best to just be thankful and positive. 

A slice of white pudding/cake with chocolate chips
The delicious pudding dessert for my birthday!

A few days ago, I got to try a delicious, classic Māori meal! The meal is called a boil up, and it consists mainly of a green that grows wild here, called puha. There are also bacon bones, delicious little dumplings, potatoes, and pumpkin, all in a delicious broth. It is not a soup though, and is eaten on a plate with a fork. I loved it!! I really enjoy trying new foods and I am glad that I have had that opportunity during the lockdown. 

I am hoping for good news from the University of Waikato that I will be able to return to campus during level 3 to see my friends again. I really want to be able to finish the semester and enjoy New Zealand as much as I possibly can. I hope that you are all staying healthy and safe and keep washing your hands!


Living in the Lockdown

Kia ora!

I am coming to you from day 20 of lockdown in New Zealand! Due to being in lockdown, I have not gotten to have any big adventures, but I have gotten to have a sort of “host family” experience here. Many of the study abroad programs that Linfield offers have a host family component, but New Zealand is one of the locations for study that does not have host families. Because there is no language component of study in New Zealand (but believe me that at times, I feel like New Zealand English is a foreign language), there is not an immersive language aspect of studying here. This has its pros and cons of course. I did not have to learn a language in order to study abroad here and living on campus in the dorms makes it easy to make friends and feel integrated on campus.

However, living on campus means that I miss out on the chance to have the immersive cultural experience of living with a Kiwi family and being a part of the home life. Well, thanks to Covid19, I have been able to have this experience! It is important to look at the positives during this time, and I am so thankful that I have been able to stay with such kind people! During this scary and overwhelming time, it feels so much better to be staying in a comfortable home.

A beautiful, full rainbow over the backyard and a grey sky.
A beautiful rainbow; a positive sign during a difficult time!

I have gotten to learn new card games and try new foods. We watch movies, make desserts, and work on projects together. I am getting a host family experience, staying with a kiwi family and learning about New Zealand in ways that can only happen living in a home.

I learned that I have eating habits that are distinctly American, like eating cake with a fork instead of a spoon and holding my fork in my dominant hand, which is backwards from how they use their fork here! I also learned to make a pudding, which is actually a steamed cake, not at all like American pudding that we make from a box and then chill. I love to cook, so it was a lot of fun to make a new recipe, and it was DELICIOUS! 

A pudding (cake) sitting on the counter.
The delicious pudding that I got to help make!

I am still getting used to online school, but all of my professors are doing their best to make learning online as easy and interactive as possible. The Prime Minister has said that she will make a decision on April 20 about the future of New Zealand after the lockdown. The lockdown will either continue or move to a Level 3, which still has restrictions, but we will be able to move more freely through the country. I still have hope that I will be able to finish the semester here in New Zealand and perhaps do a bit of traveling and sightseeing around the country!

The people of New Zealand have been so cooperative with the lockdown. During the Easter weekend, there were police checkpoints around the country to look out for people potentially breaking the lockdown and trying to travel for the long weekend. There were a few people who tried to break the rules and the police did have to give some charges and fines, but it seemed that people behaved themselves for the most part. It is incredible how much the number of cases has gone down in New Zealand and how the lockdown is working. I am so thankful to be here during this time and have the Prime Minister working to protect the country and help New Zealand heal and overcome. 

Green fruit on a plate in the sunshine on a white tablecloth.
It is easy to stay positive when eating delicious fresh feijoas!

I hope that all of you are safe and healthy! Please stay in and protect those around you. Thank you for reading!


Entering Lockdown

Kia ora!


I wish that I had a story of a big adventure, travel around New Zealand, or a fun day out with friends, but unfortunately, I am writing to you from a country wide lockdown. We are currently 6 days into a four-week-long lockdown. The whole lockdown happened pretty quickly. Two weeks ago, we found out that we would have a week off from school while the university transitioned to online classes to avoid the spread of Covid19.

Then, out of nowhere, international students started to leave. The lockdown was announced, domestic students from New Zealand were all asked to move out of the dorms, and within just a few days of the lockdown being announced, it had begun. The entire country has closed, domestic flights and many international flights have been cancelled, and we are all stuck at home for the foreseeable future. Only grocery stores and pharmacies remain open. Only essential workers like health care workers and grocery store employees can go out. Law enforcement officers are out during all hours, patrolling, stopping people walking and driving, questioning them, following them to make sure they were being truthful about their destination, and giving out fines and even criminal charges to people that are out without a reason.

I am staying with one of my mom’s friends, who lives in Thames, a town about an hour and a half from Hamilton. I know that I am right by the ocean, but I cannot even go out to see it! It is really nice to be staying in a house, but I had to pack up all of my belongings and move out of my dorm room, which was very sad. I am being cared for and I know that I am much safer and better off here, rather than being shuffled around at the university as they try to adjust to the situation or trying to return to the United States and getting stuck in an airport somewhere without a flight. 

A view of a cloudy sky with the sun shining through and the mountains in the distance.
The view of the mountains from the home I am staying at!

People seem to be taking the lockdown very seriously here, which makes me hopeful that the lockdown may end within four weeks and life might return to some sort of normalcy. However, I know that a true return to “normal” will not happen for many months. This is so overwhelming and it is hard to deal with the uncertainty that comes with a global pandemic.

A view of a cloudy sky above the green meadows which are used to feed dairy cattle.
The meadows on the way to Thames seemed to stretch forever. These meadows are used to feed dairy cattle.

I find that I am experiencing a wide range of emotions, which change throughout the day. I will wake up in the morning feeling one way, and by the time I have breakfast, my emotions have completely changed. This is truly exhausting and overwhelming, but I know that I am not the only person feeling this way, and I need to make sure that I keep feeling and processing through this experience.

I am experiencing disappointment, which is natural and makes a lot of sense. I had such high hopes and big dreams for my semester abroad in New Zealand and I feel crushed by how many trips I had to cancel and opportunities I won’t have the chance to take. I am also scared. I do not know what the future holds, how or when I will get back to the United States, and how long New Zealand will be in lock down.  Everything seems to be so uncertain, even how long we will be in lock down.  It is overwhelming, and no matter where you are in the world, I am sure you can relate to this feeling.  

A collection of beautiful blue ceramic pots on a deck
The beautiful outside deck of the house that I am staying at. I am trying to appreciate and soak up as much beauty as I can.

In a bit of good news, I got to try a delicious new fruit yesterday. It is called a feijoa and it is a well loved treat here in New Zealand. They are originally Brazillian but grow really well here in New Zealand. The outside looks a bit like a small avocado, and you cut it in half and scoop out the delicious fruit with a spoon. It is absolutely delicious! The flavor is sweet and sour, a bit like a pineapple, a guava, and a little bit of strawberry and kiwi. It is unlike anything I have ever tasted before! It was so tasty!! I am glad I got to at least try some new fruit, despite being in lockdown. At this point, it is so important to be thankful for the little things in life. 

A small green oblong shaped fruit being held by a hand over a bag of more fruit
A delicious feijoa!
A cut feijoa. The flesh of the fruit is light green.
The inside of a feijoa

Please take this global pandemic seriously. Wash your hands, do not go out unless you absolutely must, and please check in on the people around you, especially if you can do it virtually. We all need to do our part to flatten the curve and save lives and help the world move forward. 

Thank you for reading, I hope you are staying healthy!


New Classes and Waitomo Glow Worm Caves

Kia ora!

Classes are underway and I am exploring New Zealand more and more! I am really enjoying all of my classes so far. I am taking an Anthropology of the Polynesians course, an Introduction to Māori Culture course, and a Food Writing course. Here, classes are called papers, and what we might call a paper in the US is an essay assignment here. I have had to figure out when to schedule tutorials for all of my classes, because there are two lectures for each class every week, and then a one hour long tutorial, which is where discussion happens, questions are asked, and assignments are addressed. All of my classes are much bigger than I am used to at Linfield, my Introduction to Māori Culture class has 113 students in it! In tutorial, there are only about 10-20 students, so this is where students have the chance to talk and ask questions.

There are several options for tutorials each week but they filled up fast! I had to figure out how to schedule the tutorials around my classes and other tutorials. At Linfield, I am used to classes being at the same time every day, such as a 9:00 AM-10:40 AM on Tuesday and Thursday, however, here, one of my Maori Culture lectures is from 9:00-11:00 AM on Tuesday, and the other is from 2:00-3:00 PM on Thursday, in completely different buildings! I am really thankful I am not trying to organize my classes around a work schedule here, because it feels almost impossible! 

Two girls smile for the camera
My pod mate and friend, Anusha, and me!

I have also been working on obtaining my Kiwi Access Card. This is an ID card that proves your birthdate and your residence in New Zealand, either as a foreigner or a New Zealand citizen. I visited one of the local shops that carried the application, brought my visa, proof of enrollment, passport, and a passport photo, filled out the application, and the shop verified my application and sent it off for me. The card is $55.00 NZ dollars, and essentially eliminates the need for me to carry my passport to prove my identification and age.

I think this is a wonderful alternative to carrying my passport, and keeps that priceless document safe, while still allowing me to prove my identity in whatever situation asks that I do. My card should arrive within two weeks, and I would recommend that all students studying in New Zealand work on obtaining the Kiwi Access card as soon as you can! 

A group of students sitting at a group of tables
My pod mates and I at a popular nightclub in Hamilton. We all live in the same section of the residence hall and share a bathroom and kitchen.

I also visited a club fair on campus, where I had hoped to find some clubs to sign up for. I did not have much luck signing up for clubs, and I am still looking for some groups to join, however, I was able to sign up for a group focused on being environmentally friendly, and they are running sessions with eco-friendly DIYs, and educational information each week. This week, we made beeswax wraps! It was a ton of fun, and I brought home my own beeswax wrap, as well as the knowledge to make them again.

Beeswax blocks and grated beeswax in a bowl
Beeswax blocks and grated beeswax for making beeswax wraps

Last weekend, I went to visit Waitomo Glow Worm Caves with the International Office, which was amazing! We toured the Waitomo Caves and learned about the processes which formed the limestone caves. Then, we took a boat through the dark, and gazed up at the millions of tiny blue glow worms. It was absolutely magical to see all of the glow worms, they looked like beautiful little stars. They were on the walls and ceilings of the cave, and it was like constellations in the night sky. We all had to remain very quiet and we could not take photos because the noise and light could disrupt the glow worms and they might stop lighting up if they are disturbed. With only the sound of the water lapping at the boat in the dark, the whole experience was unlike anything else. I had such a wonderful time there! 

Milky blue water at the entrance of a cave
The exit of the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. This was actually the entrance that the Māori chief and European explorer who found the cave used.
Emmaline standing outside of the cave entrance
After getting off the boat ride inside the cave!

Then, we visited an area in the Waitomo region where we went on short hikes, and then enjoyed lunch. Afterwards, we went to Marokopa Falls, a beautiful waterfall in the Waitomo region. We hiked down to the waterfall and looked up at the spray coming down from the falls and dipped our feet in the cold water! Then, we visited a natural limestone bridge, which was very interesting and a unique natural phenomenon! I really enjoyed the trip and I am looking forward to more adventures with the International Office!

A waterfall with greenery on the sides and a blue sky above
Marokopa Falls

I am doing my best to soak up as much as I possibly can while I am here in beautiful New Zealand. I have been having such a wonderful time here and I love the University of Waikato, Hamilton, and New Zealand! I am monitoring the Coronavirus situation, and really hoping that nothing escalates here so that the University stays open and continues in-person classes.

New Zealand has closed their borders, which means that both others and I have had to adjust travel plans. A festival for Pacific culture that I wanted to visit was cancelled in order to try to eliminate large gatherings, so I hope that this does not continue for the rest of the time that I am here! I will just continue to participate in as many events as I possibly can! 

A group of students at a table
Out to dinner with my hall mates and friends!

Thank you for reading! I can’t wait to share more of my adventures!


Welcome to New Zealand and O Week!

Kia ora!

My name is Emmaline and I am a junior at Linfield. I am studying Anthropology, with a minor in Literature. I am spending the semester studying abroad at University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. Hamilton is about an hour and forty five minutes south of Auckland and is full of life! I have been in Hamilton for a little over a week now. I left my home in Oregon, full of anxiety and worry about my upcoming journey. I even considered changing my ticket last minute, after I realized that I would be arriving in New Zealand a day later than all of the new students. However, I ended up choosing to stick with my original ticket because I had too much to do before leaving to leave a whole day earlier. I flew from Portland to Vancouver, BC, and then to Auckland, a fifteen hour flight, where I lost a whole day! As soon as I landed in Auckland and got off the plane, the outfit I had left home in, a sweatshirt and warm clothes, had become severely impractical. It was already humid at 5:30 in the morning and much hotter than Oregon. I waited for hours in passport control lines, because due to the Coronavirus outbreak, people coming from anywhere but Australia had to meet with an agent face to face. Afterwards, I was able to catch my shuttle to the university.

When I arrived at the university, I was able to check into my housing and get changed into some more weather appropriate clothes. I went from below freezing to 84 degree weather! Immediately upon arriving, I had to confirm my enrollment at the university with my passport, student visa, and insurance paperwork. The insurance that I had brought from Linfield did not satisfy the New Zealand requirements, so I had to purchase new insurance through the university here. When you’re fresh off of a fifteen hour flight, a LONG way from home, in hot weather, and alone, this can feel really overwhelming. However, I am glad that I budgeted for unforeseen costs like this one, and I would suggest to any student studying abroad that they too prepare for these sorts of costs. The insurance was $310.00 NZ dollars, which is about $192.00 US dollars. I would absolutely recommend preparing for unplanned fees like this one. 

White buildings of the Student Village in front of a blue sky
One of the blocks, or buildings, at Student Village, where I live!

On the day that I arrived, I also attended an outdoor games competition with my hall. We competed in a variety of games, from capture the flag, to water polo, to a slip n slide, to an egg and spoon race. In the end, my hall won the overall prize! The games were a lot of fun and a good way to get to know some of the faces in my hall. 

Students wearing black t shirts standing in a group pretending to wave magic wands.
All of the students from my block with our RA!

The entire first week that I was here was O Week, or Orientation Week. There were informational sessions, tabling about campus resources, free lunches, giveaways, and every night there was a different party at local clubs. The university provided transportation and water and sandwiches to the students attending the clubs, because so many students go out! I went out with some people from my hall and had a ton of fun!

I also attended international student orientation, which was very helpful. At Linfield, I am a work-study student at the International Programs Office, so it was interesting to be on the receiving end of the information that I usually prepare for international students! 

A view of a building across the lake with a blue sky
A view of one of the beautiful lakes on campus

I also went to Hamilton Lake with my hall mates and walked around the lake and visited an ice cream shop that is supposedly the best in Hamilton! They had a huge assortment of dairy free ice cream, so I was really happy! I took the bus for the first time with them, and then a few days later, I took the bus by myself to the Town Centre to get some new clothes. I don’t have phone service yet, so I took photos of the bus routes that I needed to take and then my route to walk to the mall. I also bought a bus card so that I can get the student discount of $1.70 per ride. I made it to the mall, bought some new clothes, and then made it back to campus without any major issues! I felt really proud of myself for figuring out how to ride the bus from campus to the Town Centre! 

A view of Hamilton Lake, with a blue sky, a palm tree, and buildings in the distance
Hamilton Lake
Students pose in front of an old train
Posing with my hall mates in front of the old train at Hamilton Lake

I have been walking around campus to familiarize myself with the layout and where all of my classes are. There are beautiful lakes and plants all over campus! I have really enjoyed walking around to de-stress and enjoy the nice weather. My classes start this week, and I am really excited! My classes look really interesting and I am so thankful that I got into all of the courses that I wanted to take. 

A tree lined curving path
One of the beautiful paths on campus that I discovered while walking around

More to come soon about classes and adventures! Thank you for reading!


Adios Madrid and Final Takeaways

Hola from Madrid, Spain!

Unfortunately, our journey is coming to a close. We took a plane from Casablanca, Morocco to Madrid, Spain on Saturday. We were able to relax a bit, went to dinner, and received the prompt for our last assignment of the class! We even got to go out on Saturday night, which was really fun! Sunday morning, we had a great tour of the city, where we visited the old royal castle and gardens, several parks, and other notable Madrid landmarks, like Puerta del Sol, a popular plaza.

A beautiful view of the castle and cathedral in Madrid
A beautiful view of the castle and cathedral in Madrid

We walked by the cathedral as the bells were ringing, which was an amazing experience and so unlike anything I’ve heard before. The sounds I’ve experienced on this course are so different from the US, from the call to prayer, to the ring of giant, hundreds of years old cathedral bells. I feel really lucky to have gotten to be in Spain and Morocco and get a feel, firsthand, for what it is like to be and have been in these spaces, throughout history. 

The Madrid Cathedral
The Madrid Cathedral

I was able to visit a notable local pastry shop and a market after the tour for lunch. I enjoyed my last jamon y queso bocadillo (sandwich) and a famous Madrid pastry, Napolitana Chocolate, which is basically just flaky bread filled with chocolate, but so much better, because I’m in Spain! I enjoyed just wandering around Madrid, and I loved visiting the market and bakery! 

Jamon y queso bocadillo from the market
Jamon y queso bocadillo from the market

After lunch, I went to visit el Museo del Prado, or the Prado Musuem. I showed my Linfield student ID card, hoping for a small discount off of the 15 euro price, and I ended up getting in completely for free, which was a great surprise! The museum was HUGE, so I had to pick and choose what I saw, because there’s no way I could see it all, even with a whole day at the museum! I visited some of the 17th century Spanish paintings, and I was able to see some of El Greco’s work. These pieces were meaningful because we visited Toledo when we first arrived in Spain, and saw some of his other works, as he lived in Toledo at the end of his life. I love that the museum allows you to get very close to the art, because it is so interesting to see the brush strokes up close, and then step back and see the full effect! I also visited one of the sculpture galleries and a special collection of royal dishes and vessels carved from precious metals and stones. I’m so glad I happened to be at the museum while that collection was on display, because it was astounding! A lot of parts from the dishes have gone missing over the years, most of which disappeared during the French takeover of Spain, but I can only imagine how amazing these pieces were when first created. 

Goodbye Museo del Prado!
Goodbye Museo del Prado!

As this adventure of a course comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on what a wonderful experience it was. My anxiety was incredibly high before leaving, as I worried I would forget something, show up  for my flight at the wrong time, or for some reason, not be able to make it through the high pressure of the month. However, at the end, I realize that a lot of this anxiety was unnecessary, and the growth that I experienced from being uncomfortable was priceless. It is uncomfortable to be unfamiliar, but that is the way that we learn and grow as people. 

A popular plaza in Madrid, legend has it that birds used to fly into the mouth of this horse statue and live in the stomach, so they had to weld the mouth closed
A popular plaza in Madrid, legend has it that birds used to fly into the mouth of this horse statue and live in the stomach, so they had to weld the mouth closed

I am also very thankful for the opportunity to interact with so many local Spaniards and Moroccans. Through CIEE, we were able to have several meetings with students, as well as lectures from local professors. These experiences were so valuable, and gave me a chance to see the countries through the eyes of someone living their everyday life in them. I am so thankful for these people who answered every question, helped us to think critically, and were brutally honest about their home. 

The beautiful gardens at the old Madrid palace
The beautiful gardens at the old Madrid palace

Overall, the biggest lesson that I will take from my experience in Spain and Morocco is patience. This means a lot of things, from slowing down to enjoy a meal with friends, to taking extra time and energy to help someone who is struggling with a foreign language. I notice that in the United States, we seem to be very sped up, and our entire lives revolve around getting things done quickly. We utilize anything that advertises as “quick” or “fast” from fast food to quick car service. I noticed that when life seemed to slow down, there was time to talk with other people and learn about their lives, there was time to enjoy food, there was time to appreciate sights and sounds. In addition to patience for a “slowed down life”, the patience that others had for us, as Americans, was so meaningful. In Spain, I made an effort to use Spanish, but I am clearly not a native speaker. Despite this, each person that I tried to speak to was kind, patient, and willing to repeat themselves or define a word in English if I wasn’t sure of what it meant in Spanish. They were also so willing to use English if it made us more comfortable, and to see someone put a stranger’s comfort over their own was impactful. In Morocco, I knew only a few words of Arabic, and I tried to use them. I made an effort to say “hello” and “thank you” in Arabic, and every time I did, I was met with smiles, and sometimes even a little pronunciation help. In my homestay, my host mother only spoke French and Arabic—I speak neither of these languages—but she was patient and kind while I struggled with basic Arabic and used Google Translate to try to talk to her. At no point did she make me feel bad or belittle me for trying. This patience made me feel more comfortable and at home, despite being so out of my element. The kindness and patience that I was shown by my host family will forever stay with me. I hope that I can incorporate more of the patience that I experienced in Spain and Morocco into my life. 

Beautiful colored buildings in Madrid
Beautiful colored buildings in Madrid

I am so lucky to have gotten to study abroad in Spain and Morocco for the past month. I had such an amazing learning experience, studying the history of civilizations and power in these two countries. This knowledge that I’ve acquired will forever change how I view European history, and just adds to the wonderful education that I am receiving at Linfield. Thank you so much to the International Programs Office for making this possible and for allowing me to share my experience through this blog! 

Every tower is unique!
Every tower is unique!

Thanks for following along with my journey!

Diving into Moroccan Identity and City Space

Salam from Meknès, Morocco! 

The last few days have been absolutely packed! We traveled from Chefchaouen to Meknès, which took about four hours. On the way we stopped in Moulay Idriss, a holy Muslim city, and Volubilis, a Roman city site. We took a day trip to Fes, and then spent a day in Meknès. These city spaces have been able to communicate a deeper understanding of what is at the core of Moroccan identity. The city space has a purpose and a specific function. For Islam, the city is the center, it is the most important space. These four cities shared that idea in a deeper way than the previous cities, and allowed me to see deeper into the core of Moroccan identity. Moroccan identity is fluid, complex, and ever-changing, and it is not possible for me to describe an identity of a group of people that I am not of, however, these city spaces reflect that complexity and interconnectedness of the Moroccan identity. 

I can’t help but think about cats when I think of Morocco!
I can’t help but think about cats when I think of Morocco!

Moulay Idriss is a holy city for Muslim people, and many make pilgrimages there every year. We are incredibly lucky, because it only became available for non-Muslims to visit a few years ago. The city was founded by a man named Moulay Idriss, who came to the area to escape being certain death. He was a member of the Umayyad dynasty, just like Abd al-Rahman—remember, the man who escaped Syria to Córdoba, Spain, and then began the building of the great mosque! Moulay Idriss wanted to establish his legitimacy as a religious ruler, and so he built his own city near the Roman site of Volubilis, overlooking the ancient site. He wanted to build an even bigger city, but it ended up being his son, Moulay Idriss II, who completed this ambitious project with the construction of Fes. 

The holy Muslim city of Moulay Idriss, Morocco
The holy Muslim city of Moulay Idriss, Morocco

After visiting Moulay Idriss, we drove about 15 minutes to Volubilis, an ancient Roman city. Volubilis is an active archaeological site, with roots dating back to the Phoenicians. Volubilis was damaged in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, but archaeologists have been working to restore the site for educational purposes. Sketches were made of the structure of Volubilis prior to the earthquake, so archaeologists are able to work from those to restore parts of the city. The site is expansive, and features several extremely large houses that reveal the wealth and status of some of the Roman families that lived in Volubilis. The site was chosen by the Romans for the fertile land, as they needed to produce more olive oil and wheat to sustain their large empire. After the Roman Empire collapsed, some Romans stayed at the site, and it also began to be inhabited by indigenous Amazigh people. Eventually, Moulay Idriss arrived to the area, bringing Islam with him. He founded the new city of Moulay Idriss, overlooking the old city of Volubilis. 

Arches at the Roman site of Volubilis
Arches at the Roman site of Volubilis

We also took a day trip to Fes, the cultural and spiritual capital of Morocco. Moulay Idriss wanted to build a bigger city, but he was poisoned and died before he could, as he was a member of the Umayyad dynasty that escaped Damascus. Those who had killed the rest of his family finally caught up with him in Morocco. His son, Moulay Idriss II, ended up building the city of Fes, as his father had dreamed of. The Almohad dynasty of Morocco moved the capital to Fes much later in history, and much effort was made to further the city at this time. The city features many Quaranic schools, mosques, and intellectual establishments. The city also features the oldest university in the Muslim world, Al-Quarrayywine University, founded by a pious woman. We had a great lecture from a local professor, who shared the history of Morocco and the Amazigh people with us, as well as discussing current Arab-Amazigh relationships.

The expansive Fès Médina
The expansive Fès Médina

We visited a ceramic workshop, where they produced all kinds of beautiful ceramic vessels, as well as mosaics. It was fascinating to watch, as all of the workers had a speciality in the process, and everyone was instrumental to creating the artwork.

Beautiful ceramics in Fes, Morocco
Beautiful ceramics in Fes, Morocco

We also got to visit a leather tannery! Fes is famous for its leather, and rightly so. The tannery smelled so bad from all of the vats filled with limestone and pigeon droppings (for the ammonia). The tannery workers gave us mint leaves to put under our noses so we didn’t have to smell the leather making process! It was really interesting to see, and I had no idea that making leather smelled so awful.

A sprig of mint given to me to mask the smell of the tannery in Fes, Morocco
A sprig of mint given to me to mask the smell of the tannery in Fes, Morocco

Fes was considered a sister city to Córdoba during the height of Islamic rule in the Iberian Peninsula, and many scholars traveled between the two cities. I am glad we got to visit both of these important historic cities and trace the Islamic influence between them. 

Beautiful metalwork at the Fes royal palace
Beautiful metalwork at the Fes royal palace

We also got to spend a day exploring Meknès! We visited the royal granary, built by King Moulay Ismail. He was a bit paranoid about a siege against the city happening, so he built notoriously thick and solid walls on all of his structures. The royal granary was filled with grain taxed from the subjects of the kingdom. The royal granary was connected to the royal stables. Legend says Moulay Ismail spent many years of his rule on horseback, moving from place to place, as he felt unsafe and a target. After the royal granary, we visited a few local workshops, one for traditional Amazigh textiles and one for silver and other metal work. We got a chance to walk around the médina souk, or market, which has a more open design than other Moroccan médinas, making it unique. The médina was very busy, and full of people and animals! There was a man with snakes, who I stayed far away from, and another woman with an ostrich and monkeys. 

Moulay Ismail’s royal granary in Meknès, Morocco
Moulay Ismail’s royal granary in Meknès, Morocco

Visiting these cities helped me to get a better look at Moroccan identity, and how the city space plays such an important role in Moroccan culture. I am so thankful for the opportunity to experience so many different cities in Morocco! Tomorrow, we will be traveling to Rabat, Morocco, where we will be moving in with our host families! 

Walls restored at the archaeological site of Volubilis
Walls restored at the archaeological site of Volubilis

Shukraan (thank you) for following along with my journey through Morocco! 


Welcome to Morocco!

Salam from Chefchaouen, Morocco!

We left Spain a few days ago and headed to Morocco via a ferry! It took about an hour, and it was a beautiful and easy ride. There are only about 9 miles between the two countries across the Strait of Gibraltar, so standing on the shore of one country, you can see the other.

Riding the ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco
Riding the ferry from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco

We arrived in Tangier and took a bus to Tétouan, where we stayed for a few days. We visited the both the Tétouan and the Tangier médinas while here. Visiting the médina of each of these cities helped us to better understand the connections between Andalusian Spain and Morocco.  The city space is an incredibly important place in Islam, as life happens in the city: learning, trading, sharing, growing. 

The Rif Mountains, viewed from near our hotel, in Tétouan, Morocco
The Rif Mountains, viewed from near our hotel, in Tétouan, Morocco

In Tétouan, we visited our first Moroccan médina! Tour guides must be sanctioned by the government of Morocco, and we also had to have an undercover police officer follow our tour group. This was an interesting experience to have, as it was a huge difference from the United States. The médina was very crowded and there were people selling everything from fruits and vegetables, to live chickens and goats, to beauty products and clothing. There were also lots of cats everywhere, as Islamic law prevents animals from being spayed or neutered. The cats just hang out and enjoy scraps of food in the médina, so it’s a pretty good place to be a cat. The médina has small, winding streets, and the Tétouan médina features a “code” of sorts on the ground. If there are three rows of bricks in the center, the road will lead to a gate. Nevertheless, this was one of the most confusing médinas to navigate so I stuck close to the guide. 

Our tour guide instructed us to photograph “Tétouan medina’s most beautiful mosque”
Our tour guide instructed us to photograph “Tétouan medina’s most beautiful mosque”

When the Catholic monarchs took Granada in 1492, they changed the religious and cultural climate of the Iberian peninsula even further. In the years that followed, Muslims and Jewish people were expelled from Spain, or forced to convert. Most of them came to Morocco, and settled in cities like Tétouan, meaning their mark is left on the médina. There are some traditional Andalusian homes in the médina of Tétouan, which show the heritage of the people who came to the city.

Tétouan at night, viewed from my hotel balcony
Tétouan at night, viewed from my hotel balcony

We also visited the Tangier médina, which was a much different experience! It was much less crowded than the Tétouan médina, and if it had a “code” or map on the ground, it was not easily understood! Tangier is an international city, so it is much different from other Moroccan cities. The Tangier médina features influence from many cultures, not just Islamic and Andalusian that is more typical of Morocco. One great example of this is American presence in Tangier. We visited the American Legation building, which has stood in the Tangier médina for many years. This building is now a museum, filled with art from artists all over the world who found themselves in Tangier at some point in time. I enjoyed the art in the museum, and we were back on American soil for an hour! 

The American Legation building in the Tangier médina, Morocco
The American Legation building in the Tangier médina, Morocco
A view inside the Tangier médina
A view inside the Tangier médina

After leaving Tangier, we made two stops: one at the Northwesternmost point of Africa, and one at the Hercules Caves. These were interesting and fun sites to see, especially since we were so close! Legend has it that Hercules himself made the cutout of Africa in the cave wall, you decide if it was him or the waves! Either way, the cutout does have a strong resemblance to the continent!

The northwesternmost point of Africa, outside Tangier, Morocco
The northwestern-most point of Africa, outside Tangier, Morocco
A natural cutout in the rocks at the Hercules Caves, near Tangier, Morocco
A natural cutout in the rocks at the Hercules Caves, near Tangier, Morocco

Now that we are in Chefchaouen, the city space is very different. We traveled about 2 hours into the Rif Mountains to reach the city. Chefchaouen means “look at the two mountain peaks,” which are absolutely striking on the skyline.

A view of how Chefchaouen got its name, which means “look at the two mountains”
A view of how Chefchaouen got its name, which means “look at the two mountains”

The médina of Chefchaouen has been painted completely blue, which is beautiful and recognizable, but also communicates the city space’s history. Many Jewish people lived in Chefchaouen, many of them who were in the city prior to the expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula. Jewish people used to paint a thin blue line around their windows to protect against evil spirits. However, in 1994, Chefchaouen realized that tourists liked the blue so much, that they decided to paint the entire city blue. So, as beautiful as the blue is, it’s not entirely historically accurate, and is a bit of a tourist draw. Nevertheless, I found it beautiful!

A classically blue street in Chefchaouen, Morocco
A classically blue street in Chefchaouen, Morocco

The city space of Chefchaouen represents a growing tourist industry in Morocco, as well as an important history of coexistence. The médina has the same winding plan as others, and Chefchaouen features a beautiful kasbah, or royal fortress, like other médinas. Despite the position in the mountains, the Islamic city design did not miss Chefchaouen. 

Striking blue in Chefchaouen, Morocco
Striking blue in Chefchaouen, Morocco

I have enjoyed visiting these first three Moroccan cities on this journey! Morocco is a beautiful place that is so unlike anywhere I have ever been before. The mountains are stunning, the cities are full of learning opportunities, and I am trying to take it all in. I feel really thankful that I am able to experience this incredible country! 

A view of Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque
A view of Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque

Shukraan (thank you) for following along on my adventure!