Mid-Semester Break (Part 1): Copland Hot Springs

Hello!

I have finally adjusted to life here at Otago and have been enjoying every moment of it! The last couple of weeks before mid-semester break was the most stressed I’ve been here because of mid-terms. However, it still did not compare to the stress I feel at Linfield. This was mostly because my mid-terms here were spread out and the beaches here are just a short 10-minute drive from campus which makes for the perfect study break.

Luckily, the mid-semester break occurred right after my mid-terms. Most people took advantage of this break and went on trips to Australia or some of the other Pacific islands such as Fiji or Tonga. Instead of doing this, I decided to do a trip with the tramping club. Tramping is a term they use here in New Zealand to describe backpacking. This mid-semester break, the tramping club planned a five-day trip to the Copland Hot Springs. The trip included transportation, breakfast for all mornings, dinner for most nights, and accommodation at two hostels. All of this only cost about NZ$180. In total, there were about fifty of us. I would highly suggest going on a trip with the tramping club here since it is a mix of both kiwis and international students and you definitely get your money’s worth.

Because the Copland Hot Springs is located on the west coast of the South Island, the drive there made us cross over Haast Pass, one of the most beautiful areas in New Zealand. While driving over the Pass, we stopped at the Blue Pools where some of the braver people jumped in the water and various scenic points.

Blue Pools Walk
Blue Pools Walk

The first night we camped at Lake Paringa where we were separated into groups for group dinners. My team leader, Kevin, made us Pasta Carbonara. Though we tried not to be biased, everyone in my group believed that we had the best dinner out of everyone at the campsite and from then on, we referred to our group as “Team Carbonara”. The morning after, we awoke under the fly nets to dew on the grass and a wonderful view of the lake. I think one of my most favorite things about camping has been arriving at the campsite when it’s too dark to see anything and then waking up to the morning light and seeing just how beautiful it is.

Camping at Lake Paringa
Camping at Lake Paringa

From Lake Paringa, we then set off to the start of the Copland Track. The Copland Track is about 11 miles one way. This was my first tramping experience and within the first five minutes, my shoulders were already sore from my backpack. We started the track singing to popular tunes until we realized that we were all out breath by the end of “Bohemian Rapsody”. Despite the pain and the 5 hours of walking, the views we saw were worth all of it. What’s more, at the end of the hike we were greeted by the steaming hot pools and a sunset over the mountains.

A few miles into the track!!
A few miles into the track!!
Copland Hot Springs

After the hot springs, we were lucky to stay in a hostel near Mahinapua Beach and lake!!

Mahinapua Beach
Mahinapua Beach

The tramping trip also included a stop at Franz Josef Glacier and Arthur’s Pass :))

Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier
Arthur's Pass
Arthur’s Pass

The first part of my mid-semester break was simply breathtaking (literally) and the people on my trip made it worthwhile 🙂

Best,

Mehana 🙂

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.

Best,

Mehana

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.

 

Best,

Mehana

Arriving in Dunedin

Kia ora!

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.

St Clair Beach; only minutes from the city centre, this sweeping surf beach is a place to walk, swim, surf or dine out.
St Clair Beach
Top of Signal Hill; compact green space offering panoramic vistas, BBQ & picnic areas & walking paths.
Top of Signal Hill

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!

Best,

Mehana