Photos: Megan Stein
An update on life in New Zealand. Hmm…that’s a tough one. How exactly do you put in words how beautiful, clean and unique a city is without ever visiting it yourself? I’ll tell you, it’s impossible. Wellington, New Zealand, is one of the most incredible places in the entire world. I love to wake up in my ninth floor flat and have the first thing I see be a spectacular view of mountains, ocean and city life. It’s also a plus to be able to walk out the door and not have to maneuver through five feet of snow.
Studying abroad has been one of the most unique experiences yet. True, it is kind of costing me an arm and a leg, but it has been totally worth it. There is not one thing that I have regretted spending money on. If you are a Drake student, and I am assuming most of you are, studying abroad should be a must. Not every school supports students studying abroad like Drake does, and that in itself is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. Just this semester there were eight students from Drake in my orientation group, which says something about our school’s enthusiasm for student travel.
So far I have gotten to do everything from a weekend trip to Fiji to canyoneering down a waterfall in Auckland, New Zealand, and I have only been here a month! The most challenging experience has definitely been canyoneering. For those of you who know me, I am not exactly the most athletically coordinated person, so hiking around huge rocks, repelling, or abseiling as it is called here, down rock faces and crawling through tiny spaces was not a normal after-school activity that I would choose. However, we got to see gorgeous views and get a good workout, so it was worth it in the end. Morgan Nielsen, another Drake student and my good friend, loved the adventure of canyoneering and looks forward to skydiving and bungee jumping at some point during our trip.
Fiji was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The island where we stayed at the Botaira Resort was three hours away from the mainland, Nadi, and basically, we were isolated except for each other and the natives on the island. The natives were by far the coolest people I have ever met. They were friendly and welcoming, which is completely different than anything found in the U.S. One day we got to visit the village where the natives lived, which was my favorite part of the trip. The children were so cute! The women were all lined up in the marketplace to sell us necklaces, bracelets, sarongs and many other things for cheap. Throughout the week we also got to snorkel whenever we wanted since we had a reef right off our beach, which was awesome. Besides the fact that my entire orientation group got fried in the sun, Fiji was a lot of fun.
Auckland, New Zealand was our official orientation city, where we go to go learn native Maori culture, see a waterfall and visit a black-sand beach. Some of my orientation group stayed in Auckland, so for them it was exciting to get to their host city. For the rest of us, however, Auckland was still vacation. We went into town a few nights and explored the nightlife of Auckland, which was enjoyable. Overall, however, Auckland got to be a bit pricy and it was a lot more difficult to meet friendly people there a it is in Wellington.
I was so relieved to finally make it to Wellington. Fiji and Auckland were awesome and lots of fun, but living out of a suitcase starts to take its toll after awhile. The day we moved into our flats in Wellington was overcast and a bit depressing after leaving a beautiful city such as Auckland. But after seeing Wellington in the sunlight, there was no comparison. Wellington has the best combination of a thriving and artsy city that has a beach in walking distance. It is truly, “the best little capital in the world.” It is easy to find things to do here. Walking down Cuba St. and hanging out in a café (Espressoholic is my favorite) can be the best way to spend an afternoon or evening.
One of my favorite things I have done so far is visit the Wellington Zoo. At first I was a bit skeptical, considering we have zoos at home with lions, chimps, birds etc. But the Wellington Zoo is a million times better than any I have been to in the States. The animals are so friendly, and come right up to the glass or fence. I could have reached out and touched a giraffe if I wanted. There were red pandas hanging out in the trees above us. It was such a cool experience, and I would not mind going back.
School has finally started, which means getting back to work and actually using my brain for the first time since December. I have found that hanging out with my flat mates (one is Carter Oswood, another Drake student), cooking dinner with some friends from Victoria University or listening to popular New Zealand music can make a normal evening into a memorable one.