My first week in New Zealand has been an absolute whirlwind of events! We landed in Auckland on the North Island Wednesday morning and there was no downtime from the get-go. Arcadia sets up their orientation to minimize jet lag and also do as much as you can in just a few short days. In our first day in Auckland, we walked around downtown to the harbor where cruise ships come in and then headed to a beach and North Head Hill, which overlooks the city of Auckland and the harbor which was absolutely beautiful.
On day 2, we headed to Rotorua where we stopped in Matamata, also known as Hobbiton for you Lord of the Rings fans. We made it to Rotorua where we saw a sheep show at the Agrodome, which was actually really cool! It's something that is very hard to explain; you just have to go and check it out yourself! We then headed over to Rainbow Springs Nature Park where we got to see a real Kiwi bird along with some other wildlife that is indigenous to New Zealand. Since Kiwis are nocturnal and endangered, it is very unlikely to ever see them out in the wild, so it was cool we were able to see one! We then headed back to the hotel, which was located right on Lake Rotorua, and were free for dinner. There was a street festival going on in Rotorua that night, so we were able to walk around and look at all the different food vendors while listening to live music. Then back as a group, we headed to the Geothermal Spa next to the hotel and got to soak in hot pools that were warmed by the geothermal activity that occurs in Rotorua.
The next day we went to Waiotapu Geothermal park, where we saw bubbling mud pools, watched the geyser Lady Knox erupt, and had a guided tour around the park, which was absolutely amazing. After the park, we went zorbing which is one crazy experience. For those of you that don't know, zorbing is when you get into a huge plastic ball with a little bit of water, and then just roll down a hill! When you watch it, it looks like it is going very slow-- but when you are in the ball, you feel like you are FLYING down the hill. After zorbing, we had some free time and then headed over to a Maori village. There we were able to experience different aspects of a traditional Maori village and then eat a hangi, which is a traditional Maori meal where they cook the food in an underground oven. It was definitely my favorite meal so far this trip!
Then on Day 4, it was time to say goodbye to the North Island as we flew down to Dunedin for the rest of the semester. It seemed kind of abrupt just being dropped off in front of our flats, but now we did not have any set schedule which was kind of nice to be able to do whatever we wanted.
The entire orientation was a little hard for me, I came in not knowing anyone but luckily have made some really good friends through Arcadia; I could not imagine going to a foreign country without a program to lead me. With that being said, I still missed my family at home and felt weird being on the other side of the world without them. Many tears have been shed, even if I did not necessarily want them to be-- almost as though they were uncontrollable. Even with these moments, I have found people to lean on that have made this transition a little easier. I've got to go now with Otago Orientation week in full swing and a trip to Queenstown with Arcadia coming up in just a few days!!