It’s so surreal to think that I’ve been living in Wellington for a month already. Time flies by so quickly and so much has happened already, it seems all my pictures are the only things that help me to remember everything. Thanks to Arcadia our program has gone for a surfing lesson so far and had an activity weekend in the Abel Tasman National Park in the South Island. I’ve also gone on a trip to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing with my flatmate and have explored more of this amazing city that I call home.
We’re in the third week of classes over here at VicUni and I think it’s safe to say that I’m adjusting pretty well. Classes are set up a bit differently in New Zealand than they are back in the states, especially compared to Arcadia. Victoria University of Wellington has about 21,000 students which is roughly 5 times larger than Arcadia’s undergraduate student body. Needless to say, it was pretty different starting classes here where the lectures are filled with over a hundred students compared to my classes at home that have no more than 20. So here’s how it works: classes are broken down into two parts- lectures and tutorials. Lectures are basically the time where the professor’s main goal is to get through the material; they’ll answer questions but that’s generally held for the tutorials. Tutorials are classes of about 25 people that are held at a separate time from lecture and are taught a tutor who is a year above your class level within the same field of study. Their purpose is to go over material covered in lecture and help you to get a deeper understanding of it. Your tutors are more than willing to answer any questions you have and to help you on assignments. This seems like a pretty lucrative way of making sure every student has a firm handle on the topics. Also, the classes here do not have as many tests or assignments as you may be used to at home. Typically each class only has a midterm and a final and maybe an essay or two thrown in there for good measure. It seems pretty daunting considering how much material you end up having to study for the exams at the end of the semester, but so long as you stay on top of the readings and participate in tutorial you’ll be fine.
The surfing lesson that my program participated in was a lot of fun. I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of water and swimming, but I figured that I was going to be afraid anyway so I’d might as well get over it and enjoy myself. I’m super glad I did because this was an experience I’m not likely to forget. Once everyone in our group got suited up we grabbed our boards and headed down to the beach to practice paddling and how to ride a wave on the boards we had drawn in the sand. Standing up on the board is a lot harder than you would think but a few people in the class were able to. I wasn’t so lucky, but I did manage to kneel on the board! Surfing is tiring work but it is definitely worth it to give it a shot.
The weekend of our trip to Abel Tasman was grey and rainy, but it was also full of a lot of good times and good friends. I learned a lot that weekend: firstly, boats are not my favorite mode of transportation and sea sickness is a thing; secondly, hiking in the rain can be really fun and can give you some great photo opportunities, but it is very important to pack more than one sweatshirt that way when one gets soaked you can switch it out for another; thirdly, it’s really hard to not enjoy yourself when you’re surrounded by friends. Throughout being seasick and the rain, I was comforted to know that I wasn’t dealing with it alone. My friends took care of me and eventually the sickness passed; we walked in the rain and eventually the sun came back out. Honestly, it all comes down to not focusing on all the bad and finding the good times in the moment. On the second day of our trip we took a water taxi out to the national park, which is on an island, and hiked for the majority of the day. On the way there it was a bit dreary but as soon as we got on the trail the sun broke through the clouds and it turned out to be a gorgeous day. At first, everything in the forest looked the same: green and leafy. Once you got a closer look, though, you start to notice all the differences in everything around you. Seeing all the different types of plants and listening to all the birds sing was truly amazing. Sleeping on a boat (and jumping off of one) and sea kayaking afterwards was an added bonus to the trip.
Next adventure on the list: Tongariro Crossing. Some of you may be familiar with this track because of the active volcano that it runs by, which is Mount Ngauruhoe. If that’s not ringing a bell, maybe you’d know it better as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. Tongariro has earned its place on New Zealand’s list of great walks, offering views of Mt. Doom up close and personal, and Mt. Taranaki off in the far distance (visible if the weather is clear enough), as well as sulfur pools and volcanic craters that are now only filled with clouds. It’s a highly popular trail to walk, taking about 7 hours in total to hike. Taking notice of the fact that I have never gone for a hike as long as this before, this was an ambitious endeavor for me. I’m not going to lie, there were some parts that were so steep that I was waiting to see whether it was my legs or my lungs that went out first. It was a challenge to get through the whole thing, but with frequent breaks and lots of water and snacks I managed to get through it.
I’ve realized something, so far, about all of my adventures here in New Zealand. There’s always something new, or maybe a little frightening, about every single one of them, be it going out into the ocean to surf, or dealing with another ride on a ferry, or taking on a day long hike that leaves you sore for three days. There’s always been a challenge and I’ve dealt with them, and it’s always been worth it in the end. You can’t expect to have amazing experiences or see how beautiful the world is if you do the same thing every day and don’t take the time to enjoy it. Read about my trials and look at what greeted me at the end. No consider what you might discover on your own adventures abroad. It’s going to be pretty amazing, I’m sure of it.