I arrived in New Zealand almost two weeks ago, and been keeping busy since the minute the plane landed. Classes didn’t begin until our second week here so we had time to find our way around and recover from any jet lag we might have had.
There is one other student from my college who is studying abroad in New Zealand this semester so I wasn’t totally alone in going into life abroad. Within the first hour of moving into our new dorms, we met two other students on our floor from Holland, as well as a girl from France who lives on the floor above ours. A few hours later, we were already off on our first New Zealand adventure: taking the bus to the grocery store. It was this trip that started our motto of “It’s an adventure” for whenever we do anything new or exciting.
In the week before classes, we became friends with some New Zealand students who helped us have adventures everyday of the week. Monday began with a trip to McDonald’s, or “maccas” as they call it here. I was expecting the menu to look similar to the US McDonald’s menu, but it was a lot different. This difference definitely was a reminder that while New Zealand is an English speaking country, it is on the other side of the world so things aren’t always going to be what I’m used to. After maccas, we went to Kmart, which is another solid example of how different something can be in New Zealand. When I heard that people are excited about going to Kmart here, I thought they were kidding. Kmart in the US is not the happiest place to go, but New Zealand Kmart is equivalent to Target in the US.
On Tuesday, we celebrated Fourth of July by going to BurgerFuel, a burger chain that was running an Independence Day special since they recently opened US locations. We ate our burgers by the lake, and I played videos of fireworks that my friends from home had posted on Snapchat in order to get the whole Fourth of July experience. I had assumed I wasn’t going to celebrate the Fourth since I wouldn’t be in America, so it was really nice to be able to experience this piece of home while abroad.
Wednesday was orientation for all international students. After sitting through a morning session on what to expect in New Zealand, we participated in an Amazing Race scavenger hunt. We raced to complete different challenges at different location, which would be a lot more simple if we all weren’t completely lost when getting around campus. Our team came in ninth, but it was still fun and some of us even won prizes in the random number drawing. Some of the prizes were tickets to see the new Spider-Man that night so a group of us went to the movie theater to see it (three days before it was released in the US).
During orientation, we were able to buy discounted bus passes, so on Thursday, we took the bus into town to go to Kmart (because we love it that much). The bus ride turned into a bigger adventure than we expected when a high school student in the row next to us forgot his wallet on the bus. After unsuccessfully trying to find the kid on Facebook, we ended up calling his high school since his school ID was in there. The school had us leave it at the information desk at Kmart where the kid was able to pick it up (something that would never happen at a US Kmart). After doing some shopping, we were on a quest to find a café where we could sit down and get drinks. We ended up finding a café where two of us got frozen drinks and the other two got hot chocolate. Everything we got was so good. It is probably a good thing it’s not within walking distance of campus, or else I would probably end up spending all my money there. Later Thursday evening, we went swimming at an indoor pool, then went to a gas station convenient store where we bought New Zealand pies; a warm pastry with meat filling. Considering they only cost a couple dollars, I was pleasantly surprised by how good they tasted.
I don’t know what I was expecting going into last week. It’s scary to think about living in a new country with new people that you don’t know, but it definitely turned out to be an adventure. However, I did so much and made so many new friends all within the span of one week. Classes started this week, so that’s a whole new adventure of getting used to the way class is structured over here and finding which building and classroom I need to go to (despite the scavenger hunt, I still barely know my way around campus). I haven’t even been here two weeks, but I am so happy with my decision to study abroad and can’t wait to see what will happen the rest of the semester.