Kia ora everyone! As I write this post, I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board the first leg of my flight to New Zealand. After a stressful night attempting to cram everything I need for 5 months abroad into a 50 lb suitcase and a backpack (for all you hear about their laidback reputation, Kiwis do NOT mess around with airline restrictions), I am excited to begin my semester abroad! I’ll be studying at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ, taking three classes and completing an internship. I’m looking forward to attending “uni” at UC, since my enrollment as an actual student at the school will allow me to become much more immersed into Kiwi culture than I would in a different type of study abroad program. I know absolutely no one — but if I’ve learned anything from my past two experiences abroad, it’s that people are really very friendly and well-meaning (despite what my East Coast attitude tells me).
The flight didn’t seem that bad when I bought my tickets (although the price did), but as I think about the long ordeal ahead of me, from Philly to Chicago to LA to Auckland to Rotorua and finally to Christchurch, it does indeed seem that bad. 13 hours from LA to NZ…the movie selection better be killer. (Although I also have my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring along with me…too cliché?) Despite my complaints, I know that my semester abroad in “real Middle Earth” will be worth all of the terrible airline food and the middle seat I’ve been assigned (middle seat/Middle Earth? Anyone?), and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to go. And there is a bit of hope for me — Air New Zealand is a notoriously good-humored and enjoyable airline. Just check out their safety video:
(If you look closely, you’ll see that none of the flight attendants in the video aren’t wearing clothes — they’re all painted on. Video courtesy of Air New Zealand’s YouTube channel.)
Once I survive the flight (I’m already wearing both a sweatshirt and a rain jacket to get my 15.2 lb backpack through the 15 lb security checkpoint), I will be greeted by some of the staff from Arcadia University’s New Zealand program, which is the external program I’m doing. There are only 8 people studying abroad at Canterbury through Arcadia, and a whopping zero of us actually go to Arcadia. I’m the only Temple student, but I’m sure we’ll all get along just fine, especially after getting to know each other at the four-day orientation Arcadia has arranged for us before we head to UC. The orientation includes a hike (I’ve been looking forward to “tramping”), an introduction to Maori culture (the indigenous culture in New Zealand), exploring Auckland, the “NYC” of New Zealand, and lots of other cool activities.
Why did I choose New Zealand? I don’t really have a reason. Compared to my two previous experiences abroad, I know virtually nothing about the country. My trip to Paris last summer was the culmination of a lifelong dream of visiting the city, and I knew everything (just ask the people on my trip who followed my daily itineraries). My trip to Israel on Birthright this past winter was a great and really personal experience, but it was also very scheduled and hectic. Not only am I relatively uninformed about NZ (at least by my standards), I’ll also have a chance to stretch out over a much longer period of time and really get a grip on the local student life and culture of the country.
It will be hard to be away from Temple and Philadelphia for almost half a year, and part of me wishes I could pause life here while I’m away. But I’m sure I’ll meld right back into life at Temple when I return and be able to keep in touch with everyone back home while in NZ (thank goodness for the Internet!). It will also be nice to be away from my normal life for a while.
I am aware that the earth is a sphere, but I can’t help feeling that I’m traveling to the edge of the world. I can’t wait to see what these next few months have in store!