Saturday, March 5, 2011

First two weeks in Auckland

Hey Guys I’m Ashley and I’m currently studying at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. I have been here in the city for two weeks now and I’m already having the time of my life. Getting here was beyond stressful; my flight from JFK was delayed three hours which made me miss my plane from LAX to Auckland. I had to wait 24 hours in LA to catch another flight. The entire time I was streaming with emotions, sadness leaving my family, nervousness arriving in a place where I wasn’t familiar with the culture, and excitement to start a new beginning in a new environment. The plane ride was rough but as soon as I saw the breathtaking mountains, I took a deep breath and relaxed, all my worries were gone. I knew at that moment that all the time and effort I put into planning the trip was worthwhile and good things were to come.

When I arrived at the airport I met up with other international students who were also attending The University of Auckland. Meeting and conversing with the other students made me realize how much I have in common with people of diverse backgrounds. When I arrived at the residence on campus where I’m staying, I instantly made a lot of new friends which made the transition really easy.

Last week was international orientation and orientation for the residence I live in. It would have been the smart decision to attend the international events to help adjust to the new lifestyle, but the events the residence held seams much more fun, so that’s what I did. A few days after I got here I came down with strep throat, tonsillitis, and a high fever which put a damper on some of the fun activities the school had to offer but all is well now. Some of the things we did included a sponge war, a scavenger hunt in the city, quiz night, a trip to the Auckland zoo, a bar night (and yes the University promotes drinking, there’s even a bar on campus!) and a day trip to the beach. The scavenger hunt was a ton of fun; we had to do things like smash an ice cream cone on our head, sing and dance on a park bench, run up a downward escalator, and do the haka in front of the sky tower. The bar party was a lot of fun too. The theme was forever young so a bunch of my friends and I dressed up like the spice girls.

The beach was beautiful but the city of Auckland isn’t where New Zealand gets its reputation from. Auckland is the biggest city in the country also known as “The City of Sails”. Although it’s considered a big city to kiwis, Auckland is still a great deal smaller than New York City. The streets are a lot less congested, the air is a lot less polluted, and there are no homeless people to be found. Down the block from my residence is a park called The Domain, it reminds me a lot of central park. It’s a beautiful place to go for a run, gather friends to play a game of cricket, layout at during the day, or even to drink at with friends when it gets dark.

What I’m really excited for is traveling the North and South islands. A few other Stony Brook students and I got together some of our friends we made here and we all chipped in to buy a used van, a 1996 Estima. This weekend we took our first road trip to Waiheke Island. It’s about a 45 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. Before I left I was getting nervous to go camping in a place where I wasn’t familiar with my surroundings. The girls (Keri and Haley, who are also on an exchange through Stony Brook, and Rafaela, who is on an exchange from Germany) all took a late Ferry and met the boys at the ferry terminal (Sean, from Stony Brook and Max from Germany). When we got there I was still feeling on edge, I’m a very nervous person. But the scenery was beautiful. On our way back to the campsite all the girls stuck our heads out of the sun roof and we screamed at the top of our lungs. It felt so good! That night we had a lot of fun cooking and hanging out on the camp ground. The next morning we woke up and went for a long hike on the trails. I feel as though nothing I can say or show in pictures really justifies the natural beauty of the land here. As we were hiking we came across a waterfall into a pond where we went swimming. After our hike we went to a few beaches in the area then headed back to the campsite to cook dinner. As soon as we got back to the campsite it started raining. From that point on the rain didn’t stop until we left. That night all six of us wound up sitting in a 3 person tent to get out of the rain. The next day, which was Saturday we decided to drive around the island and look at the scenery since the weather was stopping us from hiking and taking part in outdoor activities. Despite the weather, I had a great time. I feel like this trip really put me out of my comfort zone in the way I was leaving Huia (my residence) and venturing to a place I didn’t know much about to camp in the woods. I learned that although I might feel scared and intimidated I have the courage to get past that and follow my dreams. Coming back to Huia was nice after being stuck out in the rain, it made me consider Auckland my home, which is refreshing.

As for classes, it’s a lot like school at home. I’m taking a bunch of DEC requirements while I’m here which the kiwis don’t understand as they finish their degree in 3 years and aren’t required to take general education classes. All in all despite the flight delay and illness I couldn’t have asked for a better first two weeks here in Auckland!!

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