Kiwi adventures: Part 1

By Vanessa Maloney (University of Auckland, New Zealand).

Greetings from the land of the Kiwis! I’ts been a long time since I posted so I’m going to split this update into two parts. Here is part one…

Hills, Hobbits and hospitals…

My first month or so in Auckland after the semester started was up and down to say the least…

I settled into the routine of classes quite easily as all of my lecturers are really approachable and interesting and I definitely chose the right courses. It is very hard work doing four modules of mostly 3rd level courses, especially as a couple of my courses had postgraduate level students as well, but as long as you keep up with the reading each week it’s not too bad. I also realised quite early on that when you’re doing study abroad its really important to be organised with your work so that you can make the most of opportunities to travel and have exciting experiences.

As well as anthropology courses I decided to take a couple of Pacific Studies classes. I didn’t realise however that the department is mainly designed for ethnically Pacific Islander students and was very surprised to see that I was the only white girl in the class! I’m sure I at first looked like a lost puppy who had wondered into the wrong lecture hall. Fortunately though, the lecturer and my fellow classmates were very welcoming and actually really appreciated the fact that I wanted to learn about their culture. It is a strange and slightly uncomfortable situation when I am sat in a tutorial having to discuss with my Samoan classmates the British colonisation of Samoa. I feel like I have learnt more in this module than in any other simply because it’s so mind broadening being put in a room with twenty people who have a completely different view of the world from you. It was quite surreal becoming the novelty English girl; the strange and exotic outsider in a class full of people who had their own frame of reference. I would recommend anybody who is studying abroad to really make an effort to step outside of their comfort zone and take the kinds of courses which you can’t take at home.

Unfortunately, just as I felt I had settled into classes I managed to have a nasty fall and break my arm/shoulder. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult having to go through my first broken bone ever when I’m on the other side of the world from my friends and family. Fortunately I had some good friends in my halls who really looked after me in terms of cooking, washing dishes and opening jars etc.. (Thanks Jack and Deirbhile!). Also, the New Zealand medical system is pretty reliable and because it was an accident it was covered by the government so I didn’t even have to use my insurance. Having a British passport also allowed me to get discounted painkillers which was useful. All in all it was a pretty bad experience but after a few weeks I started to get back into the swing of things and tried to not let it ruin my study abroad experience.

Care packages from home included chocolate, plasters and a pair of boots I had forgotten!
Sympathy care packages from home included chocolate, plasters and a pair of boots I had forgotten!

A Kiwi friend of mine invited me on a much needed weekend away at her home in Matamata – a couple of hours south of Auckland. Matamata is famous for being the host of the Lord of the Rings film set of Hobbiton and it turns out that my friend worked there and was able to give us a tour. Even though I’m not a massive Lord of the Rings fan it was a really fun day out and produced a few classic shots of us standing in hobbit doorways… The visit was topped of with a bit of cider and ginger beer in the hobbit pub ‘The Green Dragon’!

Discovering my inner hobbit
Discovering my inner hobbit

From Matamata we also drove east to Mount Maunganui which is a beautiful coastal town with white sandy beaches and a small mountain overlooking it. The long walk to the top of the mountain was certainly worth the view!

At the top of Mount Maunganui
At the top of Mount Maunganui
Strolling along the beach at Maunganui
Strolling along the beach at Maunganui
This is supposed to be winter in New Zealand!
This is supposed to be winter in New Zealand!

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