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First week of July

I am really loving this chance to explore new areas in such a laid back way. No pressure, tons of walking. It is refreshing and exciting. I feel like I’ve walked all of Auckland by now.

Mostly just random observations about lifestyle differences in this post:

One of my relatives (would take far too much effort to figure out exactly how we are related) invited me to go to a tae-kwon-doe lesson with him. I’ve done a log of boxing, but it turns out tae-kwon-doe is basically all kicking, so it was difficult but fun. Not an activity I expected to partake in shortly after arriving in New Zealand. Gotta love random little interesting opportunities like that!

Gas is worse than food in terms of cost in New Zealand. It’s equivalent to like $8/gallon (rough estimated, as it’s in NZD/liter). I really need to practice my metric-english conversions. Every time temperatures enters into the conversation there’s this long awkward pause as I try to figure out how many degrees celsius it gets in winter back home.

Trip to Rotorua 6/29-6/31

My first weekend I traveled down to Rotorua, the city that smells like rotten eggs! I paid $50 for a tour and entry to a thermal park. Best money spent ever. The tour guide was a big jolly Maori guy who was hilarious. He taught me about the kiwi saying “sweet as” which is basically equivalent to awesome, and a game called “hey sheep” where you stop on a country road next to a herd of sheep and scream it at them and count how many run away. He demonstrated and scored a respectable 15 ūüôā

The area around Rotorua  is so volcanically active that there steam vents everywhere and tons of sulphur in the air. I got to see a geyser explode and checked out a thermal park, which was gorgeous. Bright orange and green pools of water with steam rolling off of them, sweet sink holes, all kinds of random goodies.

Rotorua Thermal Park

The entire area had steam rising up. It was beautiful in the sun.      

I¬†begrudgingly¬†signed up to stay in an 8 bed dorm room at a hostel, but the hostels here are so much nicer than I expected. It isn’t luxury by any means, but they have all the essentials and it is comfortable enough for about $20 NZD. Something I’ve begun to notice is the extreme price of food here. Everything costs about twice as much as in the states food-wise, with the one exception being kiwifruit, which are¬†extraordinarily¬†cheap. Even eating at Mcdonalds costs $10. It really makes me appreciate the free meals through family.

The next day I checked out a redwood forest. They have redwoods here? Yes they do interestingly enough…

First couple days (end of June)

Before coming to New Zealand, I had planned out staying with my distant relatives here. My half-cousin of my step grandfather (I think I got that straight) lives here in Auckland, which is where I landed and am staying for a week or two. Auckland is by far the largest city in New Zealand, and after 36 hours in planes/airports I was extremely appreciative to have someone pick me up rather than having to figure out where to go. It was about 4pm when we arrived at their house, they showed us the room and told me they were having a get together with a large meal later that night. I said I was going to take a nap, and then proceeded to pass out until 5 am or so…whoops. I felt like a bad house guest, but they seemed to understand. I wish I could have gotten to meet everyone , though.

My first day in Auckland, I got dropped off in the city to wander. I visited the massive Sky Tower in the middle of the city, ate some Turkish food, which is very prevalent around here, and found an amazing park where I got a taste of New Zealand flora. Amazing! The trees hear are insane, and it’s only winter! I’m sure this is just a small taste of what the South island looks like, which is where the most incredible scenery resides, but I’m appreciating it immensely nonetheless. There are trees covered in several inches of thick fur, neon orange/green/pink/blue plants everywhere, trees with massive dangling roots from their branches (kinda hard to explain in words…see picture), and that’s just the start of it.

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Going into shops reinforces what everyone says about kiwi culture being very personable and friendly. Maybe it might be more true towards foreigners, but the atmosphere is always laid back and relaxed.

Of all the people I could possibly run into in a foreign country on the other side of the world, I met a family from Cincinnati, a city 2 hours from where I live, and where part of my family lives so I’m there frequently. Not what I expected on my first day to be sure!

Next day had lunch and went to the aquarium with a distant female cousin (?) of mine and her friend. Was a great day with lots of laughs about cultural stereotypes and accents. My cousin kept trying to pay for me for lunch, an aquarium, and buying aquarium pictures and stuff!

They also insisted I accompany them to see the Auckland nightlife. First time I’ve been able to legally enter a drinking bar. The best part was seeing groups of Maoris dancing. Some look very Native American, and I really like their particular accent.

That’s it for now. I’ve been doing lots of exploring and haven’t fully recovered from the time change. I’m exhausted!

 

Flight

I am transferring these from my written journal:

6-23

On the plane getting ready to fly out of Los Angelos! So excited. This will be the plane that I will leave the country on. It is massive and I’ll be spending like 12 hours on it. Fortunately it is fairly comfortable. I’m loving how there are few Americans around. Tons of Fijians and Indians, which really impresses on me that soon I’ll be stepping out into a foreign place. Even the music and dinner is Fijian, and the flight attendants are wearing Hawaiin-looking necklaces haha! It’s 2:30 am back home and I’m super tired but I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep because I’m so excited. I can’t wait to step off the plane and be bombarded with all kinds of new interesting things.

6-25

It’s only been about 15 hours but with the time change it’s now the 25th. In the Fiji airport but I can’t leave because my next flight is soon. It’s unfortunate because I can see how beautiful the country is even through the window. I was bored waiting for the plane and began speaking with a woman who is also flying into Auckland, New Zealand on the same plane. Her name is Ushma, and she is Indian/Fijian but now lives in New Zealand. She’s the first kiwi I think I’ve ever met, and she is so nice! Within about 5 minutes of talking she gave me her phone number and address and told me to come stay with her in Hamilton.

Now on the final planeride over and the guy I’m sitting next to is also super friendly. However, he talks rather quickly with a strong (kiwi or aussie??) accent so I just keep nodding and smiling stupidly. I’m also not getting his jokes or figures of speech at all. I guess there won’t be an official language barrier but this will still require some adjusting… Realizing how tiny Fiji is, as you can see the entire island in one chunk from the plane. I was hoping to sleep but now I’m just too damn excited!

The Gilman Scholarship Program

An organization I want to give a shout out to before I start in with the journal entries is the Gilman Program. This is a national program designed specifically for those students who may not be able to afford studying abroad. Long story short, it’s incredibly expensive to study abroad (all kinds of additional costs you don’t anticipate, such as the $40/month I have to pay for internet in the dorms here) and the Gilman program provides substantial scholarships for anyone who is receiving a Federal Pell Grant. Obviously you have to get good grades and write a good essay, but for a scholarship that offers up to $5,000 ($8,000 if you study a “critical need language”) it has a great acceptance rate, something like 1/3 of the applicants receive the award.

http://www.iie.org/en/Programs/Gilman-Scholarship-Program

I’ve dedicated a tab to this program at the top of this page for more information!

Introduction

Hello there!
My name is Grant and I’m an American student in New Zealand! I’m studying abroad here for my last semester and this blog will document some of my experiences, show you some pictures of what I’ve come across here, and it will also include information on what it took to get me here, including resources for those of you who are also interested in studying abroad. There is a lot of information out there about studying abroad which can be overwhelming. This blog will be a concise summary of everything I learned in the process to get here, hopefully preventing you from having to go through the exact same process of figuring it out for yourself! I’ll be adding more content and newz (it’s a pun not bad spelling by the way) throughout the duration of my trip as well as after I return.