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A Final Farewell

Time November 22nd, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | 2 Comments by

Well sadly I’ve come to my final post here as my study abroad experience has come to an end.  It’s amazing to think that just over 5 months ago I was boarding a plane and heading off to start a new chapter of my life; a chapter that at the time was completely unknown to me.  Looking back now I know my study abroad experience turned out to be the most incredible chapter of my life and I know it will be hard to top in the future as well!

I’ve now been back home for just over a week and I have to say I definitely have mixed feelings.  It’s very nice to be home and back with family and friends after 5 months apart, but at the same time I really do miss my home in New Zealand.  When I was packing to come home from New Zealand I felt as though I was packing to go on vacation.  I felt at home there and strangely felt many of the same feelings and reservations I had when I was packing to go to New Zealand.  One of the hardest parts of leaving was not coming to terms with leaving such a beautiful country, but more so saying goodbye to all the new friends I made while abroad.  I met so many people from all over the States and the world and it is sad to think I may never see some of those people again.  I sincerely hope that I am lucky enough to cross paths with a few friends at some point in the future!

In previous posts I had mentioned that I wondered if I would experience reverse culture shock upon returning home.  After being home now for a little while I can say that the adjustment was much smoother than I had anticipated.  Not much had really changed at home and I found myself adjusting back to a ‘normal’ routine fairly quickly.  As far as reverse culture shock was concerned I don’t think I really had any trouble with readjusting to my life back home.

I still find myself thinking and reflecting on my time in New Zealand and I do believe that living in another country for 5 months definitely changed me for the better.  Before going abroad, I found it hard to picture things on a global scale; in fact I had trouble at times picturing things on a national scale.  Traveling and living in a new country definitely helped me to think globally and realize that maybe the earth isn’t as big as it seems at times.  I also found it interesting living abroad and seeing the influences of the States so far away.  Most entertainment in New Zealand, whether it be music, TV, or movies, is American based or greatly influenced in some way by American entertainment.  It was very interesting to be able to look at the United States from the view of an outsider.  New Zealand is a very small country and is rarely involved in large world affairs.  They are by no means a super power and therefore differ greatly from the United States.  This definitely allowed for a different view of the States from the perspective of a less powerful and influential country (but by no means less important).  It surely was a humbling experience!

There were two experiences I had with locals concerning the States that I think stand out to me above all the rest of the encounters I had.  The first encounter was extremely negative.  I was riding the metro one day with most of our IFSA butler group when a man called us out for being “Fing Americans.”  The entire bus ride the man sat behind me and another student and continuously berated Americans, and us, for anything and everything he could think of (and he wasn’t short on profanity or other offensive comments).  This was surely the most negative experience I had abroad.  I understand that that man was entitled to his opinion that America has made mistakes before, but I could not believe how ignorant and rude he was to hate every American he met based on a few prior conceptions.  The second experience was much more positive.  While I was hiking Mount Taranaki with my friend Joel we passed a group of senior citizens on a hike.  We stopped to talk with them and found that we were the first Americans they had seen in months.  They told us they were always happy to see Americans in New Zealand as they felt Americans don’t travel outside our own country enough.  I’ve really thought about what these people had to say that day and realize that I probably agree with them on this point.  I think more Americans should take the opportunity to travel and experience more of the world.  After my experiences abroad I cannot advocate enough for anyone and everyone to travel as much as possible!

This brings me to my final piece of advice for any college student back in America or anywhere in the world:  STUDY ABROAD.  There will likely be no other opportunity in your life where you will get the chance to live and study in another country, so take advantage of the opportunity while you are in university; I guarantee you won’t regret the experience.  I also highly recommend finding a program such as IFSA Butler to travel with as it is really nice knowing you have support for anything you may need while abroad.  It really makes the experience easier and takes away some of the stress.

I still can’t believe I’m home and won’t be climbing mountains or hiking through rainforests on my weekends anymore.  Time really does fly and I can’t wait until the day I can return to New Zealand and hit a few of those hikes I never got to do!


One Final Down, Three to Go

Time November 4th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

So far I have managed to get through one of my four finals this semester, and I have to say it was much different than taking a final in the states.  Here, they are much stricter about what you are allowed to take into the exam and the guidelines for while you are taking the exam.  Unlike at Bucknell, where they seem to put more responsibility on the students to uphold academic standards and refrain from cheating, they seem to assume that students cannot be trusted and have extremely strict policies for final exams.  This may be due to the fact that finals are worth the majority of the marks for a course here (sometimes upwards of 50%).

Before going to an exam many courses that require the use of a calculator also require you to get the calculator approved prior to the exam.  This prevents students from using programmable calculators that can store data.  Another difference is that students are assigned seats for the exam.  When you enter the room you are handed a card that corresponds to your exact seat.  You then put your seat number on all pages of your exam.  My guess is that they may use this to check if you cheated off other students seated near to you.  If you bring any items other than pens, pencils, erasers, or other necessary things, you must leave them at the front of the room when you arrive to the exam.  If you have a cell phone or car keys you must put them in a clear Ziploc bag and put them under your chair.  During the exam, there are multiple proctors (my last exam had 3) that wander the room and monitor students during the exam.  You are not allowed to leave the exam room during the first hour of the test or during the last 15 minutes.  Then if you do wish to leave at any other time, perhaps to use the bathroom, you must leave your student ID with a proctor, empty your pockets, and then proceed to be escorted to the bathroom by another proctor.  Overall the exam atmosphere is much stricter and very different from what I am used to in the states!

The actual exams also differ from those in the states.  Back at Bucknell most of my finals are cumulative whereas here most of my finals only cover the material taught after the last midterm.  This makes studying a little easier as there is less material covered on the exam.


A Humbling Experience

Time October 30th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

Before heading to the North Island for our study break, my friend Joel and I set a goal to reach the summit of Mount Taranaki.  I thought this particular hike was worth sharing as it was a great tramp with amazing views, but more so was a great example of a situation where we had to make some quick decisions to bury our egos and change our plans based on conditions.

We had researched summit routes quite a lot before leaving for the trip and rented out the necessary alpine equipment from the Tramping club here at Canterbury.  We knew the tramp would be ambitious, but we wanted to set a goal for one last challenging hike before we headed home.  We decided before heading out that the hike would be too dangerous in bad weather and that we would only attempt it if we knew we had a clear day with good weather.  To ensure we would have enough time to safely make the summit before dark we planned to ascend via the track to Syme hut on Fanthams Peak, a side peak to Taranaki that reaches approximately 1960m (Taranaki is 2518m), and stay at the hut overnight.

We hit the trail early in the morning at the start of an absolutely beautiful day.  After about 3 and a half hours of pretty strenuous hiking up stairs and across some annoying scree slopes we finally reached Syme hut.  The weather was still beautiful and sunny and we had plenty of time before dark so we rested and had some lunch in the hut before planning our ascent to the summit.  Before setting out, we sat down and planned the safest route to the summit, taking note of several points where we could stop for breaks and access the weather and mountain conditions.  We agreed that if at any point the weather appeared to be turning, we would head back to the hut as the weather changes notoriously fast on Taranaki.

At about 2 pm we strapped on our crampons, grabbed our ice axes, and started our ascent.  We only had 600 meters of vertical climb to the summit, but the climb was quite steep.  After about an hour of climbing we stopped on a small ridge, dug in, and discussed the situation.  We had come quite far to this point and could see the summit within our grasp.  However, we could see some dark clouds in the distance and started to question whether or not we should continue the hike.  As we were so close to the summit we decided to push on and climb a little higher.  A few minutes later we stopped again as the snow was getting increasingly harder and turning to ice as we got closer to the summit.  We decided that it was in our best interest to give up our goal for the summit and make our way back to the hut before any bad weather rolled in.  This was slightly disappointing as we were only 300 meters from the summit of Taranaki.

This decision however turned out to be an extremely good judgment call.  The decent down the mountain was much slower than the ascent as the snow was getting harder as the temperature was dropping.  We realized that the attempt at the summit was probably a little ambitious as we each had minimal alpine experience.  After a little over an hour of slow decent, we finally reached Syme hut again.  This was just in time too as the dark clouds we had seen earlier had now engulfed the summit and it was starting to rain.  I couldn’t have been happier that we decided to descend rather than attempt the summit!  We bunkered down in the hut for the night and hiked out in the morning to continue our travels.

I think that the experience as a whole taught me a few great lessons.  The first was that I gained a massive amount of respect for mountaineers who have summited mountains like K2 and Everest.  Mountaineering is not at all easy and can be quite dangerous; it takes a great deal of physical strength and skill as well as a sound mental state and the ability to think quickly and react to ever changing situations.  The second thing I learned was to never overestimate your own ability, especially with this type of hiking.  The hike was quite dangerous and had we continued further to the summit, the outcome may have been very different.  I think in the beginning we picked a hike that may have been slightly above our ability and I am glad we realized this and cut the hike short.  Lastly I learned that it is important to put your ego and goals aside when attempting difficult hikes and activities.  No matter how much we had wanted to reach the summit, it was not safe and we had to make the tough decision to turn back even though we were so close.  Sure it’s a bummer we didn’t summit Taranaki but at least we can always return someday with better conditions and a little more experience!

In the end this hike was one of my favorites in New Zealand.  It was the most difficult, both physically and mentally, and I definitely learned a great deal!  Mother Nature is a powerful force and Taranaki definitely humbled me and deepened my respect for the mountains!

I have to give some photo credit here to Joel Wood as he took the first few pictures I posted to the gallery here.


One Last Trip

Time October 30th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Courses here came to end just over 2 weeks ago and I was left with 3 weeks to study for my first final exam.  The study break period here is much longer than our break back in the States!  So naturally with so much time to study I decided my time would best be spent by travelling for a bit so that I would have a clear and relaxed mind for finals.  Sound reasoning right?  I left the Monday after courses ended with 3 other friends and headed for the North Island for one last road trip here in New Zealand.  Two weeks and a bunch of memories later and I’ve returned to my flat here in Christchurch to prepare for finals.

We had 4 main goals for things we wanted to visit on the North Island:  The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the Coromandel Peninsula, Cape Reinga, and Mount Taranaki.  We planned the trip around these places and filled in the gaps with tons of other cool spots and activities.  Unfortunately, no plans ever go as originally hoped and we never did make it on the Tongariro Crossing as the unpredictable weather here prevented us from being able to safely make the crossing even after 2 attempts.  However, we still visited a ton of other cool places so now I know I still have a hike to look forward to when I return to New Zealand in the future!

Some of the other places we visited were the geothermal area surrounding Taupo and Rotorua where we soaked in natural hot pools, and swam in naturally hot rivers complete with hot waterfalls!  We also visited 2 hot water beaches were a hot spring bubbles through the sand on the beach and you can dig a hole to relax in the hot water.  Among other places we visited were a handful of waterfalls (one even having a cave behind the falls that we explored), some ancient forests with the largest and oldest new Zealand trees (the Kauri), numerous beaches including 90 mile beach which is a registered highway, and a couple of incredible volcanos.  All in all the trip was incredible and was a great way to end my New Zealand tramping experience.  It is somewhat bittersweet now knowing that I’ll be finishing up finals in a few days and heading back home to the states!


Reflections on Study Abroad Thus Far

Time October 3rd, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

It’s finally starting to hit me that my time in New Zealand is going to be over before I know it.  I have 1 week of class, 3 weeks of study break, and 1 week of finals before I’ll be boarding a plane and heading home.  This realization is both exciting and saddening at the same time; it’s exciting to think about going home to see family and friends again but at the same time it’s also saddening to think about leaving this beautiful country and the friends I have made during my studies here.   There is no doubt that coming here has had a positive effect on my life.  I was always an outdoorsy person but feel that I never fully appreciated the area I live in back home.  Living here where there are countless spectacular natural vistas within short driving distance has made me wonder why I don’t try to get out to the less explored areas back home.  It has definitely made me realize that there are places in the States that are just as beautiful as here that I never appreciated before (It’s just  that everything is much closer in New Zealand).

New Zealand also has this effect where it makes you feel like a small child.  Being outside exploring new places makes me feel so young and adventurous.  I want to climb every tree and hill I see, and feel like a young child exploring a playground for the first time!  There’s just so much to do here if you enjoy nature, and even if you don’t enjoy nature I’m sure New Zealand could change your opinion.  It’s incredible how one weekend here I can climb a snowy mountain and the next weekend relax on a sandy beach; there’s such a vast array of different environments all packed into one small country!

Although I am excited about going home, I know it is going to be interesting adjusting again to a ‘normal’ life.  When I was preparing to study abroad I remember my advisors talking about reverse culture shock and I didn’t quite understand it then.  However, I realize what they mean after living here for the semester.  I am fully adjusted to the differences in life here and feel comfortable and at home.  All the things that seemed so weird at first are normal now and a part of my everyday life.  Everything from the weird kiwi accents and different words, to driving on the left side of the road don’t feel foreign anymore.  It’s interesting how your view changes after being submersed in a new place for so long.  I can easily understand now that it is going to feel weird being home again, almost as if home is a foreign place.

Studying abroad has also helped me to look at things from a global standpoint.  It is fascinating to talk to locals about current world affairs as their views are often very different from those you find in the States.  I think a good portion of this is because New Zealand is not a dominant world power.  They view most world affairs from more of a distance than you would view from the States.  It really has been enlightening to live here for a semester and have the chance to see the world from a different perspective.

I honestly can’t believe that I only have a month left here; the time really has flown by.  I would not change this experience for anything and strongly encourage anyone thinking about studying abroad to do it.  Living here has truly been a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I can’t wait to see what the next month has in store for me before I head home!


Spring Break New Zealand

Time September 9th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Term three has come to an end and unfortunately so has spring break.  Term four is now in full swing and I am back to attending classes and doing homework.  I realize it’s been a bit since my last check in and a lot of things have been happening here!

Firstly, spring break was an absolutely incredible time!  Here at Canterbury, we got two full weeks off for break which is twice as much as I get back in the states!  I spent my break road-tripping the South Island with two of my good friends from back home that are studying abroad with me here.  We traveled for 11 days, covered over 2700 kilometers, and had an amazing time!  We started in Christchurch and headed south along the eastern shore of the island.  We stopped at a few places along the way including the elephant rocks (really big limestone boulders), Dunedin were we had friends studying at University of Otago, and the Catlins.  The Catlins was an awesome area just south of Dunedin.  We drove along the southern scenic route which is a scenic drive along the coast with different pull offs along the way.  We stopped to see all sorts of beaches, caves, and waterfalls.  Every half hour or so while driving we came across another short 20 minute hike to something cool.  After a few days there we continued around the bottom of the island and up to Te Anau.


Te Anau is a quaint little town situated on the shore of a lake Te Anau in the Fjordlands.  From there we headed up into the Fjordlands to get to Milford Sound.  Milford Sound is one of the most famous places on the island; the scenery here is stunning and completely different from the rest of the island.  The sound connects to the Tasman Sea and has huge mountains going straight up on all sides.  There are waterfalls everywhere you look which makes the sounds cool even on a rainy day.  After taking a boat rode through the sounds, we headed back toward Te Anau stopping along the way to do a number of short hikes off the highway.  We then continued on to Queenstown were we stayed the night in a hostile and took our first showers in a week (we had been tent camping every night prior to this).


The next day we headed towards Wanaka and took a slight detour to see a place called Skippers Canyon.  This canyon is a bit off the beaten track but well worth the drive.  The road to Skippers Village, an old gold mining town, runs along the canyon with dramatic views down the canyon overlooking the turquoise waters of the Shotover River.  This part of the trip was definitely top of my list of favorite things we did!  From there we headed to Wanaka and stopped in at a Department of Conservation center to get some more information for the rest of our trip up the west coast of the island.  Unfortunately while we were there, we learned of a huge snow storm coming the next day that would likely strand us on the coast as it was predicted to shut down most of the roads in the area.  We decided to play it safe and cut our trip a little short and headed home to Christchurch through the middle of the island instead.  It was a little disappointing that we didn’t get to the west coast but we were already pretty tired from 11 days on the road and were ok with going home to rest a few days before classes started.

All in all it was an awesome trip that was relatively inexpensive as we cooked all of our own meals and stayed in a tent for most of the trip.  It was a really cool experience and a great way to see a ton of the island in a short period of time!  But now I’m back to the reality of classes and will just have to settle on planning the next big trip!

Also if you want to see more about my trip check out this awesome video on youtube that my friend Joel made.  It covers most everything we did; its a great video take the time to watch it!!


Term 3 Coming to a Close

Time August 12th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | 1 Comment by

I’ve posted quite a few times here about the cool trips ad adventures I’ve been on and I’m sure it can seem hard to believe that I’m actually in New Zealand to study at University.  I figure it’s probably about time I post a little more about classes and University life now that term 3 is ending and the semester is almost half over.

My classes here have been going quite well so far.  It was really easy to adjust to the differences in lectures and I now feel confident about all my papers here.  I already have one test under my belt as I had my first midterm last week.  The testing atmosphere was a little different here than what I was used to at Bucknell.  The exam was held in a different room than the lectures were given in and we were allowed 2 hours to complete the test.  Upon arriving to the testing room, we had to leave our backpacks by the door and could only carry in a few things such as a pencil, eraser, and calculator.  Once we were all seated we received an answer booklet followed by the test.  All of the answers from the test had to be written out in the answer booklet in order for them to be graded.  This was a little annoying for questions like multiple choice since I couldn’t just circle the answer I wanted.  In the end I barely had enough time to finish the test (it was much longer than the usual mid semester tests I’m used to in the states) but I felt confident in my answers.

Another big difference I have encountered with classes is the labs.  The laboratory parts of courses here only last for half the semester.  After spring break, I no longer have to worry about going to the extra 6 hours of labs I have each week or writing the 18 page reports that go with them! This is one difference in courses that I wish I could take back to the states with me!

Overall it hasn’t been hard at all to adjust to a different University setting.  At this point I feel like a normal student and the differences in courses don’t seem quite as weird or annoying anymore.  My living situation has been great too.  It’s nice having a flat with my own bedroom as well as a large living room and kitchen to cook in.  It’s going to be really annoying to start school next semester back home where I know I’ll be living in a dorm again…


A Couple of Weekends of Adventures

Time August 12th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The past couple of weekends have included quite a few awesome trips.  Two weekends ago a few of our friends from orientation that are studying at University of Otago came to visit.  We decided to road trip the first day they were here and drove down to Hakatere Conservation park, about 2 ½ hours south of Christchurch.  This spot was really exciting because part of the Lord of the Rings had been filmed on Mount Sunday in the park!  The drive into the park was really sweet.  We traveled along a winding, dirt road for about 45 minutes across some grassy plains with the Southern Alps rising up on the sides.  This trip was a lot different from the rest of our trips so far since we weren’t climbing any mountains, but it was really cool to be in the valley between the mountains and take in a different terrain.


Mount Sunday was an easy 10 minute walk from the car park and we spent awhile on the hill imagining the set they had built to film Rohan in the Lord of the Rings Movies.  After some time we wandered back to the car and headed back to Christchurch.  That night we watched the Lord of the Rings and got really excited every time a scene came up that had Rohan in it since we had just been there!  The next day we took our friends into the city to show them around Christchurch and then said goodbye and crammed in some homework for the rest of the night.


This past weekend we went on yet another excursion, this time to Lake Tekapo.  This was about a 3 hour drive south of Christchurch.  We left Friday afternoon and arrived just after dark to a small campground on a nearby lake, Lake Alexandria.  We set up camp for the night and took a stroll to look at the stars.  I honestly have never seen as many stars as I say that night.  Lake Tekapo is supposedly one of the best places on Earth to see the stars and I can defiantly see why!  Unfortunately my camera wasn’t good enough to take any pictures, but I snagged one from a friend with a much nicer camera than mine!


The next day we woke up early and headed to the lake to try our hand at fishing.  We had been told the salmon and trout fishing in Lake Alexandria was really good this time of year, but we had no such luck.  We did manage to see quite a few fish, mostly rainbow trout in the stream leading into the lake, but nothing ended up biting.


We finally gave up, packed up camp, and headed for a trail on the other side of Lake Tekapo.  After driving nearly an hour down a gravel road we arrived in a small town (if you could call it a town as there were only about 3 houses) where the trail we wanted to hike supposedly started.  After searching for another hour and asking every person we could find, we finally managed to locate the start of the hike.  We parked, grabbed our packs and started walking as we had a pretty decent hike ahead of us to make it to the hut before dark.  About halfway up we realized the hike was pretty ambitious as it almost 4 miles long, mostly up a steep hillside.  After about 3 hours we finally made it to the hut just before dark.  We started a fire in the stove, cooked dinner, and headed to bed for the night.


The next day we woke up and spent the morning exploring the area we were in.  We had hiked up over a range of mountains into a valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks with a river running down the middle.  The views were absolutely beautiful and again something different than our other trips!  After a few hours of exploring we packed up and headed back to the car.  Once we crested the mountain it was an easy walk down as we spent half the time sliding down the snowy hillside.  All in all it was another great trip!!  Now it’s just one more week of class before spring break…


Snowcraft-Mount Hutt

Time August 12th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Its been awhile since my last post so I’m gonna try to put together a few posts to sum up the events of the last few weeks.  (this post has been written for some time and I simply forgot to submit it…)  This past weekend I traveled with the University tramping club to Mount Hutt for a weekend of snow skills training called Snow craft.  The point of the weekend was to do some awesome tramping while learning about using cool snow gear like crampons and ice axes.  We left Uni a little after 8 on Saturday and arrived at Mount Hutt about an hour and a half later.  The road up the mountain was pretty crazy; there were rarely any guard rails and the road was gravel and wound its way up the mountain with steep cliffs on the sides.  We finally made it near the top where we parked the vans and geared up for the tramp.  It took us about 3 hours of hiking to make it from the car park to the area where we decided to make camp for the night.  Along the way we passed the Mount Hutt ski field and had a bunch of really cool views of the Southern Alps and the valleys surrounding the mountain.

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When we finally reached camp, we started to dig in.  The wind was so strong there that it actually knocked me down several times, and as the sun was starting to set it was getting a little cold.  The snow wasn’t quite right for building snow caves (this was our original plan) so we decided to dig holes to pitch out tents in so we would be out of the wind.  After about an hour of digging and piling the snow around the sides, we finally had a hole big enough for our tent.  Myself and 3 of my friends had rented a tent from the tramping club since we didn’t have one of our own.  We were told the tent was a 3 person tent that was big enough to fit 4 people pretty easy.  Boy were they wrong!!  When we finally pitched the tent, we realized they had rented us a small 2 person tent!!  We decided to make dinner and go over our sleeping options.  We cooked some pasta on a small camp stove and enjoyed the sunset over the Alps.  We finally decided that we really didn’t have any other option than to squeeze into the tent and make do for the night.

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Just before heading in for the night, we took some time to enjoy the stars.  I honestly have never seen so many stars as I saw that night!!  The galactic plane of the Milky Way was incredibly vivid and there were tons of stars everywhere.  It really was an incredible view!!  We finally started to get cold outside the tent and decided to call it quits for the night and settle in.  I have to say it was a challenge getting all 4 of us guys to squeeze into that small tent.  It was by far one of the most uncomfortable nights I have ever slept.  We couldn’t move much at all since we were packed in so tight and I spent the night dozing on and off as I woke up from cramps and limbs that had fallen asleep as well as other people trying to get comfortable.  I was very happy to see the sun rise the next morning!

The next morning we got up, dressed, made breakfast, and tore down camp.  We left our packs at the camp and decided to head for the summit of Mount Hutt.  Along the way though we stopped to practice some safety procedures for snow traveling called self-arresting.  Self-arresting is a technique used to stop yourself from sliding off the mountain in case you fall.  If you fall, you take your ice axe (which you keep ready in your hands at all times) and dig the claw into the ice and pull it under your chest to get your body weight over the head of the axe.  We found a saddle in the mountain with the perfect snow to practice in as well as a safe area to slide down.  It was actually a lot of fun to practice!! We took turns sliding down the hillside and practicing our techniques.  We tried every scenario from sliding down easy, to diving headfirst, sliding on our backs, and running and rolling down the hill.  After we all got a bit of practice in we continued toward the summit.  It was a tough climb that required the use of our crampons, another snow tramping tool.  Crampons are a set of large metal spikes that strap to your boots to give you extra grip in ice.  They work really well and allow you to climb a nearly vertical slope of ice without any problems.  We slowly and carefully made our way up the steep and icy slopes until we made it to the summit.  The views from there were absolutely incredible! I thought our tramp the previous week to Mount Fyffe had given us some awesome views, but they didn’t quite compare to Mount Hutt.  It was a beautiful day and it was just awesome seeing the Alps all around us!  After snapping a bunch of photos we headed down from the summit, grabbed out packs, and headed back to the vans.

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Overall it was another absolutely awesome weekend and I met a ton of really cool people and learned some really valuable snow safety skills.  Each weekend here has just gotten better and better and I don’t know how the rest of the semester will top these trips, but I’m sure New Zealand still has quite a few surprises for me!  This coming weekend though I think I’ll be taking it easy as I really need to catch up on my school work…who knew I was actually here in New Zealand to go to University??


Kaikoura: Climbing Mount Fyffe

Time July 22nd, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

This weekend we headed up north to Kaikoura for some tramping.  We rented an 8 person van, packed it full to the brim, and headed out Friday evening.  Kaikoura was about a 2.5 hour drive north of Christchurch through what was probably some really great scenery (It was dark and we couldn’t really see…).   When we arrived in Kaikoura we found the bach we were renting for the weekend and settled in.  We spent the night visiting the town, eating Thai food, and hanging out in a really cool pub called the Strawberry Tree where they had some live entertainment.

Saturday morning we got up early and drove to the base of Mount Fyffe to start our tramp.  It was a pretty ambitious tramp for our group considering the mountain was 1600 meters (about a mile) vertical and was estimated to take 5 hours to reach the summit.  There was a 4-wheel drive track all the way up though so tramping was easy…at first.  The first hour or so was along a gravel road that wound up the side of the mountain.  The climb was pretty steep and we made it above the clouds in no time.  This gave us an awesome view since we couldn’t see the valley floor through the clouds but could see the snow-capped peaks of the mountains above.


As we continued upward, we started to find more and more snow until the entire path was covered.  At first it was easy going, but it became much more difficult as the snow became deeper.  We settled into a single file line and rotated taking turns in the front since that person had the most work to do making footprints for everyone else to follow.  About 2.5 hours into the tramp we reached Mount Fyffe hut, a small cabin maintained by the Department of Conservation.  It was a nice hut with about 8 bunks, but we only stopped to rest and eat a quick lunch.


Once we had finished up, we strapped on our packs and headed for the summit, where the tramping became extremely difficult.  Firstly, the path was very difficult to find as it appeared that no one had gone past the hut for quite some time.  Secondly, the snow was now really deep.  For the most part we could walk on top of the snow only sinking in to the top of our boots, but every few steps we hit a weaker section and sunk in up to our waists.  After making it about 200 meters from the hut, half the group decided that it wasn’t worth it anymore and went back to the hut to wait.  The rest of us still wanted to reach the summit so we continued on.  After searching around a little more we found what was definitely the path and pushed on.  About an hour later we were really starting to get tired and decided that there wasn’t enough time to reach the summit and make it back down before dark so we decided to hike up the side of peak we were on just to get a better view and then head down.  When we reached the top we saw that we weren’t far off from the summit and realized we had enough time after all.  When we finally reached the top we were all in awe.  The view was absolutely incredible!!  On one side we could see the Southern Alps and on the other side Kaikoura and the Pacific Ocean.  We took a bunch of pictures but they definitely don’t do it justice.  It’s impossible to capture the true beauty of the landscape and the feeling I had on the top of the mountain in a simple photograph; you just can’t beat being there in person and experiencing it for yourself!  The view there was absolutely worth the exhausting climb and I’m glad I hadn’t waited back at the hut.


Going down was much easier; we were able to slide through a good portion of the trail and even cut through a few switchbacks.  We made it back to the hut in about 45 minutes, took a short break and headed for the base.  All in all the tramp took us about 7.5 hours, which was great time for the conditions!  That night we were all pretty tired and just hung out at the bach and then went to bed for the night.

Sunday morning we woke up, packed, and headed out.  We drove just north of Kaikoura to a waterfall known for its baby seal population.  The baby seals leave their parents and travel up this river to a pool at the base of a waterfall where they learn some social skills and interact with the other young seals.  It was actually pretty neat to see all the baby seals together playing under the waterfall!  Next, we headed back to Kaikoura for a coastal walk.  This tramp was much easier than the previous day!  The track took us along some cliffs on the shore of the Pacific where there was a colony of seals.  The views were spectacular, there were seals everywhere, and it was an easy walk.  It turned out to be a great way to end our weekend!


Overall the trip was by far the best one yet and I think it will be pretty hard to beat the views from the summit of Mount Fyffe.  I’m excited for a trip next weekend, but for now I’ve got to refocus for another week of class…


University Papers

Time July 17th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | 2 Comments by

This week has been pretty slow for adventures but I am now almost 2 weeks into classes here at Uni.  Courses here (or papers as the kiwis say) are much different than back in the States.  Firstly, most classes have multiple lecturers:  every time a new topic is introduced in a class, the lecturer changes.  So far I am still on the first topic in each course but it will be interesting when we move on to new material and a new professor.  Since I am an engineering student, my class sizes don’t differ much from back home with only about 30-40 students in each class.  Another big difference is the class schedules.  Back home my classes followed a schedule that occurred at the same time every day:  Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 10 for example.  However here the classes switch times and locations each time:  once course I have meets Mondays at 10, Tuesdays at 1, and Thursdays at 11 each in a different place.  It’s a lot more difficult here to memorize where and when I should be in class!  I also have 2 classes on Wednesdays that meet at the same time.  This is a little annoying as I am forced to miss one of the lectures but all the notes are online along with the occasional audio file from the lecture.

The biggest difference by far though is the workload for courses.  There is no homework here, only the occasional assignment (I’ve had 1 assignment so far).  Almost the entire grade for a course is based on a small handful of exams, usually about 2.  This is really hard to get used to as I usually have hours of homework each night back in the States.  This also has left me wondering how to prepare for exams, as I use homework in the States to make sure I understand the material.  Here a lot more responsibility is placed on the student to make sure they review lecture notes and understand the material.  They also have tutorials to work through some example problems with students.

Overall it’s a really cool experience to see how different courses are in a new country and I think before long it will all seem normal.  I’ve also found myself itching to get through the week and finish classes so I can head out to the mountains with some friends and get some tramping in!  It’s really great how easy it is to reach the outdoors even while living in a city.  But for now I guess I’ll have to stick out the last 2 days of class here and make sure I’m caught up on lectures for the week!


Kia Ora! Welcome to New Zealand!

Time July 16th, 2013 in First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

Kia ora!!  It’s taken some time to get this blog up and running but I’ve finally been able to log on and start my first post.  I’ve only been in New Zealand now for a little less than 3 weeks but already I don’t know how to fit everything I have done into a single post!  It has already been an incredible experience with the trips we have done and the people I have met and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me!

I think I’ll start this blog off with a post about a few of the adventures I’ve had so far.  Firstly was IFSA Butler’s orientation at Shakespear Regional Park just north of Auckland.  Our plane arrived in New Zealand at 6 am (after a 12 hour flight) and we were immediately gathered up and bused to the park.  Even though many of us complained about jet lag and just wanting to sleep, our excitement for a new place kept everyone wide awake.   Upon arriving to Shakespeare park The Butler and YMCA staff where we were staying kept us busy and moving all day long.  In between our many breaks for food and tea, we went for a wander (a short walk through the park), we learned to play rugby, and we went for a relaxing evening to some natural hot springs and a trip to the local pub.  It was a great first day in New Zealand!

The rest of the time at Shakespear Park was incredible.  We did so many things over the next few days from sea kayaking, to mountain biking, tramping, rogaine (sort of like a competitive scavenger hunt across the peninsula), rock climbing, archery, and a few meetings about our coming semester at University.  Finally our stay ended with a trip to the city of Auckland where we all bought cheap phones to talk to our new friends, and then a trip to a local Marae.  The Marae is a village of the indigenous people of New Zealand, The Mauri.  Our visit consisted of learning about and participating in traditional ceremonies and eating tons of delicious food.  We also walked through the village at night and learned more about Mauri culture and got to watch a performance of some traditional Mauri dances.  To top it all off we spent the night at the Marae, all sleeping under one roof for our last night together.  The next day we split up as most of the group traveled to University of Otago and the rest of us, including me, traveled down to University of Canterbury.  Our orientation came to a close and we moved into our new flats and prepared for classes the coming week.

We arrived to Uni (everyone here shortens University to Uni) about 5 days before classes started and we really only had one day of required orientation so a few of us Butler students decided to travel to Akaroa for the weekend.  Akaroa is a small fishing village on the Banks Peninsula just southeast of Christchurch where we were staying.  We hopped on a bus tour that took us through the peninsula with a sparky old driver named Graham.  Graham never stopped talking the entire 2 hour trip telling us about the history of the area and other random but really interesting things.  It was a really interesting bus ride! Once we arrived in Akaroa we picked up the keys to the bach (holiday house) we had rented for the weekend.  It was really cool to stay in the house as it was cheaper than any of the backpackers in the area and gave us a nice place to relax.  Once we were moved in we grabbed our backpacks and headed up the mountain for a 7 hour tramp (or hike as we say in America) along the ridgeline of the volcano that formed the banks peninsula.  The views on this tramp were absolutely incredible!!  It wasn’t easy climbing the almost 900 meter hillside, but the views from the top were second to none!! We all took tons of pictures and then made our way down the hill; even stopping to watch the sunset and the stars come out.  This was just as beautiful as the view from the top of the mountain as I have never seen so many stars as we did that night!  Our day ended with us all returning to the bach and going straight to bed.  The next day was a little easier as we tramped along the coast taking in the beautiful views of the bay.  We walked through the local gardens and visited the old lighthouse and walked by another local Marae.  We then ventured a little off the beaten path as we found our own way back through the brush.  This was a really cool trip as we only used a small map to guide ourselves back across the mountain to our bach.  We then visited the local butcher and grilled up a delicious meal of steaks and lamb ribs.  We ended our weekend with a trip to the local pub where we met some local Mauri guys and played a game of pool.  The next day we walked around town and boarded our bus back to Christchurch as classes were starting the next day.

All in all it was an incredible 2 weeks to start our journey in New Zealand and now classes have begun and we’ve started to accept the reality that we’re actually here to go to University.  I think this post has been long enough for the first one so stay tuned for a few more posts about the transition to University life in New Zealand!  Cheers!