Things have been quite busy since you last heard from me.
It took me three flights and 25 hours to travel from Seattle to New Zealand. Three hours from Seattle to San Francisco, a 6-hour layover, 13 hours to Auckland, a three-hour layover, and a finally short flight to Dunedin. With the exception of the 6-hour layover, which I spent in the fancy United Club lounge, my time travelling was stressful and sleepless. The flights were cramped and bumpy, and though I slept fitfully off and on by the time we landed in Auckland I was cranky and sore and about ready to tear my hair out with frustration. Thankfully I was able to eat and stretch my legs in the Auckland airport, so by the time I boarded the final flight to Dunedin I was in a better mood. I had a window seat for this flight, and was treated to gorgeous aerial views of the North and South islands. I have a few photos, but they really don’t do it justice. It is incredibly beautiful here.
Once I arrived in Dunedin, getting to my new home was quite easy. International students going to the University of Otago stay in off-campus apartments (or flats, as New Zealanders -affectionately called Kiwis- say) which host from 3 to 6 students. I’m living in a building divided into six flats of six students each. Each flat has street access and goes up three floors. The kitchen and living room are on the ground floor, with each floor above containing three bedrooms and a bathroom. My flat is flat 6 in the back corner of the building which I like because it’s away from the street, has more windows, and has a bigger section of the tiny shared backyard. It’s small, bare, and kinda shabby, but it’s all ours.
I’m sharing the flat with two girls and three guys. We have our resident New Zealander, Francis, who’s tall and funny and plays guitar very well; Zach, who is very sporty and outgoing; Walker, who is studying business and is currently sick so he’s secluded in his room; Sarah, who’s shy in large groups but good company when with friends; and Caty, who is sweet and outdoorsy and the person I talk with most. With the exception of Sarah, who is from Quebec and speaks three languages, all the rest of us are from the States. I was a bit disappointed about the lack of diversity, but from what Francis tells us the majority of study abroad students are from the US so having a bunch of us all together is pretty normal.
I’ve only known my flatmates for two days but I’ve found them to be great people and good fit. Our first night together, I came downstairs to find my flatmates and some of Francis’s friends standing in the kitchen while Caty and Zach cooked dinner for themselves. I got pulled into the conversation and we must have spent at least an hour there, laughing and talking about all sorts of things. At once point Francis’s guitar was brought over and Francis, his friend Becky, and Zach passed it back and forth and played songs for all of us. We would sing along when we knew the words, which sometimes devolved into dramatically belting out lyrics at the top of our lungs and laughing at the off-key notes.
Francis’s friends left after a while and then it was just the six of us, sitting at the table, eating, talking, laughing, and requesting songs for Francis to play on the guitar. Our conversations touched on a thousand different topics, from music preferences to upcoming classes and words that mean different things in the US and New Zealand. I had so much fun just spending time with my flatmates and my new friends. If this is what this is like after just a few days with them, I think the rest of the semester is going to be a very special time. We are already talking about all the trips and adventures we want to go on together.
Tonight we all spent at a BBQ that was being hosted by the people in flat 1. All the people living in the building were invited- plus friends- so it got quite crowded, but we already knew some of the hosts (Francis’s friends) so it wasn’t as awkward as I was fearing. There was a bunch of great food (I made banana bread, which turned out to be one of my best batches and disappeared quickly) and I got to try Tim Tams cookies and New Zealand-style hot dogs, which are sausages placed on buttered white bread with onions and condiments on top. It sounds kinda gross but was actually quite good!
I met so many new people that my head spun, but had some really good conversations once we started breaking up into smaller groups. I met people from all over the country (including a couple Canadians and one Brit), with a rainbow of majors and interests, but everyone was super stoked about being in New Zealand and excited about meeting new people. The party was crowded, loud, and a little rowdy, but I had a lot of fun and made some great connections.
And this isn’t even a quarter of all the things I’ve done in the past few days! I have so much more to say, but I have to be on campus for orientation pretty early tomorrow and it’s already almost 11, so this is where I say goodnight.
Until next time,