Monday was the start of semester for the University of Otago, which meant that my schedule suddenly became very busy with classes. Things work a bit different here than in the US, with classes (called papers) split up into multiple components. Each paper has two hours of lecture per week, which can be all in one go or split up over two days, plus either a lab session for practical work or a tutorial session, where only part of the class meets so that the students get more attention from the teacher and so that they can do group projects and activities that can’t happen in a full lecture.
I have four classes: the Archaeology of New Zealand, which has lectures and a two-hour lab, the Anthropology of Religion and the Supernatural, which has lectures and a one-hour tutorial, Archaeozoology, which has lectures and two labs for a total of five lab-hours per week, and Maori Society, which has lectures and a one-hour tutorial. In total, I have eight hours of lecture, two hours of tutorial, and seven hours of lab time per week.
And so far, I am loving all of my classes! The professors are friendly and knowledgeable, the students are excited and sociable, and the campus is absolutely gorgeous with wide lawns, big stone buildings, and a river running straight through it!
(The picture above is from Google because the Clocktower is covered in scaffolding and under construction right now, and I thought you guys should see a picture of it in all its glory. All the pictures below, however, were taken by me.)
I started off the week with the Anthropology of Religion and the Supernatural. I was a bit worried about this class, since recently I’ve had a spate of anthropology classes that sound interesting but are actually incredibly boring, but within the first hour of lecture I knew that my fears were unfounded. My professor is very passionate about the topic, with a lot of personal research and a good background in it, and has a teaching style that encourages students to do a lot of analysis and deep thinking. We jumped right into the material, talking about what exactly a religion is, why it’s important to study them, and the ways anthropologists in the past conducted their studies. We had a deep discussion on the best ways to study religion as an anthropologist, debating over whether it is better to be very objective and study from a distance, or whether it’s better to study religion from the inside and to approach it as a religious person rather than an impersonal scientist. It was very interesting and really got me thinking.
My next class was Archaeozoology. Archaeozooogy (sometimes called zoological archaeology or zooarchaeology) is the study of animal remains in the archaeological record. It mostly involves looking at shells, bones, and teeth of animals found at archaeological sites to discover the relationship and interactions between the animals and the humans that lived there. I’m taking this class because I’m very interested in archaeology and because I thought it would nicely complement the Forensic Anthropology class I had previously taken, which studies human remains in both archaeological and forensic contexts. The class lecture was fascinating and the lab session was very fun (interestingly, the Archaeozoology lab was the only lab that I had this week; most of the others were cancelled due to it being the first week of the semester). We spent the lab learning about tools used in the field like scales and calipers, and trying our hand at drawing different shells and bones because we would be required to submit archaeological drawings for our independent research project at the end of the semester.
My third class was Maori Studies. The Maori people are the indigenous population of New Zealand. They make up a good portion of the New Zealand population, contribute greatly to the culture, and along with students from other Pacific Islands like Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, are a fairly large group on campus. I thought it might be interesting to learn more about Maori culture while I’m here, so I signed up for a class. It’s the biggest class I’m in, filling one of the larger lecture halls, and so far has been quite engaging. Today we learned about some Maori creation myths and what the myths have to say about the ideas, values, and culture of the Maori people.
Last, but not least, is my New Zealand Archaeology course. This course complements nicely with my Maori studies and Archaeozoology papers, and like the Maori course stems from my desire to learn more about this country. My first lecture was this morning and I really loved it! We started right off by learning about Pacific Island geography, their geographical and biological divisions, and how they came to have the flora, fauna, and resources that we do. We then discussed the people living on these islands and how they came to live there. Did you know that New Zealand is unique, both in its climate and its settlement? First, New Zealand is temperate where all the other islands around it are tropical or subtropical, it is continental and not formed by volcanoes, and the reason it doesn’t have big land animals like Australia does is that it was underwater for a while! Also, New Zealand is unique because the indigenous people traveled here in a matter of weeks, on boats and rafts, instead of in a hundreds of years-long trek across a land bridge like they settled Australia and the Americas. This is exactly the type of thing I find fascinating, and I can’t wait for the lecture tomorrow!
So, that has been my week so far. Classes during the day, and then coming home and eating dinner with my flatmates, and spending the evenings with them or with my textbooks.
One evening, we even went to see a genuine New Zealand rugby match!
It was the first match of the season, which meant that the streets and bars were full of fans as we walked down to the stadium. We got the cheap seats in the pit, where all the excited college students were and where for some reason everyone stands on the seats, and although it was long and confusing and my feet hurt and our team lost, I still had a lot of fun!
Until next time,