Alyssa in New Zealand: End of Orientation, First Week of Classes

No one knows exactly what to expect when exploring. Expectations are usually set, but thoughts and predictions aren’t set in stone. Whether the expectations are exceeded or not met, something new is always discovered.

The countryside outside of Dunedin cannot be imagined. You must see it for yourself in order to understand what New Zealand has to offer. The further the Taieri Gorge train traveled from Dunedin, the more the country began to reveal its true character. Nature completely surrounded us approximately twenty minutes after leaving the Dunedin Railroad station. Throughout this five hour trip, the scenery was flawless.

One cliff melded into another, making it seem like one large panoramic view. The clusters of trees gave off a hue of a vibrant, forest green even though they were currently enduring the winter. Streams were following in and out between almost any nook and cranny that they could find, trying to replenish the dryness of the atmosphere. Regardless of the cold air and season, the sun continued to shine brightly throughout the entire excursion.

train trip

Along the route on my train trip

At the final stop, I finally saw the snowy mountains beyond all the hills and greenery, confirming that it was indeed the winter season. We were allowed to get off the train and walk around the area for fifteen minutes, but that almost didn’t even seem like enough to me. As we made our way back home, I did my best to keep mental pictures in my head in addition to the photos I took on my camera, for that was most likely the best way to remember every detail that I had just seen.

final stop

The final stop of the train trip

The next day was Saturday, which oddly motivated my Kiwi host, Jenny, to get up early in the morning. However, this wasn’t out of the ordinary, especially for most Kiwis in the vicinity. The reasoning behind their surge of energy is because there is a farmers’ market that takes place near the Dunedin railroad train station every Saturday morning. Here, all kinds of stalls are set up in the area and the freshest kinds of foods from local areas are sold. My flat all pitched in to buy a solid bag of pure, organic apples. We all also got the chance to try our first bacon buttie, a sandwich that consists of bacon, tomato sauce, onions and mustard. Needless to say, it was delicious.

It is definitely a rewarding experience living in the Uni-Flats, for the Kiwi host provides all of the ins and outs. Lucky for me, Jenny knows almost everything there is to know in Dunedin and she has helped me out a great deal thus far. On Sunday, she took my neighbor, Malachi, from New York, and me for a walk around the Botanical Gardens. As we explored, I continued to be more amazed by what Dunedin has to offer. The gardens were quite expanded and full of much attraction. I never would have been able to appreciate it without Jenny’s help, for she showed us all the best views and the most beautiful parts.

at bot gards with jenny and malachi

At the Botanical Gardens with Jenny and Malachi

dunedin from bot gards (2)

View of Dunedin from the Botanical Gardens

Once Monday came around, everyone on campus had to come back to reality and start classes. I ended up dropping my music class and picking up a theatre class instead, for the music class was above my level. I was the only student in the class that had very little musical experience, while everyone else was quite talented at reading and playing music already. I attended my biology classes with ease, for I am used to learning about this kind of material.

Furthermore, the main difference with the classes here is that the class sizes are much bigger than they are at Richmond. I am so accustomed to having classes with 16 students and a professor knowing exactly who I am. Yet, when I went to all my lectures this week, the class sizes were at least 100 students and I am just another face in the crowd. Instead of talking and participating in the class, the professor is talking at the students and it is not as interactive. Even though I think this way of education is very out of the ordinary, I find it very interesting and I will never have the chance to learn this way again. This whole semester is about leaving the comfort zone.

Since this was the first week, most of the classes that were held consisted of just introductions and syllabi. Hence, there was more free time for all the students, which allowed me to make last minute adjustments to my schedule and to finally ease into my home. As easy as the first week was, I am expecting to receive more work in the upcoming weeks. I am preparing myself to not get too caught up in all my free time. Nevertheless, I am not worried about finding a balance between schoolwork and exploring the country.

I feel like I’ve been here for a month already and yet, it’s only been a week. Each day beholds something new. No matter how simple or complicated it may be, I find myself discovering more and more. You really can’t understand another world until you experience it yourself. As I am experiencing this new way of life, I am not only beginning to understand but also appreciate what’s in front of me.

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