New Zealand: The First Few Days
Today is Friday in New Zealand. I left Toronto on a Friday (which I suppose was Saturday in NZ), and got here on Sunday morning, NZ time. I did not have a Saturday, which was sad for the two kids on my flight from Vancouver-Auckland who missed their birthdays as we crossed the international date line.
There’s been lots of confusion over the past few days, but also tiny, grimly triumphant steps towards feeling at home here. I was incredibly fortunate to already have contacts here: last term, I met a girl who was on exchange at U of T, originally from Otago. We got to know each other over the term, I took some of her stuff with me to NZ, and she picked me up at the airport. When you haven’t slept in God knows how long, you’re lugging all your earthly possessions (or most of them, anyway), and you’re whipping through a mental list of documents, addresses, and names, it is so wonderful to be greeted by a familiar face, rather than an airport shuttle. Especially when that familiar face has a car, and can help you find/settle into your flat.
I can find my way around the Otago campus pretty well now, and I can get through Dunedin’s city centre without getting hopelessly lost. Orientation Week doesn’t start until next week, but the few extra days to acclimatize and get over the jetlag have been hugely beneficial. Sure, there are moments of homesickness, and it’s a major transition into a new school, country, and (hopefully) friends, but I think this is where I need to be right now.
To finish then, a few observations and first impressions:
- The Vancouver airport is gorgeous, and also has way better Wi-Fi than Pearson, Auckland, or Wellington.
- The University of Otago handles course selection far more humanely than U of T. Instead of constructing a timetable yourself and attempting to access a database so loathed that it’s been personified by the entire student population (I hate ROSI), you go talk to a “study adviser.” Face-to-face. And then they take their pens and sign you into courses; courses which, I might add, have no cap on enrolment, and so, no waitlisting.
- Coffee in New Zealand is delicious, but expensive.
- Dunedin is cold. People smirk when I say this, because I’m Canadian and “should be used to it.” To be fair, the coldest it’s been has probably been about 10 degrees C. The problem is that homes in NZ don’t have central heating. You’re outside, and you’re chilly. You get home, and you’re still chilly. Because you never really get to warm up, you just stay cold. Bring on the sweaters and fleeces!
- People here are so, so friendly and willing to help. When I collected my bedding pack from the Flats Office, the staff were offering me rides back home, because it was “so far to walk!” and the pack was “so heavy!” (Really, a 7-min walk with a pack that was bulky, but not too heavy. Still, it warmed my heart).
- Being away from home makes you realize just what “home” is to you. Yes, I miss my family, and I miss my apartment and roommates. But I’ve been realizing lately that the two places where I feel happiest and “safest” are the pioneer village, and choir. And so, those seem to be the two places most on my mind in the wee hours of the morning.
Overall, though, things are good, and I’m adapting well. I can’t wait for classes to start, so I can feel even more settled. Plus, it’s been over two months since I was last in school. I think it’s time.