Kelsey down under: Study abroad group moves to New Zealand, students get a taste of home with pouring rain


Christensen (right) poses with SPSCC graduate Eric Wiess and other study abroad students during their scavenger hunt through Auckland, New Zealand. Having a “Kiwi” take a photo was required for the hunt. Photo courtesy Kelsey Christensen

It’s time to live amongst the kiwis! The other study abroad students and I have now arrived in New Zealand and are just settling into life in a new country.

Groups of three and four of us are sharing apartments at the Mount Albert Motel about five minutes away from Unitec University. Unitec is the largest university in the country with about 24,000 students.

One of the classes I’m taking here at the Unitec University is a class focusing on Maori culture and practices. Maori people are the natives of New Zealand. For our first class meeting we participated in a traditional Maori Powhiri Ceremony and for our second class we learned sayings and poems in Maori as well as played counting games.

Everyone also had to introduce themselves in the traditional Maori way which meant speaking in Maori along with coming up with a hand motion that well represented yourself. Some of the study abroad students came up with clever and funny ways to say their names. Bill Gill pretended he had dollar bills he was shooting out of his hand and Tara Hoffman ripped a piece of invisible paper while slowly saying her name “Tear- a.”

The whole study abroad group has gotten really close so far turning our biology fieldtrip into more of a daylong photo shoot. Everyone used every stop as a photo-op and we all took lots of group pictures as well as other creative pictures with one another with great mountain landscapes as backgrounds.

The very first thing we did upon arriving in New Zealand was set out on a scavenger hunt in Auckland (which is about a half an hour train ride away from Unitec). We visited the sky tower, the harbor, the Auckland museum and more, asking trivia questions to locals along the way.

Just like we did in Melbourne, we found scavenger hunts are a great way to meet people.

At the Auckland Museum we watched a Maori dance and song performance as a whole class. The performance featured both Maori men and women and highlighted the traditional style of dancing as well as some more contemporary moves. I paid special attention to the singing.

Maori singing is unique in that performers project their voice especially well, almost in a yelling style. It made it a very powerful performance.

The weather here is very similar to back home. The temperature is just generally a little warmer because it’s summer here. We’ve already been hit with pouring rain a few times this first week we’ve been here. All us students appreciate that the train stop to go to Auckland is only two minutes away from our apartments. You can get soaked from these rainstorms in a matter of minutes.

It’s a pretty different environment living here versus where we were living in Melbourne. In Melbourne there was an extremely efficient tram system and it took us no more than five minutes to walk to downtown. Here we’re living in suburbs with just residential areas, the university, and a few shops.

I know we’ll all need to be buying a lot more train passes based on how many trips we’ve already made into Auckland.

New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world so I better find something exciting to do!