Greetings from the University of Waikato! I’m Kalah Burger, a sophomore physical therapy major and business minor, and I will be blogging from Hamilton, New Zealand. We arrived here in New Zealand two days ago and are beginning to settle in to our new home for the next four months. First thing you notice about the country is how friendly everyone is. Sadly back home in America we have all gotten accustomed to not talking to people we don’t know, but here it’s the complete opposite. Even if someone has no idea who you are, it’s not uncommon for them to say hello and ask how you are doing. Most people make a point to get to know as many people as they can and make a point to go out of their way to meet new people.
During orientation you realize this about the people and they also immerse you in the Maori, native New Zealand, culture. Today there was a university Powhiri for all new students. This traditional Maori welcoming ceremony was very interesting and was spoken in the Maori tongue. With some help of the RAs, after the ceremony us Lebanon Valley students given a rare invitation to step foot into the wharenui, a sacred house of the Maori people that is on campus. Within each section of the house had artifacts from each tribe, from gods who are vital in their survival to the stories and history of the tribe that has been created in the form of a tapestry. It was a rare opportunity that I’m very grateful for because most outside of the Maori culture never are able to set foot into the wharenui.
The University of Waikato has also given great opportunities for international students to meet other international students here at the uni as well. Yesterday all internationals were able to join the university’s version of the TV show, The Amazing Race. Each team was to be made of five or six people with at least three nationalities represented in each team. Once your team was formed, they sent you on a scavenger hunt throughout the campus, inside almost all of the buildings. First place team won $150 NZD (New Zealand Dollars) worth of prizes. Even though our team didn’t win, it was still a lot of fun and a great way to meet new students who are going through the same shock and adjustments as you.
So far, all is well in New Zealand and I will be headed on a trip this weekend. It is an international student trip to Lake Karapiro for kayaking and then heading to Hobbiton to see where they filmed the Shire in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Stay tuned for updates on that!