Things have been pretty busy in Hamilton the past few weeks. Following orientation, schoolwork has picked up into a more normal pace with tutorials now starting. At LVC, we are fortunate to be in small classes where professors know our names and we can visit them with questions at any time. However, now being at The University of Waikato it is not quite as simple so for each class every student is required to attend one tutorial a week. These small classes are designed as a time to ask questions, have more in-depth discussions about the previous lectures and to cover information that may have been missed. Teaching styles and learning techniques are very different here simply due to the size of the school and it has taken me some time to become adjusted to these changes, but the transition is becoming better each day. Now it’s time to discuss the exciting parts of studying abroad in a beautiful country such as New Zealand!
Two weeks ago, the international office here at Uni planned a trip for us to be able to go to Raglan. After a small mix-up with booking seats on the bus and there being too many people to fit, Tori (another LVC student) and I ended up making the trip with our guide, Charlie, in his car. He was originally from California and moved to Raglan about 15 years ago. It was a good opportunity to talk to a local and get his advice on where we should go and what we should see before we have to leave. On our venture to the small surf town, we made a stop off at Bridal Veil Falls. It was about a ten minute walk from the road where we parked to the first lookout for the waterfall. Walking along the trail to the waterfall was beautiful and unique because many of the plants cannot be seen back home in the US. After walking through that we made it to the top of the waterfall, the first of three lookout points. Once everyone was done taking pictures and taking in the beauty of the area we were in, we continued on to the second lookout in the middle and then the final lookout at the bottom of the waterfall. This last location is where our guide took pictures of us in his favorite pose. Check them out!
After our short pit stop, it was back on the road to Raglan for a day on the black sand beach and a chance to take surf lessons. Once we got there and walked down to the beach, we immediately rented our surfboards and put on our wetsuits, which is no small task! After the suits were finally on, we took the boards down the beach in order to start lessons. We all practiced basic paddling and standing procedures using a four step process which wasn’t too difficult to grasp when lying on the beach, but for me it was a whole different story once we were actually trying to catch waves. It’s quite amazing how you can immediately tell if you’re off centered when on a surfboard and go to stand up because you will be off balanced and either will not be able to stand at all or your board won’t be following a straight path. Surfing takes some time to get used to the feeling of standing on a board on top of the water, but the instructors were great and gave us all suggestions on what to fix so we could stand up and after a few attempts I finally did! They took extra time with people who needed it and everyone on the trip stood up and rode a wave in to the beach by the end of the lesson. Lessons took a while which didn’t leave any time to just be on the beach, but it was a great experience and I’m so happy I did it. How many people can say they learned to surf in New Zealand?
The next weekend the Uni was taking a trip to a dairy farm, but living where we do all the LVC students decided that we’ve seen enough farms in our life that we didn’t need to see another. So, all 12 of us planned a weekend trip to Rotorua. We got up early and headed out on Saturday, ate breakfast and made a lunch, and then caught our bus. The hour and a half bus ride went quick and before we knew it we had reached our destination. The second we stepped off the bus we all knew what people had warned us about, the smell of rotten eggs, sulfur. The geothermal hot pools in Rotorua contain sulfur from underground that is released as the water bubbles to the surface. We stopped at a few of these pools on our walk from the bus stop to where we would be staying the night, a little holiday park called The Cosy Cottage. Our cottage had two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen and was only supposed to be able to sleep 7 people, but us being poor college students decided that it was a good idea to just fit all 12 in there for the night to bring down the cost so our cottage was definitely living up to the name. After getting ourselves settled into the cottage, we met up with a few boys from Rotorua and they took us to a Maori village that was nearby. We walked around, taking in the beautiful view of the lake and the beautiful buildings that the village had. New Zealand history was apparent within this town as you could see the culture crosses of the Maori people and the European settlers. There was a traditional Maori marae and right across from it was an Anglican church that incorporated certain aspects of Maori culture into the design. After walking around the village, we headed to downtown Rotorua where we stopped to get some Hokey Pokey ice cream (a must try if you’re ever in New Zealand) and then went to see the Government Gardens. It was a beautiful area with bright flowers, unique trees, and amazing buildings. We only stayed here a short time before we headed back towards the Cosy Cottage to a small hot sand beach. With Rotorua being a geothermal hot-spot, the top layer of sand is the coolest and continues to become hotter the deeper you go and you can even create your own hot tub by digging deep into the sand and boiling water will be brought up into your pool. A word of caution if anyone else tries to do this, be careful! The water is literally boiling and bubbling and the hot sand are extremely hot, so just add a little bit of cooler lake water into the pool to make the temperature a bit more comfortable. Once we had our fun at the beach, we headed back to get ready and then back into town for dinner and a free concert as part of a celebration of Rotorua. Just a friendly tip for anyone heading here at any time, definitely get to Fat Dog for at least one meal, you will not regret it! Also part of the celebration was fireworks over the lake, so halfway through the concert we went back to get blankets and then headed to the beach where we all watched the firework show. Definitely the best way you could ever end a night in New Zealand!
The next morning, we got up and headed off for another day of fun zorbing and luging. Rotorua is the home of zorbing, which for those who don’t know is essentially rolling down a hill in a giant hamster ball. We all opted for the zorbing with water because you don’t flip upside down and it was so much fun! We all split into groups of two or three and were driven to the top of the hill where we got ready to go. Running and jumping with arms straight out, just like Superman, is the only way to get into the zorb and then the worker gave us the challenge to stay standing and running the whole way down the hill. Well, that challenge didn’t work out so well for me and my group because I fell straight away and they weren’t far behind me. Every person who went zorbing had a great time and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try it. We then headed down the road to go luging and on a gondola ride up the mountain, which happens to be the only way to get to the start of the tracks from the bottom. Luging is when you sit down in low cart and then drive down a mountain on a concrete path, almost like sitting on a low tricycle. Extremely difficult to explain, but extremely fun to do! The little kid in everyone was very happy during this activity, reaching high speeds and taking sharp turns, and then when you got to the bottom you took their version of a ski lift back up to the top and tried the next track that was more difficult. This was the best way to end a weekend of adventure by relaxing, getting your mind off school, and just having a fun time with friends. Well that just about wraps up the past few weekends in New Zealand. Until next time, cheers!