Land of the Long White Cloud
Blogger: Columbia Shafer
I had my first class of Spring semester yesterday, after the longest winter break of my life. I’ve spent three months out of school waiting to spend a semester abroad studying in New Zealand. Because of the reversed seasons in the southern hemisphere, I’ve had my summer break in the middle of winter. After my months of waiting I’ve finally arrived in Aotearoa - the indigenous Maori name for New Zealand meaning the Land of the Long White Cloud. And so far it has been worth the wait! I’ve only been in the country for twelve days, but it certainly has been jam packed with excitement.
I am spending this semester at the University of Otago in the city of Dunedin. If that city doesn’t sound familiar than you are just like me when I started looking at programs in New Zealand. I thought I would be going to one of the big cities, Auckland or Wellington, the way most people go to Paris, Amsterdam or Beijing. However, Dunedin is the program that Oxy’s International Programs Office has a partnership with so I decided to take a look at it. And boy am I glad I did! The University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest and most established university, and the city of Dunedin around it is a bustling college town.
Coming from Occidental to a university with ten times the number of students (21,700 at Otago, compared to Oxy’s 2,100) is a large enough cultural shift, difference in country aside. Occidental’s small size and location in a large metropolis are two things that drew me to it in the first place, but getting a chance to spend a semester somewhere that is the complete opposite is exciting. Living in a city with a population that is 25% students is a change, and going to classes that have more than 20 people in them will take some getting used to, but these are just two of the many new experiences I’m having.
Over the last week and a half I have tried so many new things. I’ve seen a sheep show, walked up the steepest street in the world, tried to learn how to surf, gone Zorbing (a very Kiwi activity where they roll you down a hill in a giant hamster ball filled with water), hiked through geothermal parks of boiling mud and sulfurous lakes, and seen the oldest living reptile.
This weekend I’m off to Queenstown - the self proclaimed adventure capital of the world - for a few days of hiking, exploring, and maybe even bungee jumping.