While it may be hard to believe after my last few blog posts detailing all the crazy traveling I’ve been doing, the weekdays spent in Wellington are sometimes just as eventful as the weekends. I promise I do go to class and study… Sometimes. So instead of writing about some weekend adventures, I’m going to tell you more about what we actually do with the majority of the time here and maybe a thing or two about New Zealand culture! Plus some people have been asking about classes and the people here and stuff like that.
There are a few things you should know about New Zealand that are pretty crucial to life here. First, they use the metric system. You might think this doesn’t really affect daily life, but it impacts everythinggg. Like oh you wanna walk somewhere and need to know how far it is? Its in kilometers. You need to get gas for your car? Its in liters. How warm is it outside? Its in Celsius. I remember totally freaking out the first day I checked the weather here and saw like 15 degrees or something. Also, all the nutritional labels are different. How many calories will I consume if I eat this weird-looking Vegemite stuff? Its in kilojoules. I really don’t quite understand why the US has a separate system, as its my understanding that the rest of the world using this one. Its a little weird getting used to, but you can totally tell when other students are starting to assimilate here because they start referring to things as “200 meters away” or “43 liters to fill up the tank” or whatever. Its pretty funny.
A second obvious but incredibly crucial difference: they drive on the wrong side of the road. And the driver sits on the wrong side of the car. And by wrong, I mean different. It hasn’t been much of an issue to adapt to surprisingly, but it definitely felt a bit different during the five total minutes I drove the car in Waitomo.
Another interesting random fact is that the shelf price of an item in a store or at a restaurant for example has the tax added into it already. So you don’t have to sit there and think, okay this meal is 20 dollars times 8% plus tax yada yada.. Because they also don’t tip here. Why don’t they tip, you ask? Well the minimum wage is 17 FREAKING DOLLARS an hour which just blows my mind. I spent all summer waiting tables and getting paid a wopping $2.13/hour so its just a little crazy. Of course that means the living expenses here are also exorbitantly higher than back home, but whatever. 17 an hour. Geez.
So basically the past few weeks, we have just been adjusting to the Kiwi (New Zealander) way of life and getting used to their lingo and things. And realizing that the Kiwi accent is neither British nor Australian but something different entirely. Its sometimes difficult to understand but nevertheless really fun to listen to.
So… Classes. Skip this part if you bore easily but I have to appease the parents that are so kindly paying for this trip and reinforce the fact that this is after all, an educational experience and not just running wild down under. So here in Wellington, I am taking two classes: British Imperialism and Island Biogeography of New Zealand. I can honestly say that after 2.5 weeks of British Imperialism, I think every single person should be required to take it. This coming from an IE major with no sort of prior interest in any kind of history. But its seriously fascinating and really important to understanding how major parts of the world work today. I considered myself fairly uneducated about world politics before this class, and I already feel like I’ve learned so much. I honestly probably couldn’t have named a handful of GB’s previous prime ministers, not to mention their political parties or what they stood for or what they accomplished. Also, our professor is hands down the best history teacher I’ve ever had. He’s an expert in British history and has written several books on it that you could not have paid me to read before his class and now I’m fairly interested in them. I think if you can make a person like me enjoy history then that must say a LOT about you. Next, I’m in biology. The first three weeks of the course are geology focused and taught by Vic U professor John, while the last three are biology focused and taught by Georgia Tech professor and Pacific Program director, Dr. Garton. John is actually Dr. Collen but here in New Zealand, students don’t call their professors Mr. This or Dr. That, its just first names. So its just John. I won’t go on forever about this class like I did with history, mostly because it interests me personally less. But its pretty cool because the class takes field trips and stuff. For example, this coming Thursday we are traveling to Lake Taupo for the weekend. Friday morning, all the biology students alongside Dr. Garton will embark upon a 13 mile, 7-8 hour hike on Mt. Tongariro. I will post more details about that after we do it, but its supposed to be pretty intense and at parts physically grueling. Yayyy. But it looks something like this so I suppose I can sacrifice.
So yeah, enough about the “study” part of the “study abroad”. This might be the biggest news yet unless you’re friends with anyone else on the trip and have seen 60 other FB posts about it or have seen it on the news or something.. But yesterday, here in Wellington we experienced an earthquake! Thankfully, VUW was far enough away that at the time I didn’t even really realize it was happening because all of the buildings here were built to be incredibly stable for that exact reason. However, it was bad enough to cause the eagle with Gandolf on its back in the airport to fall which apparently is why the earthquake made national news.. Priorities, people… But anyways, here are the deets if you like that kind of thing.
I think its pretty much goes without saying that this program has gotten off to a fantastic start. With the first round of tests coming up, I better get some sleep. That’s all the info I got for ya today!