I was walking back from the Christchurch Farmers' Market this morning, 2 kg of apples cradled in the nook of one arm and a bulging bag of produce in the other, and I realized that I was long overdue for a blog post. So here are a few reflections on my first month studying away in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Traveling to New Zealand has long been a dream of mine, and I leaped at the opportunity to study away here. The beauty of the natural environment, kindness of the people, and vibrancy of the culture have exceeded my expectations thus far. I love it here both because of and in spite of the differences to my life at Olin. In fact, most of the differences have both 'because of' and 'in spite of' components. Take the size of the University of Canterbury, where I'm studying, for example. I have only recently been able to cut off the 10 minute will-probably-get-lost buffer from my commute between apartment and class. And I still find myself dazed by the sheer number of people everywhere on campus - the 11-floor library is constantly overflowing, the walkways feel like the streets of New York City between class periods, and one of my classes approaches the size of Olin's entire student body. I suppose none of these facts should surprise me on a 22,000 student campus, but the reality of the experience has still managed to jolt me at times.
The benefits of a large university have not escaped me either, however.
The Tramping Club (read Hiking Club) is 350 students strong and
organizes several trips every weekend, leaving me to simply pick a trip
and hop in a free seat on Saturday morning to be whisked off to some
stunning location. The diversity of students - in academics and
background - is also incredibly exciting. One of my 'flatmates' is from
France, and spending time with her group of French friends creates an
oftentimes perplexing experience (leading me to do things like
accidentally talk to a bus driver in French as my mind fails to
flip-flop between languages!).
As most Olin students studying away tend to remark, I feel like I have
a luxurious amount of free time (come final exams, it will probably be
a different story). But for now, it means I can spend my Saturday
morning walking 3 km to and from the farmers' market, go hiking or
exploring nearby areas with friends on the weekend, wander through the
botanic gardens and practice identifying trees for my forestry class,
and talk and laugh away a school night with my flatmates over a
multicultural meal. It means I have time to think about all manner of
things, including ones to which I can't usually dedicate mind space
while at Olin.
Ironically - or perhaps fittingly - these thoughts not infrequently
drift Olin-ward. After all, no matter how much I am enjoying my time in
New Zealand, I still miss the people, the invested and passionate
professors, and the intensity of classes at Olin. A portion of my
thoughts continue to be with friends finishing their last semester at
Olin, studying away in places all around the world, or flourishing in
their post-Olin lives. But I welcome this pulling of the heart and mind
in different directions - it gives this experience an especially
colorful and complex undertone.