I touched down in Christchurch almost two weeks ago, and honestly, it’s hard to believe it's only been that long. I feel like I have been here for months. In all of the best ways, Christchurch has begun to really feel like a (third?) home after my home school and real home.
I am in no way trying to sugarcoat what it was like to move pretty much as far away from home as physically possible. It was rough. The first day I arrived it was pouring rain and cold, and even though it was only 9 a.m. when I stepped into my flat, I had already been awake for six hours. Oh, and I'm separated from everyone at home by a 16-hour time difference, so by 4 p.m. NZ time everyone I wanted to talk to was asleep. My phone didn’t work, and the ucvistor Wi-Fi is actual trash, so in typical Lexi fashion, I panicked.
After a 13-hour night of sleep, I began to feel a bit better, and once we had our first IES Abroad meeting things just went up and up from there. Although there have been more than a few hiccups in the “settling in” process, I have definitely learned a few important things:
1. Your IES Abroad Center Director is going to be your new favorite person in the world. Have I already accidentally called Candice (the Christchurch Center Director) Mom? Absolutely, but it’s not an embarrassment of me as much as it is a compliment to her. Literally any question you have, your Candice is going to be there for you every step of the way. When one of my classes didn’t work out the way I had planned, Candice was there a at a moment’s notice to help me reach out to the lecturer and find some other options that would fit my timetable. Never hesitate to go to your Center Director, he/she/they will be there for you.
2. Get to know your IES Abroad assistant! Ours is Morgan, and she is a student at UC and easily one of the most helpful people I have met here. When we all needed to go on the dreaded first grocery shop after our planned orientation meals ended (which were absolutely AMAZING and I 100% gained 10 pounds over the first week) she met us at the bargain grocery store and helped us (mostly me because I am clueless) find our way around. While Candice definitely has some inside knowledge on some of the local highlights, Morgan is there to help with finding those cheap college-budget go-tos and the inside scoop on UC life as a student. Also, she’s super fun to talk to and knows exactly what flavor meat pie you should get when you’re at the front of the line and forgot to choose beforehand.
3. I cannot emphasize this one enough: your IES Abroad group is going to very quickly become family. My IES Abroad Christchurch group is definitely on the smaller side, with only 11 people this semester, but I have gotten to know and love every one of them. We all go out to dinner, go to club events together, and some of us are even in the same classes and flats. Obviously get out there and try to meet as many people as you can, but know that your group is always up for a first night of classes movie night or company to the club fair if you need it.
4. On that note, join clubs! While I’ve only been here for a short time, I have met tons of people in the few clubs that I have joined. New member events are super helpful as you meet a mix of people who are in the same boat as you and some locals that are there to meet you. Everyone is super friendly and wants to be friends with you, too!
5. Get excited for your orientation events. There is not one place that we went during our first week that wasn’t super amazing, beautiful, or interesting. For my orientation week, we had some culture events like a street art tour, some outdoorsy events like a weekend trip to the mountains, a night at a nature reserve, some (actually a lot of) food-based exploration (which was always a hit), and even some spontaneous pit stops! The highlight of the first couple of days was going to the Margaret Mahy Playground, which is the largest playground in the southern hemisphere (my group insisted I included this in my blog, so here you go guys!). After going all over Christchurch and even into the mountains for a bit I really feel like I know the area better and am much more keen to explore.
6. Take a deep breath. Not everything is going to work perfectly, but you are in the best hands, in a beautiful place, and as long as you want to make the most of your time abroad, you are going to have an amazing experience. Also, the normal student Wi-Fi is so much better.
If the rain holds off this weekend I am hoping to head back into the mountains and explore even more. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester brings!
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Hi! My name is Lexi and I am a junior spending my semester abroad at the University of Canterbury. Although my home university is in a city, I absolutely love being outdoors! Some of my favorite activities are hiking (especially with dogs), swimming in lakes, and trail running. I can't wait to explore the beautiful South Island of New Zealand and share some of my adventures!</p>