Kia ora! I know many of you (all my fans out there) have been waiting patiently for my mid-semester break post. Well lucky for you I have finally stopped procrastinating! For those who don’t keep up with the wild concept that is the New Zealand academic calendar, there are two terms each semester, each being six weeks. Between those two terms, there is a two-week “mid-semester break”. So, in summary, we get two weeks off in the middle of the semester to do absolutely whatever we want.
Lucky enough for me, I didn’t even have to plan a thing for that first week because IES Abroad plans and greatly subsidizes a weeklong trip to Rarotonga for us! Raro is one of the fifteen Cook Islands and is located about halfway between Auckland and Hawaii (which means another time change, woohoo!). We finished up classes on Friday and then on Saturday we headed off to the airport! Because of the time difference, even though we flew out of NZ on Saturday, we actually landed in Raro Friday night, so basically, we time traveled, no big deal.
I cannot emphasize enough how amazing my experience in Raro was. It was beyond just a “vacation”, it was a complete culturally immersive experience. I have been taking a couple of culture classes at UC which I really value and enjoy, but I learned far more in that one week in Raro than I have in almost an entire semester here. Since I don’t want this blog to turn into a full-length book, I’ll just list out a few of my favorite moments and activities from my trip.
1. As I am mostly driven by my stomach, the progressive dinner we went to was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. For each of the three courses of the meal we were brought to a different local home. I am not exaggerating when I say I have NEVER eaten so much in my entire life. There was so much fresh fruit, fish, veggies, meat, dessert, and a million other things that got forgotten after I woke up from my very long food coma. The Mama (matriarch) of the house we ate our main meal at was a wonderful singer (as all Cook Islanders seem to be) and sat on the porch singing with her husband. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little teary over how friggin cute they were.
2. I can solidly say my group’s favorite overall activity was visiting the primary school. We got to hang out with a bunch of the coolest kids I’ve ever met and their wonderful teachers. They showed us a bunch of cultural dances, sang songs, and the teachers put together an amazing spread of fresh fruit (I think I ate at least 8 full starfruits). The kids gave us tours around the school and we even got to race them on their grass fields. If I learned anything from being in the Cook Islands is that my hip shaking abilities are extremely subpar. These kids could shake their hips faster than I have ever seen in my life. We taught them the cotton eyed joe, and obviously they were much better at it than us. At the end, we walked out and they all crowded for hugs and, once again, I definitely cried a little bit over pure cuteness.
3. For a change in pace, an activity I did not cry at was our sea scooter adventure. We got to take these little handheld-underwater-jet-things around the lagoon with a guide from Ariki Adventures. There was so much beautiful marine life to look at and get up close with. The guide baited some of the blue fish so they would swarm around us which was really cool, and we got to have hot chocolate after (because I was not lying when I said I am driven by my stomach).
4. The best adventure activity we did was by far the cross island walk. Raro is an extremely small island, so walking through straight through it is only a couple hour journey. However, that journey is slippery, steep, and over some very recent landslides. We got to one of the highest points on the island and could see out almost 360 degrees, it was absolutely beautiful. The tropical climate had us all sweating quite a bit, so the post walk waterfall swim was absolutely amazing. I even found a little perch right under the actual waterfall and it felt amazing to have the water falling right on me.
5. A favorite, non-IES Abroad planned event was my group’s nightly trip to the little market down the street from our accommodation. It wasn’t much of a place, but we would get little ice cream bars, sit outside and enjoy the warm tropical nights and each other’s company. We also played a whole lot of cards before and after which was a plus. Oh and cute island dogs are always hanging around, a super plus.
I could literally go on for 100 more pages about every single thing we did in Raro, but all I can say is that if you have the opportunity to visit this little island, especially with IES Abroad, please do it. The experiences I had and the memories I made there will stay with me forever. I just want to especially thank Candice, our Program Director, for being the absolute best abroad mom any of us could have asked for. She made sure that we were all healthy and happy the entire trip and I cannot express in words how grateful I am for all the time and effort she put into planning the week.
In my next blog, I’ll update you all on the second week of my mid-semester break which was not as neatly planned as Raro but just as much fun.
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<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>