It has been 34 days since I returned home from my other home and I still cannot fathom that abroad is over. Honestly, ask any of my friends, family, or coworkers, most of my sentences begin with, "When I was in New Zealand..." Okay, you cannot blame me for non stop talking about New Zealand; I lived another life for 5 1/2 months, let me gloat about it! I have slowly been adapting back to American culture, and the most difficult change for me has been adjusting back to not walking on the left side and driving on the right (not wrong) side of the road. Oh yeah, and not being surrounded by mountains and sheep everyday.
At one of our meetings with our IES Abroad Center Director, Eunice, during the beginning of the fall (spring in the States) semester, she presented us with a past participant's blog titled "13 Things About New Zealand That Shocked Me," discussing things that she had to give up after leaving America, though not necessarily bad things. If you haven't figured out where this is going, well, I have decided that in this final blog post I will make my own list of things that did not shock me, but changed my life in New Zealand.
10 things about New Zealand that changed my life
1. A major thing that I forget, and often find myself frowning upon, is after a delicious meal at an American restaurant, I think 'that wasn't too pricey.' But wait! Let's throw in some tax and oh, don't forget you need to tip no matter how bad the service was! Obviously I miss the feeling of not having to tip, and no tax being added to all of my purchases. Although everything in New Zealand was expensive in itself, at least you didn't feel like extra money was being added. Also, $1 and $2 come in the form of coins, and they are quite valuable for laundry.
2. For the first few weeks of being home, I am so confused when I turn around to flush the toilet. I always expect there to be several different options of ways to flush the toilet. But nope, I have to go back to pushing down the single handle with my foot instead of some fancy buttons. The coolest bathroom in New Zealand was so futuristic; it gave you a solid 10 minutes to go to the bathroom and listen to music before the door would open automatically (that seems a little rushed though, don't you think?) and the toilet wouldn't flush until you washed your hands with the automatic water and soap. Basically, everything was automatic and I felt so taken care of! Is it weird that I miss the New Zealand toilets (they straight up say toilets instead of restrooms) and various ways of flushing?
3. The metric system. WHY CAN'T AMERICA BE NORMAL AND TEACH THE METRIC SYSTEM??? I admit it, I never figured out how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, kilograms to pounds (I just know how my own body weight is converted), kilometers to miles, meters to feet, and don't get me started on how I didn't realize the treadmills were in kilometers not miles until half way through the semester. Long story short, I thought I beat my personal record in distance running, and I did not. One thing is for sure, 100 kilometers per hour is NOT fast, it is equal to about 60 miles per hour and in New Zealand, if you drive any faster than that, say bye bye to your license!
4. The language. We all (hopefully) know that Kiwis speak English, which was a convenient characteristic of my host country. But every area of the world has different dialects, and I brought that New Zealand dialect back to the States. Whenever I would text people "sweet as," they always thought it was a typo, but it's a real phrase and makes total sense. As I stated in another blog, "sweet as" means awesome or cool. My abroad friends and I even added a twist to it, we would say "as" after every sentence and word possible. Real examples with my flatmate Tovah, "home as," "love I99 as," "conflicted as on this essay as," "should we kick Jordan and Steve out as," "working on my final blog post as," "even though we're not abroad anymore as." See, it works when you want it to work! (Side note: I99 was my flat, and in the best flat were my flatmates Steve and Jordan, as well as Amelia, and I miss them all dearly.) Flat, that's another one; basically the same as an apartment but it's a cooler and faster way to identify it. Other local language differences: jandals=sandals, togs=bathing suit, heaps=a lot of, keen=down to, take away=take out/to go, Maccas=Mcdonald's, uni=university, torch=flashlight, rubbish=trash, queue=line, give way=yield, tramping=hiking, thickshake=milkshake, chips=fries. Reckon their dialect is a bit different?
5. Kiwis (not the birds) are Hobbits. Go watch Lord of the Rings if you have no idea what I am talking about. First off, I have seen LOTR prior to coming to New Zealand, but I didn't really pay attention until I did a LOTR marathon with my abroad friends and let's just say the only music I listened to while studying all semester was the LOTR soundtrack. Why is LOTR so important? The trilogy was filmed entirely in NZ. New Zealand IS Middle-Earth. And why are Kiwis Hobbits? Because Hobbits are always barefoot, and a good majority of Kiwis do not wear shoes everywhere they go, but no worries, they can't be refused service! (Some Kiwis even hike barefoot; don't ask me how, I can't explain it, but at least they save money on hiking boots!)
6. They don't celebrate Halloween in NZ. Now that's just rubbish!
7. On the note of holidays, New Zealand breaks are the American Dream. Mid semester break was 3 weeks, enough time to travel to Australia, Rarotonga, and through the North and South Island of NZ. But why not throw in a week off to study for finals, and two weeks of finals (in which I only had one), obviously I took advantage of that and traveled. I found myself back in Australia, Fiji, and a road trip through the West Coast of New Zealand with my best friend.
The infamous Wanaka Tree.
View of Lake Hawea from Isthmus Peak.
Lake Mapourika in Franz Josef.
Hokitika, the Jade country. (New Zealand is famous for its greenstone).
8. NZ is one thing America is not; clean. I live in the north suburbs of Chicago so I have been a city girl all of my life. I did not realize until now how filthy Chicago is. In one of my classes at the University of Canterbury, Land Journeys and Ethics (it was a legit camping class), we learned about "Leave No Trace." I argued against it in an essay because humans leave a trace everywhere they go; the point is, the world is not a rubbish bin, so treat it with respect. On every tramp, when we see rubbish on a trail, we pick it up. We carry heaps of plastic bags with our rubbish in them until we have returned from our tramp or camping trip.
9. So often people ask me why I chose New Zealand as my study abroad destination. For awhile my only response was, "because it's the only program that worked best with my course of study." Ever since my sister studied abroad in Florence, Italy, I thought the go-to option for studying abroad was Europe. I am so incredibly thankful I chose speech language pathology as my major because if it weren't for that, I wouldn't have ended up in the place that changed my life. As I mentioned, I grew up only really knowing the city life. But after being submerged by mountains, natural beauty, cleanliness, isolation, and friendly people, I have finally discovered my calling. I'm not going to get all deep or talk about my future, but NZ has presented me with so many opportunities and has changed the way I look at things. Don't think I'm going AWOL on you, right now I'm just going with the flow and seeing where life takes me (which at the moment is back to Indiana University for my senior year of college. I am not even going to get into the fact that Uni has flown by and I am already graduating this year).
You can take the girl out of Chicago, but you can't take Chicago out of the girl.
(Lake Matheson in Fox Glacier)
10. Always Say Yes to Adventure.
New Zealand, you never seized to amaze me. Even on my final tramp, I couldn't see anything for the last 2 hours to the summit (brutal I tell ya) because I was literally in the clouds. I sat at the summit 1,386 meters high, waiting for some miracle to happen. And what do you know, it did. The sun broke through and the clouds cleared up. I could see Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea, and the Southern Alps.
I was on top of the world.
It isn't why I chose the destination, but the journey that became of it.
New Zealand - Aotearoa: The land of the long white cloud. Thank you for everything.
And shout out to mom and dad for supporting my surreal adventures!
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<p>Hey there! My name is Jami Weinstein, I am from the north suburbs of Chicago and I am a junior majoring in speech language pathology at Indiana University! I am thrilled to be sharing my study abroad experience from across the world, behind my camera, in Christchurch, New Zealand. When I snap a photograph, I feel as if I have jumped into a whole new perspective of life, and to me, words can’t explain a single moment, but a photo captures a story. Follow along on my journey as I make the moments count. Adventure awaits!</p>