It is impossible to properly describe a study abroad experience. How do you find the right words to sum up living in a completely different part of the world and possibly a completely new culture? How do you go back home and have your friends and family that you’ve known your whole life all understand all your stories about the experiences you had with your new friends, who just a few months ago you didn’t even know existed? Simply put, you can’t. Or at least, I can’t. People from home won’t be able to completely understand or grasp all these experiences I’ve had or understand how such close bonds have formed with the people I’ve met here. It’s hard to understand while they’re on the other side of the world, but when they come to visit they have a great opportunity to try!
A few weeks into my study abroad experience here in New Zealand I received a message from a really good friend from home, who was studying abroad for a semester in Western Australia, asking when would be a good time to come visit me. We had joked about meeting up with one another while we’re on the other side of the world, but neither of us actually thought it would happen. Granted, Australia and New Zealand are pretty close in perspective to the rest of the world, but she still had to go through five time zones to get here! Before I knew it, all my weeks in between receiving her email and having her step off the plane were gone and it was time for our 5 day Middle-earth adventure to begin!
Our first stop of our journey was Tongariro National Park. We were greeted with the stunning view of snow covered Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom in LOTR; pictured above). We knew we were going in the beginning of winter and didn’t have ice axes or crampons so we didn’t think it would be possible to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (19.4 km), supposedly the greatest one day tramp here in New Zealand. However, luck was on our side! The weather had let up a bit and at 7 am the morning after we arrived we boarded a shuttle and were on our way to start the trek! Weather is quite unpredictable on the crossing as we changed elevation; at one point we had to remove layers from heat exhaustion, and then at another we couldn’t get enough layers on! Although our what-was-suppose-to-be stunning views of volcanic terrain and shimmering emerald lakes was blocked by cloud cover and blowing snow, it was an incredible adventure! The feeling of having completed the epic-awesomeness of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is indescribable.
After Tongariro we made our way over to the Hawkes Bay region and seaport city of Napier. Originally we had planned on doing a bicycle wine tour through the country side; however, the crossing was more exhausting than anticipated so we did a small bus tour instead, and it was incredible! In total we visited 5 different wineries in the area and at every one it was practically just the two of us, plus our driver and one or two workers. Having a small amount of people was extremely nice and made it possible to have conversations with the people at the wineries and get a better understanding of New Zealand wine. Throughout the wine tour, we had breath-taking views of the country side and in the evening we made our way down to the harbor in Napier to get a stunning view of the lowering sun.
On our last day together, we made our way to Auckland in time to see the gorgeous city lights. Luckily for me, TEAN had its New Zealand orientation in Auckland so I had the privilege of already being there for four days and could pick out some of the decent spots to hangout. One of my favorite things to do in Auckland at night is to walk down to the wharf and just absorb the peacefulness of the area and take in the marvelous view.
As it always does here, time went by too fast and before I knew it I had to say goodbye to my friend. It was great to finally get to share an experience abroad with someone from home! Now it won’t be so bad when I go back home and want to reminisce about New Zealand with someone.