Although it pains me to say it, the time has come to head home from New Zealand. At this time last year I was attending my first welcome talks at International Orientation Week and can remember them like it was yesterday. It seems so strange that a whole 12 months and a whole year of experiences has happened since. It still has not quite sunk in that it is already time to get on that plane and leave this beautiful country.
But I also know that in just over 40 hours, after 3 flights and a 14 hour stopover in Singapore airport (the flight was cheaper!), I will actually be able to see my family in the real life flesh and bone and not just over face time. My sister has promised me that she will not be bringing embarrassing signs to the airport! My bags have been packed and after donating what seems like half of what I own to flatmates and op shops (charity shops) they fit within the weight restrictions. I honestly did not think I had that much stuff!
So I guess that means that it is time to reflect back on what has gone on this year. I have been blogging occasionally throughout my time at Otago and documenting some of my experiences for you but those have just been snapshots of a year living as a student in New Zealand. And this year has definitely had its ups and downs, as would a year at Durham. There are some times I wish I had travelled more instead of staying in Dunedin job hunting. Some parts of me wish I had been more confident to go away on the weekends and explore more remote places. Most of the time I was having a fantastic time and keeping busy so didn’t even think of home but at other moments it was difficult to forget exactly how far I was away from my family.
I’m sure there are quite a few things that I intended to do whilst I was abroad that I never got around to doing, or I simply decided that actually I didn’t want to do them at all when I really thought about it. Equally, and probably more so, there are HEAPS of things that I have done that I never intended to do or even imagined that I would do before I left the UK.
Just some of the lovely and sometimes unexpected things that I have experienced and achieved this year, big and small:
- Ran in the Dunedin Quarter Marathon – my first ever running event
- Tried out possibly all the vegan cakes that are available in Dunedin cafes
- Learned to dive under big waves (this may sound silly but I was 100% scared before!)
- Tried out surfing (only on the little waves)
- Took a road trip and drove in another country for the first time
- Harvested, dyed and wove harakeke (flax) into a bag – a traditional Maori art
- Volunteered with conservation groups around the Otago Peninsula and on Quarantine Island
- Took a photography course and practiced a lot
- Climbed up Roy’s Peak to watch the sunrise
- Went to late night improv comedy shows with my flatmate and laughed a lot
Over this year I have learnt that your experiences are your own and they don’t need to be compared to anyone else’s. You don’t need to have experienced the wildest, most exotic things or climbed up the highest mountains to have had an experience. I am proud to say that I have lived on the other side of the world for an entire year. I arrived in Dunedin this time last year and moved into a flat full of strangers and have left a year later with friends for life and people that I can go back and visit and who can come to visit me too!
This year has been so special to me and one that has really helped me whether it be reminding me exactly why I love studying Geography or developing my self-confidence whilst I’ve been living abroad independently.
Thank you so much to everyone who has hung out and helped me out in every way this year. I couldn’t have done it without you guys! Good luck to Emma, the next Durham student heading to Otago, I wish her all the best as she starts her year of adventure and am only a tiny bit jealous!