“Spring Break” in the South Island

The past two weeks here in New Zealand have been very exciting, so I’ll try to keep this short but I’ve got a lot to say. We just had our mid-trimester break, which comprised the university giving students 2 weeks off of school just to let us have a bit of a mental and physical holiday after the first 6 weeks of class. Crazy, right? Well, it is for me, who is used to having just one weekday off for Labor Day in the first 15-ish weeks (depending on when Thanksgiving Break falls; this year it’s 17 weeks), then 3 days off for Thanksgiving, then continuing through until finals with only a weekend between the last day of regular classes and the first day of final exams. Here, the academic semester is much shorter and students are given more frequent and longer breaks, a 1 week exam preparation period WITH NO CLASSES, and 2 weeks to take final exams so that students generally will have no more than one exam per day (rather than, say, 1 test on Tuesday, 3 tests on Wednesday, and an essay due on Thursday). The new system has made my stress levels drop exponentially, I look forward to class much more than I did at home, and I feel like I actually have time to study outside of class so I am able to more adequately prepare for tests.

That’s a bit tangential though; I actually want to focus on what happened during the break, not just the fact that we had one and it’s unusual for me. My New Zealand Flora and Fauna class went back a week early, so I was only able to travel for half of the break, but my 8 days of holiday were definitely not wasted. I spent the week in the South Island, traveling from the northern tip all the way down the west coast before flying home. Here are the places I visited along the way:

Picton:

This was my first taste of the South Island. We took the ferry over on a chilly, rainy, windy day but the scenery was still breathtaking. 

Me with Markus, Thijs, and Luiza on the ferry 🙂

Welcome to Picton, South Island!

Nelson:

Nelson was the first city we visited. The town was completely dead on a winter weekend, but felt cozy nonetheless. We wandered past a beautiful Gothic cathedral…

And went to the “center of New Zealand” (which is not actually the geographic center; it was a point designated to make surveying easier… which we did not know until AFTER the very steep climb to the spot)

We watched the sun set over Nelson to end our first day.

Abel Tasman National Park:

We took a short day trip into the national park for our second day. The weather was absolutely stunning as we hiked through the trees and along the beach

We could clearly see the Southern Alps on the horizon all day, which only added to the beauty of the scenery

A few of us got lucky and were able to get up close to a very cute and very curious endemic flightless bird, the weka!

Punakaiki:

Punakaiki was our least glamourous stop on paper, but ended up being easily one of my absolute favorites. We stayed in a beach hostel with this view out our back door… not bad, eh?


These are the pancake rocks that Punakaiki is famous for, an as-yet unexplained geological phenomenon that resulted in sediment being deposited in layers that have slowly begun to erode over time, leaving “stacks” (like pancakes!)

Franz Josef Glacier:

Next stop, Franz Josef! The hike to the glacier was an easy climb through the riverbed where glacier runoff has carved a path over centuries.

Although the hike and the glacier were both beautiful, it was also a sobering experience. There were pictures and signs along the way reminding us of what the glacier used to look like and how much the ice has receded. We walked over ground that was once covered by the ice of the glacier for almost the entire 45 minute hike. Franz Josef is one of the places I have seen climate change at its most visible, and it has spurred me to be even more conscious than I already am of our impact on the world and the immediacy of the need for action to prevent further damage.

We got lucky to be at the glacier on a relatively calm day; there is a small reflecting pool near the trailhead called Peter’s Pool, which provided a stunning mirror image of the mountains

Queenstown:

Queenstown was our last stop. The city has very modern, upscale vibes and was full of skiers and other winter sport enthusiasts. It was also the first place I’ve had a GOOD burger in this country (sorry New Zealand, you’ve got a lot of things going for you but just can’t do a hamburger like we do), so that definitely swayed me in the city’s favor. If you go there, make it a point to stop by Fergburger. It’ll be busy, but don’t worry; they move quickly and it is worth the wait! While most of the places we stopped were pretty quiet since it is the off season for South Island travel, Queenstown was bustling from morning until midnight. We spent two days there, and the group split up to do various things: skiing, hiking, wandering around the city, and for a few of us, bungy jumping 🙂

This is my favorite picture of Queenstown. I was in awe of the fact that I could see the mountains from anywhere in the city, even the middle of downtown, and I can still barely believe that scenery like this is real and unedited.


Mi Primera Semana en Puebla

This past week was extremely fun, yet tiring. I met so many international students and learned so much about Mexican culture. Los jovenes les gusta la musica reggae y beben mucho tequila. Mexicans definitely know how to have fun and they love to party. Just in the first week there were so many parties that I couldn’t even keep count of. I only went out once because partying isn’t really my scene, but they definitely went hard! We were in a party bus then went to one club after another, ALL FOR FREE! How crazy is that? They treated us like family. The students here are so nice to us, and it makes me feel very comfortable. They are always willing to help us, to speak to us, and to just be a great resource/friend. I have had many conversations with native speakers, and I feel like I am already getting better at holding a conversation. Yesterday I went to watch wrestling, se llama “La Lucha Libre” en Espanol, and it was so funny. Getting to see something like WWE live has always been a dream, so that was very fun. My classes are extremely fun, and I cannot wait to learn more and understand more. Lastly, this past weekend we went to Angelopolis, it’s like a mall area, and we rode the ferris wheel. I had a great time being in the city, but soon we will be taking more trips. I can’t wait!

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Un Semestre en Puebla

This semester I am studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico. I hope to gain so much from this experience and learn so many things. Why Mexico you might ask, well I’ve always had a love for learning Spanish and learning about Latinx culture, so I thought the best way to fully learn is to be present. By being here in Mexico, I hope that I can get better at my Spanish and have a better understanding of the culture. I think it’s essential for us to step outside of ourselves and learn about other communities because everyone’s culture is important. Not only do I want to understand my own struggles within my community, but also the struggles that Hispanic people face, so one day I’ll be able to speak truth to power within the Latinx community, as well as my own. Join me on my journey in Puebla! 

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Side trip to Madrid

During my time abroad I visited Madrid, Spain. I was in awe of the beautiful landmarks in Madrid as well as in its surrounding cities. Downtown Madrid has so many historic buildings and statues that I was lucky enough to see like El Oso y el Madroño. I also enjoyed that I could speak in Spanish with the locals which helped me find more places to visit. After visiting downtown Madrid I went to Toledo which is the former capital city of Spain. It has many medieval buildings and it is also fortified. After visiting Toledo I also took a trip to Segovia which is home to a former royal palace and a Roman aqueduct. Spain is a great place to visit as it has a lot of history and beauty. I would tell anyone going to Europe to make a stop in Spain!

     

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Day trip to Copenhagen

During my time in Denmark, I took a day trip to Copenhagen with friends I made in my course. We took a bus and then ferry to Copenhagen which is the most affordable method of transportation for students! During our time in Copenhagen, we visited Nikolaj church, the Little Mermaid statue, and we took a boat tour. We did not plan anything before we went so everything we did was spontaneous and it was so much fun. I recommend a trip to Copenhagen to any student studying abroad.

   

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The Old Town Museum (Den Gamle By)

Another social activity I participated in was a trip to the old town located in central Aarhus. The old town is an open air museum that opened in 1914. It is a museum of urban history and culture that even has original homes from the 1860’s. It was a beautiful museum that taught me a lot about Aarhus and its people.

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The Language of Dance

Going into this summer, I knew I was embarking on an international adventure. However, I did not anticipate just how many different kinds of people of people I would meet along the way, how many languages and cultures I would be surrounded by, and how many beautiful friendships this would lead to. The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Intensive attracts people from all over the world; I have met people from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Poland, Britain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Macedonia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Australia, South Africa, of course Israel, and I may even be forgetting a few. At any time when I am walking somewhere, I may hear three or four different languages along the way.

I have never been part of such an international group, and I have loved learning about the different places people come from. Despite all of the different languages spoken here, the most amazing revelation has been that we all share a common language of movement: we speak through our bodies with the vocabulary of dance.

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A New Way of Moving

I have trained extensively in classical ballet since I was six years old. While I have taken modern and contemporary dance classes along the way, the majority of my classes have been focused on ballet technique; I’ve spent years striving for perfect lines, meticulously pointed feet, jumps that defy the laws of gravity and extensions that go above and beyond the natural range of the body. This summer I have learned that there are no limits to the capabilities of the human body, and I have discovered entirely new ways of exploring and creating movement.

In living life and in making art, it is easy to get trapped in a bubble of routine. As artists, this bubble is our absolute nemesis, because we must continually break the bounds of what we think we know and how we understand our craft. We are scientists each day we step into the studio; it is our laboratory for researching the body and experimenting with the bounds of movement. This kinesthetic research is an exploration of the different ways we can convey ourselves as individuals and as a collective artistic force.

I have been immersed in contemporary dance this summer at the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Intensive, and I have discovered an entirely new way of using my body to make interesting and exciting art. I’ve broken the barriers to what I thought I knew about the limits of my abilities, and each day I wake up eager to see what I will discover about myself. Dancing here has shown me that the world of movement available to me is limitless, and by diving in I can discover whole new dimensions of my art. I have fallen in love with dance all over again.

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I BECAME A CITIZEN!!

2019 started off pretty awesome if you asked me. I became a citizen of the US!! The process wasn’t new to me since I had a friend that went through it a year before me but I know it was new to my other friends. It started out with an application which was pretty normal if you asked me. The only shock was the price but it made understand why not everyone with a greencard becomes a citizen right away. The next step is pictures and fingerprints if you get approved and that was normal. The final step before you become a citizen is the test which for me was pretty simple since I took American History all my life but I was shocked that some of my American friends didn’t even though some of the simple questions….maybe everyone should take the test!! haha just kidding. The step after that was the ceremony which was pretty awesome because you are in a room with people from all over and you are all becoming a citizen.It was really neat meeting people who have been in the US for years and they are just getting their citizenship. Also, it was cool that if you had a child under 18 they also became a citizen that day if they weren’t. This journey make me really understand what blessing it is to be an American.

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