Manchester University
Oak Leaves

March 10, 2017

New Zealand

Juniors Katie Byers and Madison Asbell proudly hold up the Manchester flag.

Photo courtesy of Katie Byers

MU Students Study in New Zealand 

Jensen Lassiter

In just the first few weeks that juniors Madison Asbell and Katie Byers have been away, they've been able to beat the temperamental Indiana weather while soaking up the luscious New Zealand sun. Asbell and Byers are both studying abroad in Dunedin, New Zealand, as a part of BCA's Study Abroad Program at the University of Otago.

While adjusting to a new place to live is challenging, adjusting to a new culture and peo-ple presents its own challenges as well.

"Life here is a lot different, but very similar at the same time,” Asbell said in an email. “Everything is opposite. The cars, roads, light switches, the direction the doors swing and the mannerisms of the locals. The thing that has been the most change for me is the side of the walkway, sidewalk, or aisle people walk on. It’s human nature to walk on the same side of the sidewalk as you drive, but here, since driving is on the left side, people also walk on the left side. I can’t count how many times I have run into someone on the right side of the sidewalk or in the aisle of the supermarket."

Byers remarked on the elevated place of indigenous people in New Zealand. ”They ap-preciate the little things and respect and definitely embrace their native people here, called Māori (equivalent to our own Native Americans),” she said in an email. “Many meetings or slogans for things around the city begin with Māori language. They show much more respect to their native people; it is such an awesome thing to be able to witness how much they have incorporated the two cultures into one."

Asbell noted that gasoline prices were much higher in New Zealand compared to the United States. Some gasoline prices are as high as $8 per gallon in U.S. dollars. "People walk a lot more than drive,” she said. “Everyone is a lot more active, and, in turn, a bit more in shape."

Even the attitude of the locals has been rather different. "Everyone here is so friendly and willing to take the time to talk with you and help,” Byers said. “Kiwis (what people are called in New Zealand) love nature and being outdoors; how could you not in a beautiful place like this?”

Culture in New Zealand seems to be relaxed, with citizens exuding a carefree spirit. "The best way I've been able to explain the culture and life here to my friends back home is that I feel like I'm stuck in the 90s,” Byers said. “The pace of everyday life, the WiFi is much slower and less reliable, fashion here is very much like the 90s -- lots of denim miniskirts & all white tennis shoes for girls."

Another major difference is time. New Zealand has an 18-hour time difference from the United States. "When it’s 4 p.m. on a Sunday [in New Zealand], it’s 10 p.m. on a Saturday night at home,” Asbell said. But it is summer here, right now so the weather is amazing."

With classes just having barely started, Asbell and Byers have been making excellent use of their "summer" by traveling around Dunedin and surrounding locations. "We did a lot of ex-ploring with our program for the first few weeks." Byers said. "Just a few of the places we visit-ed were Tunnel Beach, The Catlins, Arrowtown [Lord of the Rings filming loca-tions],Queenstown, Oamaru, St. Clair's, Hooker Valley and Moeraki Boulders.” 

As the semester wears on, many more travel opportunities will become available. "I am looking forward to our mid-semester break, our fall break here, which would be spring break at home," Asbell said. “Katie and I plan to go on an overnight cruise tour of Queenstown and go bungie jumping while we are there."

One aspect of studying abroad is realizing how much you already know and how much you're going to learn. "I've learned that I can be more independent than I ever realized I could be,” Byers said. "I've also acquired quite a bit more of lingo for my daily dialogues, such as Kia Ora, Cheers, and Sweet As!"

Another important challenge is the native cuisine. "The food is different here,” Byers said. “It doesn’t seem that different when you first look at the menu, but they put their own vari-ation to everything. For example, a hotdog with ketchup is a sausage with a piece of white bread (they don't have buns or hotdogs, but most of the time they're called hotdogs), and tomato sauce (it's pronounced toe-ma-toe and tastes nothing like ketchup)."
While trying new foods in an unfamiliar country is exciting, sometimes familiar food and home cooking is a good option. "I love cooking for myself, and since I am living on my own and must grocery shop and cook meals for myself, I am loving it,” Asbell said. “I do miss some as-pects of the food from home though. For example, the Mexican cuisine here is pretty nonexistent, so I have been cooking Mexican food for myself to the best of my ability almost every other night."

With many differences between New Zealand and The United States, soaking up as much foreign culture as possible for 4.5 months seems like an exciting way to spend a semester abroad.