The "Home and Away Blog" gives incoming international and outgoing New Zealand students the opportunity to share their experiences of being away from home. Join them on their journey!
In the last few days my mind has been focused on sorting out my accommodation for the duration of my stay. I'm not staying on-campus. I paired up with a friend and we found an amazing deal for a double room at Regents apartment. Not only is it affordable but it's conveniently located 30 seconds from a bus stop that only takes 10 minutes to get to UCSD. Past excited, I'm swirling in contentment in my new apartment with my fantastic roomies! Don't worry Mum and Dad I'm in a beautifully safe place! This is where I'm staying, not meaning to brag or anything but it's nice!
Hello Waikato students!
My name is Emily Cranston. I am currently studying abroad at the University of California - San Deigo. I am currently working away at a Bachelor of Social Science, double majoring in Human Resource Management & Industrial Relations and Psychology. I started off studying Psychology at Waikato thinking I would be a clinical psychologist and then took the suggestion of my father and tried to extend my degree to Human Resource Management as well. I have been in Hamilton all my life and thought the very idea of moving away from home was far from necessary.
I had no idea leaving this country that I have grown to love would be so hard. Upon first arriving here I was excited but got extremely home-sick to the point where I almost went home early. Change and the unknown are scary and that’s what I was dealing with when I first got here. I arrived as an outsider, a person who clearly didn’t fit in and it was the worst feeling.
And just when I finally found my place here, I have to go home and experience that outsider feeling all over again. Yes it is true that I am going back to something familiar instead of going back to something unknown, but time has passed and people have changed. I now feel as if I’m leaving my family here to go back to a group of strangers who, because of the time difference and having separate lives, I have barely kept in touch with.
To those that I am leaving behind here know that I am so happy I got the chance to meet you and be a part of your lives for just a short time. I will not forget you, and I ask that you do not forget me. I am better for knowing all of you. Also remember that I will be back to visit, this is the place where I learned to fall in love and got engaged to a kiwi boy. I will be back to see my friends, my new in-laws and this beautiful country.
To those I am coming home to I ask that you be patient with me. Yes it is true that I missed all of you, but I am not the same person anymore. I would like to think I changed for the better, but I realize that some of you might not think that and that is okay. I did not replace any of you while I was here, but I do consider the people I met here just as important to me as all of you are. I have to leave behind what has become my second family and my fiancé only to come home to a place where I do not feel like I fit into anymore. Give me time and I will adjust to home, but this will not happen overnight. I cannot wait to see all of you and share some of my crazy adventures.
I head on a plane in about two days; I arrive home to face the challenge of fitting in again. I also have to start working on my senior project, get things in order for graduation and then hopefully grad school. Growing up is not an easy task but I’m lucky because I now have an even bigger support system than I did before. Instead of one family cheering me on I now have two
Some of the best things about being an international student are meeting new people, having new experiences and making bonds, some of which last a lifetime. Typically you live in house with other students who are of different nationalities. According to me, that calls for some adjustments. But then again, nothing in life comes THAT easy.
Once the initial phase of getting to know one another fairly well passes, the fun part begins! Parties, long conversations, uncontrollable bouts of laughter and some fights. What happens somewhere in amongst all of this is that we all become a family,one that we acquire and choose to a certain extent. I have been extremely fortunate to have a house filled with love and laughter. The doors of our house have always been open to those who want to relax and have some fun conversations.
This post is dedicated to one of my flatmates, Jitin, who is leaving to Auckland. We have been flatting together since April and these months have been… something else. It is only now that the reality of it all is hitting the rest of us; that one morning we won’t hear Jitin’s contagious laughter or wake up to the smell of his expert cooking. What we won’t miss however, is waiting endlessly for him to get done with his shower.
When I moved to NZ, I was cognizant of the fact that I would be flatting with a few students and that it was a temporary set up. People would move in and out in a matter of months. And yet, there is sadness. Having said that, I would have not had it any other way. I am extremely glad I met someone like Jitin and I hope that our friendship continues no matter where we are. This, my friends, is one of the realities of being an international student- It’s a temporary phase. On a more philosophical note, so is life.
“It's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”
- Marlene Dietrich
The question I get most often as a theatre student here is why I came to New Zealand of all places. I realize that I could have gone to London where most other theatre students go, but I didn't want to go to London. I thought if I had the opportunity to study abroad that I might as well use the opportunity to go some place that most likely I would never get the chance to go otherwise. I ended up in New Zealand at Waikato University to study theatre and now that the semester is over I have never been happier about my decision to come here. Theatre here is like nothing I have ever done back in the states. In one class I am getting the opportunity to work with life sized puppets. Working with puppets is a lot harder than I ever thought it would be but as the end of the semester gets closer the final result of what we have been working on is amazing.
In my Creating Theatre class all year we have been working on a devised piece that we will be performing at the end of the year entitled Flights of Absurdia. I had never even heard of devising before I came here and I have got to say that the process is not an easy one. We have been using Absurist texts as a springboard for this show. So not only was I put out of my comfort zone doing devising but I was also using texts that I was mostly unfamiliar with as a starting off point. As hard as it was to get the hang of; once I understood the process, I was able to allow myself to be inspired by what I was reading and seeing and then create a response to it with a group of people. Our show is coming together and I encourage people to come see it. To come see this show that I personally feel is exciting, stimulating and inspiring. Flights of Absurdia is unlike anything I have ever worked on and I am so happy I got the privilege to be a part of it. For more information check out the link to the facebook event below.
It has been 6 months of interesting events in New Zealand . I have seldom experienced such a roller coaster of emotions in such a short span of time; almost felt I was bipolar. In retrospect, I believe I have learnt quite a bit about myself and about the subtler challenges of moving to a new country to pursue education.
I have always been extremely sociable and have had many close friends over the years. I go to crazy lengths to make sure my friends are okay and this gives me happiness; just to be there for them at any cost. Leaving my friends back home was one of the hardest parts and it took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I need to start from scratch here. New life. New friends. Making friends has never been an arduous effort for me; it's something that came naturally. And I guess I had taken that for granted on some level thinking I would make friends with ease when I join university as well. What happened however, was slightly different.
I did make some very close friends but I also realised the nuances of relationships in a foreign setting. Back in our home country where most of us have spent many years, we have "chosen" friends, ones who understand us inside out and who feel themselves around us. That becomes your social life and your comfort zone. When I came here, I noticed that my class was full of students of different ethnicities. I saw myself holding back, a trait I didn't think I possessed. I could interact with most of them on a superficial level but that's where it stopped. Having said that, I have made a few close friends who are not from my country and they have been of immense help at all times.
I was drawn towards students of my own ethnicity, just to feel a semblance of being in that comfort zone; the one that I missed dearly. Interacting with people of your own cultural background gives you a strange sense of familiarity and belonging. The one you yearn for when you leave all your loved ones behind.
What I did learn is that those people (like you) are looking for that comfort and that's what brings you together. Unfortunately, this is not what friendship is about. You don't get to "choose" your friends anymore. There are a bunch of people here who you either get along with or don't. We have our biases; we have our belief systems which are not easily mouldable. In most cases, these were primarily developed and molded by your family and friends back home. Is there room for other "friends" to get to that inner circle or is it just that innate human need that drives us to seek new comfort zones?
"Where everybody knows your name"
So for this blog I've decided to answer the top questions I get from friends back home in the states. I also hope that by answering these questions people get a better understanding of what it is like for me to be living here as an abroad student.
Q: What is the biggest difference between living in New Zealand and living in the states?
A: I get this question a lot, and honestly there is no one giant difference between living here and living at home. There is just a lot of little differences between the two places. Items here tend to be more expensive but the exchange rate is different. The grading system here is different; for example what is considered an A- here is considered a C back in the states. The metric system is used here, which makes me extremely thankful that I have converter on my phone. Free wifi is a huge thing back in the States and is available practically anywhere, thats not the case here. The last probably big difference that I've noticed is that cars drive on the other side of the road than what I'm used to.
Q: Did you experience culture shock?
A: I sure did, and what was worse is that I was convinced that I would not experience much of it because I have traveled away from home a lot the past few years. After the first few weeks I wanted to go home because I missed my family and friends so much, but now that I've gotten adjusted I almost can't ever imagine leaving this place.
Q: You have a boyfriend that lives in New Zealand?!
A: Yes, his name is Billy and no I didn't plan on finding a boyfriend while I was here. We met at Arise church and after talking for a bit I took him out for coffee. We have been inseparable ever since that day and he is the most caring, kind and loving person I have ever met. He has actually helped me adjust to living here quite a bit. He plans on following me to the states when I hopefully get in and attend graduate school.
Q: Do you have an accent yet?
A: No I do not and I probably will not come back home with one. The New Zealand accent is like nothing I have ever heard before. I have tried to imitate it several times and have failed miserably. But I have gotten to the point where I don't have to ask people to repeat what they've said, so I can at least understand it fully now.
Q: What will you miss the most when you leave?
A: It's weird to think that my time here is half way done already. What I'll miss most is more of a who will I miss most. I'm going to miss my boyfriend obviously, but I'm going to miss the friends I've made here as well. Because even though I might end up back here in a few years that still means I'm not going to see these people for another few years. This country is also incredibly beautiful rain or shine. I've never seen more beautiful landscapes in my life. Something I'm going to miss seeing when I'm back home driving on roads with cornfields on either side of me. I'm also going to miss some of the foods here. I have grown to love meat pies, l&p and caramel slice so much since being here. When I get home I will be on the hunt for these foods.
Horses bred for perfection, that’s what Cambridge stud farm is about. Organised by the Rotary Club for the University of Waikato, the trip was a brief insight into the horse breeding passion of Sir Patrick Hogan. Established in 1975, Cambridge stud is New Zealand’s top Thoroughbred nursery with numerous victories to its credit. Cambridge Stud is known for the world’s most famous stud stallion Sir Tristram (1971-1997), the greatest Thoroughbred stud stallion in New Zealand history. Sir Tristram was the pride and joy of Sir Patrick Hogan. He was at one time the world’s leading sire for individual group winners. Now, the legacy and blood line of Sir Tristam is being carried forward by his son Zabeel.
It was a relief that the trip started only at midday, gave me enough time to sleep in. The trip was managed by a group of retired gentleman who were part of the Rotary Club. As we drove into the stud farm through the electric gate and looking at the well maintained property, it was evident that Sir Patrick was definitely one of the richest men in New Zealand. The bronze statue of Sir Tristram, under which he was buried in a standing pose, shows the magnitude of achievements amassed by the stallion for Cambridge Stud.
Keri George, stallion manager was our guide for the day. He showed us around the stud farm explaining its day to day workings. Keri enlightened us with behind the scenes information regarding horse breeding, typically a heavy paycheck business. We were given the rare opportunity to rub manes with some of the prestigious stallions such as Luck Star and Tavistock. Tavistock was made to parade in front of the students. This was a spectacular sight. Seeing the muscular definition on the horses, it was clear that they belonged to genetically superior breeds. No wonder Sir Patrick Hogan is one of the sought after breeders around the world.
Keri was kind enough to hand us free Cambridge Stud merchandise, caps and brochures with all the rates to mate with the sires (not that it was of any use to us) . Overall the trip was quite informative, a peek into the big money game of which I practically had no knowledge.
Next was a trip to a dairy farm owned by Sir Patrick Hogan. For me, the farm visit was pretty uneventful. We were shown the barns where all the newborns were taken care of. All the girls went mushy seeing the calves, some of them just a day old. The students were allowed to feed the calves using a giant milk bottle. We were provided refreshments and then taken to the automatic milking systems where we were shown cows being milked. Having lived on a farm for some time in India, this was pretty normal stuff whereas for some of the international students who were raised in cities, the excitement was palpable.
Overall, the trip was quite exciting and a pretty good way to spend Saturday afternoon. More of these amazing trips are around the corner, so people keep your eyes open!!!
A few days before leaving your home country, you are immensely stressed. Leaving your comfort zone and not knowing when you might return is rather a hollow feeling. Five years ago when most of my friends left to the US for their Masters, I couldn’t entirely understand what they might be going through. This time, it was my turn. My only consolation was that my husband and my son were coming along with me. This was my first time away from home - I didn’t know what to expect. All I kept telling myself was that my family was coming with me. However, a whole different set of events was about to unfold thanks to the immigration office.
I received my visa a week before my journey to New Zealand, which by itself was anxiety provoking. I wasn’t sure if I should start saying my goodbyes so I waited until the visa had arrived. You can imagine how rushed everything was in the last minute. My boys didn’t get their visas at the same time as me, but I absolutely had to get to New Zealand for my classes. I couldn’t postpone my tickets and I had to leave, irrespective of their status.
Now I had one more thing to deal with- the possibility of my boys not accompanying me. We tried contacting New Zealand Immigration in New Delhi, but they didn’t get back to us until after I had left India. It wasn’t a pleasant experience waiting day in and day out to hear about their visa status.
A few weeks later, we got mail saying the immigration office required my husband’s medicals redone. He got it done that very day and sent in the reports. The waiting game started all over again. Finally the visas arrived some four months later. The wait was excruciating but university kept me busy and my friends here in New Zealand were extremely supportive.
After my boys had arrived and life was settling back to normal, I withdrew from my Semester B PGDip in Psychology and enrolled in a PhD program. This again required me to change my visa. I went to the immigration office in Victoria Street where I was given the wrong information. The only helpful person who provided accurate information was Caitriona Gyde (Waikato International Student Advisor).
My advice to you: It is ideal to get the visa application process started way ahead of time in order to avoid last minute madness, as I experienced. The next best thing to do would be to call the helpline with any visa-related queries you may have.
I have recently sent my passport off to be re-stamped. I wish this visa drama didn’t have to be so elaborate and difficult, but then again all good things come at a price, don’t they?