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So while I wrote most of this post in Auckland while waiting through my 8-hour overnight layover before hopping to Christchurch, I wanted to document the trip from Portland to Christchurch as soon as I could. To start off, I’ll say that I was very nervous going into this move, and it still doesn’t feel real that I’m actually here in New Zealand right now. For the entire week leading up to this, I felt off, mostly about flying alone for the first time but also coming to terms with leaving everyone I love behind half a world away. It’s been a weird experience because there’s an expectation that you’ll be completely excited going to another country. And it’s true, I am excited, but I’ve also struggled this past week and over the last day of flying and layovers, and I’m still partially wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

My favorite part of this whole venture has been the actual flights. As I’ve mentioned before, I love road trips, and so getting to look out the window at the landscape, the ocean and the cloud formations was really nice. The flights also gave me a chance to relax and just be along for the ride for a bit rather than scrambling to keep everything together. My first two legs were with Hawaiian Airlines (HA), and I can’t commend them enough for their friendly service. I was terrified when I first pulled into the Portland Airport this morning with my family, but the staff at HA were welcoming and willing to answer my questions, both when I checked in and when I was on the planes. My last leg is with Jetstar Airways (an Aussie airline), and while it’s only a short flight, it will be interesting to see how that flight goes. I’ll admit that I wanted to be more productive during the flights through reading papers for my thesis research, but having the time to read a book (The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera) and watch a documentary series about islands in the South Pacific were enjoyable and also educational in their content on New Zealand.

On the flip side, the hardest part of this trip so far has been loneliness. When I’m on the plane, I’m pre-occupied with activities and just having a pleasant time. Going through TSA and layovers in two airports, however, are a completely new experience. My impression of the Honolulu and Auckland airports has been that they’re harder to navigate than the one in Portland (to be fair, I’ve been through the Portland one a few times), and so I’ve been worried about getting lost or missing my next flight. Additionally, the variability in airport staff temperament has been particularly jarring. Some are very nice and understanding (shout out to the lady at airport information here in Auckland),  but others are clearly trying to get as many people going to the right spot as possible and don’t have time to deal with too many individual questions. Having to interact with so many different people today reminded me that I am alone in my journey here, and that I don’t have my partner or family to be there and problem solve with me on finding my way in airports and not getting overwhelmed. I was very grateful that I could talk to my partner on the phone while I was waiting in Hawaii and feel re-assured, but now I’m mostly reminded that there’s an entire ocean between me and him, me and everyone I trust. Fortunately, I’ve also made friends with a kiwi student from Lincoln Uni online over cycling, and she’s been more than happy to ease my worries about coming here. Knowing that I have a friend here already makes me feel a little better about leaving all I love behind.

In the middle of all this, there have been strange revelations about the passing of time, as well as lots of random observations about airplanes, airplane passengers and airports. As I noted in the title above, I’ve been a bit of a time traveler today, jumping 19 hours ahead of everybody in Oregon. As I am writing this, it’s about to hit midnight on Monday (July 9) New Zealand Time (NZT), but for everyone back home, it’s almost 5 am on Sunday (July 8th). I’ve been contemplating this time change for a bit now, having skyped with research professors over here and talked about it with my partner and roommates, but actually experiencing it has been really strange. While I did take naps on the planes, I didn’t sleep as well as I could, and so by the end of today, it’ll have been one of the longest days in my memory. I really wish I could sleep, but since I’m staying in the airport to check in at a good time later in the morning (online check-ins have been a little wonky for Jetstar, particularly on my phone), I have to stay awake to protect my carry-on luggage. Oh well.

~

Now that I’ve had a day to settle into my flat at Lincoln, I wanted to add that while all the stress of layovers was going on, I forgot to bring my checked luggage with me to my last flight from Auckland to Christchurch. When I bought my plane ticket and first checked in at PDX, I was informed that my checked luggage would be automatically transferred from my Hawaiian Airline flights to my domestic flight with Jetstar. Unfortunately, I found out that this was not the case when I checked into my final flight, but I only found out over an email (with the spotty wifi in the Auckland airport, I only got that email after I checked in, and I misheard the intercom announcement the night before) and couldn’t go back to get it without missing my flight. Losing my luggage was one of my major fears going into this journey, and it felt terrible to leave it behind because it felt like it was my fault. That said, I was able to make a delayed baggage claim in the Christchurch airport, and my luggage was flown over to Christchurch last night. Having interacted with both international and local students on campus by that time, I was feeling better and getting my bag back was the icing on the cake. A huge thank you to the Jetstar staff and OSU-Lincoln exchange alum Ariel Nelson for helping me get my stuff back.

Now that I’m finally here, I’ve also realized how much of the stress I was feeling was due to exhaustion and a lack of food. I had a hard time sleeping on the planes because of physical discomfort, and I couldn’t sleep in the airports for fear of having my stuff stolen. Additionally, aside for airplane meals and the lunch I had in Hawaii, I only had clif bars to eat while waiting in the Auckland airport. This hunger, combined with lack of sleep and a brand new environment, compounded to make me very overwhelmed and anxious. I knew this 30 hour journey to Christchurch would be tough, but I didn’t fully realize how challenging it would be. However, everything worked out okay, and I know what to expect when I fly back home in November. I’m sure there will be a lot more to adapt to the longer I’m here, but this flight was my first major lesson, and while it was scary for some parts, I’m glad that I learned what to do for future travels. Talk to y’all later this week, and enjoy some of the photos from the trip below!

Last sight of Portland

Mount Hood above the clouds

Final descent into the Honolulu airport in O’ahu

A gorgeous pool of cyan water while leaving Honolulu for Auckland

Sunset over the South Pacific

Goodbyes with my family at the PDX airport

 

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Pre-departure jitters

Posted by: | June 18, 2018 | No Comment |

Hello all! We’re now at a little under 3 weeks out from the big move, and I wanted to share a little about the emotions I’m processing in these last few weeks before departure:

So last Friday, my dad brought me a very large suitcase for bringing my checked luggage on my outbound flight. I was feeling a mix of both excitement and nerves, so what I ended up doing with the suitcase that day was doing a mock packing session. At first, I wanted to try packing my stuff just to see if everything I planned to bring would fit, and how to organize everything so as to maximize the space I had. Through the process, I realized I’ll need to be more specific with myself about all the items I plan to bring when drafting a final packing list so that I don’t forget anything, and this was really helpful. Later on in the weekend, though, I also realized that the mock pack helped me understand a little more that this study abroad is real and is happening very soon. In one of my former physics classes, my instructor gave some excellent advice to students with test anxiety: if possible, go to the room where you’ll be taking the test and do the practice test in that room to get comfortable with the space and the experience before the real thing. In the mock pack, this piece of advice stuck with me because seeing all my stuff bundled up in a large suitcase and my closet mostly empty helped me develop a sense of comfort about departing to another place and taking such a long flight.

Another good piece of advice I got last week was from the advisors of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program, of which I am a recipient for this study abroad. In the program webinar, one of the things the advisors said was that it’s okay to be scared about going on a study abroad, and it’s okay not to know everything yet. This was impactful for me because, while I am very excited for this experience, I am also nervous on the edge of afraid. Right now, the biggest hurdle for me is that initial plane ride to Christchurch and getting to the university from there. I haven’t been on a plane in 7 years, I’ve never flown over an ocean, I’ve never had a flight with layovers/connections and I’ve never flown by myself. Additionally, this will be the first flight where I’m taking checked luggage with me, including my race/road bike. While I have fond memories of flying over beautiful clouds and landscapes, there are a lot of fearful questions in my mind about the flight. I’m worried about my luggage being lost or my bike broken, missing a connecting flight, not knowing where to meet my shuttle in Christchurch, and if something bad will happen on the plane as we’re crossing the vast Pacific. Everything after the initial journey is unknown beyond mapping bike rides, setting up research credits and planning places to visit, but that’s a little easier to handle since I’ll have a solid base at the university. That said, this will also be the longest I’ve been away from the US, my family and friends, and the furthest away I’ll have been. Having never left the country before, the idea that I’ll be a hemisphere away from home for four months doesn’t feel quite real. While I’ve had other opportunities to leave the country in the past, these experiences didn’t pan out, so my surreal feelings also tie into a worry that I won’t actually get where I’m going. Fortunately, all these fears can be resolved by all the little things I’m doing, like checking with my airline on allowed and prohibited items, getting all of my travel documents collected in one place, and communicating with the accommodations staff at Lincoln about my arrival.

 

On the flip side of these fears, I am still genuinely excited to get to New Zealand after all these months of planning. I’m part of a Facebook group with the other exchange students arriving for semester 2, and getting to see my potential peers, housemates and neighbors makes me feel that I’m not alone in this experience. In particular, I found out that another exchange student loves cycling, so I’ll have a friend to ride with on the weekends! I’m also glad that there are international student workshops before classes start so I can get better acquainted with my peers, professors and what Lincoln will be like as a place of study. As my coordinator Paul Dorres told me earlier on, there is a wealth of support for OSU exchange students at Lincoln, both from the Lincoln staff and from Oregon State. This is immensely helpful for me, to know that while this is my individual journey and experience, there are people across the world there to help me make the best of this time. I can’t wait to see what lies in store.

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So with about a month to go until departure (yay!) and my visa accepted (yay!), I’ve started thinking about one of the major activities I plan to do when I’m in New Zealand- bike riding. As a commenter noted on a previous post, New Zealand can be considered a “pedaling heaven” for its beautiful scenic routes. With this in mind, I’ve started scouting out potential rides that I are feasible for me to go on from the Lincoln Uni campus (some mapped routes below). I’ve been doing this for a couple of reasons. The first is finding rides that are distances that are doable given my current skill level as a cyclist (I’m a sprinter, but I’ve been getting used to longer rides, about 50 miles/80.5km being my longest without wearing out significantly). Additionally, I’ve heard that rides to the coast are very pretty, and I have a thing about riding through mountains and canyons (thank you, bike racing in Montana), so I wanted to map out rides to those destinations. Finally, I’ve heard from some people that the roads between towns can be pretty rough, so I wanted to use street view to see what the country roads would be like. So far, I’ve mapped out four rides of varying distances (not including the rides into downtown Christchurch for groceries in such) that I’m really excited to try out. Here’s a little bit about them:

  1. Lincoln University to the Akaroa Museum (81 miles round trip). I’ve heard from Paul Dorres that riding from Lincoln Uni to the beach can be a pretty quick and fun trip. That said, there’s a lot of beautiful coastline to explore, so this was the first ride I started looking at. Originally, I was mapping a ride from Lincoln Uni to Tumbledown Bay (about 60 miles round trip), but I saw that this ride followed along the length of the Christchurch-Akaroa road and ended at a museum, so I figured I could try and push myself a little further. Running streetview on this ride was also helpful because it helped me get a sense of potential road conditions. It seems like a lot of the roads are like the country roads around Corvallis, so so far the biggest hurdle will be getting used to riding on the left side of the road. This ride is also very beautiful, traveling along lakesides and through canyons and vistas of hills. The caveat to beautiful hills, of course, will be some serious climbing, so we’ll see how that goes. For a map of the ride, check out image #1 below.
  2. Lincoln Uni to Governor’s Bay (33.4 miles round trip). This was another ride I picked because it ends up at the coast, and it is significantly shorter than the first ride. This one can also be modified to go through the outskirts of Christchurch, so you get a little bit of urban and country riding. It looks like there’s about 500m of climbing involved, but that should be fine. I haven’t scoped this one out on streetview yet, but getting to the beach should be pretty cool. (image #2)
  3. Lincoln Uni to Springfield (71.4 miles round trip). I first decided to map this one because the turn around point is in Springfield, Canterbury. I thought this would be funny because we have a Springfield in Oregon, so it would fun to see another one. Additionally, this ride starts getting close to the Arthur’s Pass area of the Southern Alps, so I was attracted to the sights of mountains (especially during the winter with all the snow). This ride could also be taken further on the Coast road through the alps, with a pass by Castle Hill peak and Flock hill. These peaks are on my list of places to visit because the first has some cave stream systems in it (recommended by a former exchange student), and the second was the filming site of the great battle in Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. (image #3)
  4. Lincoln Uni to Mount Hutt (97.2 miles round trip). This is another ride that gets into the Southern Alps, so I was interested in trying it. Depending on the exact roads I take, this could also end up being a century ride, and I could always stop in Mount Hutt or Windwhistle at go hiking near the mountain. (image #4)

In addition to mapping out rides (I still need to plan some shorter ones around the Christchurch area), I’ve also been considering doing bike touring and bike racing in New Zealand while I’m there. I will be bringing my road bike with me for the exchange, so when of thinking about touring, I don’t know if my bike will be usable for this kind of riding (in terms of attaching panniers and weighing the bike down). This form of riding would be really nice for exploring more of the country, especially getting to places on the other side of the alps or on the North Island where rides are several hundred miles long. The Bike Barn, the shop where I’ll be getting my bike re-assembled when I arrive, has some touring bikes on sale right now, so if you’ve done bike touring before, I’d love to hear your recommendations on models of bikes to consider, or if I can fit my current road bike with panniers for light touring (not camping or with heavy gear). In terms of racing, one of the major events I’ve found out about is the South Island Masters Games in Timaru in early October. For cycling, they have a two day omnium event with a road race, criterium and time trial. Depending on where I’m at with the semester in October, I definitely want to try and register for this and see what road racing is like in New Zealand compared to here in the Pacific Northwest. Finally, I’ve also considered trying out mountain biking since it is a major sport at Lincoln and in New Zealand in general. I’ve already been in contact with the president of Lincoln’s mountain biking club, and she’s invited me to come to some of their volunteering events, so I’m hoping I can find out more about this club and how I can participate through renting/borrowing a mountain bike.

 

All this said, I will be arriving in New Zealand during their winter, so some of my cycling plans will need to be adjusted for the season and all that that might bring (ie snow and ice on some of the rides to the alps). If you have any recommendations on places to ride to, or any advice about bike touring, I’d love to hear from you. Stay tuned in the coming months for photos!

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Hello all! Even though I’m not in New Zealand yet (a little under 2 months to go!), I figured I would share the sort of things I’ve had to consider while preparing for the exchange, both as a general student abroad and specific to my plans. As my first time traveling alone and first time being in another country, there have been a lot of things to consider, and I’m still figuring out all the little details I need to keep track of to make sure everything goes smoothly. From a general traveling perspective, the main objectives I have are to complete my student visa application and to book my plane tickets to New Zealand. This has involved gathering a lot of paperwork, from information showing details of my exchange program to financial backing for the exchange. I’m very glad that the OSU and Lincoln exchange liasons, Paul Dorres and Diane De Haan respectively, have been able to answer all my little questions about this process. For my flight, the biggest thing for me was finding a flight at a decent price that went directly from the US to New Zealand since some countries require a tourist visa to have a layover there (mostly if you plan to leave the airport, but still). Fortunately, I am happy to say that I will be flying out of Portland on July 7th and will arrive in Christchurch on July 9th (July 8th in the PNW, converting between timezones) with layovers in Honolulu (first time in Hawaii!) and Auckland. It’s a long journey, but I’m sure it will give me lots of time to think, take pictures and catch up on leisure reading. Beyond that, I’ve also worked on getting my accommodations sorted on the Lincoln campus, so I look forward to finding out which flat I get placed in and who my roommates are.

In addition to being a student, another major plan of mine is to extend my thesis research into New Zealand. As an honors student and Bioresource Research major, a thesis project is a big part of my degree, and I’ve been very fortunate to be working on my project with Dr. Posy Busby in Botany and Plant Pathology. My work involves Douglas-fir seeds, and Douglas-fir is an invasive species in New Zealand due to introduction for timber production. As such, I’m planning the collect Douglas-fir seeds from several locations on the South Island of New Zealand and ship them back to Dr. Busby’s lab for DNA analysis when I get back from the exchange. While Douglas-fir isn’t regulated for export in New Zealand (due to it being an invasive), the US is very particular about use of biological material from other countries. As such, one of the major preparation steps I’ve had to take is applying for a permit from the USDA-APHIS to ship the seeds back. The permit that’s been recommended to me is free and lasts for one year before expiration, so the only tricky thing is getting the correct level of clearance with APHIS to submit an application. In addition to conducting some of my thesis work in country, I’ve also been in contact with a professor from the BioProtection Research Centre on the Lincoln campus, and he’s agreed to mentor me in some research placement credits while I’m there. Since research placement credits aren’t like a traditional course at Lincoln and requires a faculty mentor, I’ve been preparing the paperwork to sign up for these credits, and will get them signed when I arrive for welcome week in July. Here’s hoping all this goes well!

Another big thing about me is that I’m a cyclist. I’ve been racing bikes since I was a kid, and I’m currently an officer for the OSU Cycling Club. Cycling is a major stress relief for me, my main form of exercise, and I love being able to go out into the countryside on a bike. Given how magnificent and outdoors-focused New Zealand is, having a bike to ride around the country through workouts and touring is going to be a big part of my experience there. As such, the first major decision I had has been to figure out if I want to bring my bike from home or buy/sell one in-country. Shipping a bike overseas can be expensive (depending on which service you use), and the bike could get lost or broken in transit. For a while, these concerns lead me to focus on buying a bike in-country and selling it back when I return to the US (or bringing the bike back, because cyclists always need more bikes). However, when talking to another cyclist about bringing her bike to Oregon from Texas, she recommended just carefully boxing up my current bike and taking it in my checked baggage. My plane ticket came with a free two checked bags plan, so bringing my bike seems to be the most cost-effective option. Now, the logistical challenge of bringing my bike is making sure it’s clean enough to go through New Zealand customs without concerns of introduced microbes, and finding a bike shop in Christchurch that could re-assemble my bike for me. Again, I’m very grateful my program liasons are able to give me their advice in dealing with the tricky details of this process. Once I’m in country, I’ll be sure to get lots of photos of the landscapes I see on my bike rides and research escapades.

While it is less than two months out, I still haven’t fully come to terms with the fact that I’m actually going to another country, and all that that entails. While I’ve done a lot of road trips with the cycling club and friends, most of my life has stayed in the PNW. On the one hand, I’m really excited because New Zealand is a beautiful and fascinating country, and I’m fortunate to be studying at such a great land based university. On the other, there’s the worry of the unknown and how I will handle a slew of new situations on my own. I think it will only get more real and more exciting when I finally board the plane and say goodbye to the northern hemisphere for a while. I’ll keep y’all posted as preparations unfold, and what my other plans pan out to be. Happy Monday!

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Intro and welcome

Posted by: | April 20, 2018 | 1 Comment |

Hello all!

My name is Gillian and I am a junior in the OSU Honors College studying Bioresource Research. I will be studying at Lincoln University in Lincoln, New Zealand for the fall of my senior year to take some classes, do some research for my thesis and enjoy the sights and cultures of this beautiful country. As an amateur photographer, I’m hoping to use this blog to share my photos from this experience, as well as documenting all the cool places and experiences I’m hoping to explore. Thank you for visiting!

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