Final Blog Assignment
Did I really complete an 18.5km walk over volcanic terrain? Better yet, was I really on an active marine volcano, ready to erupt at any moment? And was I really THAT close to seals and penguins? Reflecting back on the trip's highlights, evident by the close to one thousand pictures I have, it's already beginning to feel unreal. This past month in New Zealand has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life and one that I will take with me throughout the rest of my college career and beyond.
I definitely met the goals I had set for myself before arriving in Auckland. I wanted to know as much about New Zealand as possible. During this month, I have learned so much about the country of New Zealand, its history, the lifestyles of the natives, and Maori culture. I have also learned a lot about New Zealand's unique environment and it's incredible biology and geology. The first day we were asked to try to identify the shell species on the beach I was so lost and thought it was an impossible task. Towards the end of the trip, I was able to identify almost any shell I saw. I also learned more geology in one month than I ever thought possible.
In addition to all the things I have learned about New Zealand, I feel I have learned a lot about myself and my capabilities. I learned how to cope without some conveniences we take for granted like cell phones, internet, ketchup, and my own bathroom. I have also learned how to take risks and do things that are outside my comfort zone. From the day I jumped off the big rock at Cathedral Cove, I allowed myself to try things I normally wouldn't like zorbing, kayaking in the dark, and doing the Tongariro Crossing.
I think one of the best learning experiences for me during this trip was the free weekend. Me and seven others spent our free weekend in the beautiful city of Tauranga. During those four days, our small group was forced to figure out our travel, meals, accommodations, and activities on our own. This unstructured time lead us to be more interactive with the locals and all that New Zealand has to offer. The first thing a few of us did on the free weekend was night kayaking through a canyon filled glow worms. Even though we had seen glow worms already, this was a completely different experience. Sitting on the beautiful river in the dark, in a kayak listening to stories and history from the local guide was a breathtaking experience. Among other things our free weekend contained, me and two others from the group went SCUBA diving on a reef. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. As a new diver, being able to dive among lush kelp beds and colorful fish was another incredible experience.
The time spent in New Zealand has meant so much to me in many different respects. In addition to learning so much about such a fascinating country, I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of. I also was fortunate to share these wonderful experiences with new friends.