Up until a couple weeks ago, I kind of forgot that I was here in New Zealand studying abroad…like I was supposed to write essays and do homework?! And up until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t really have to do much because at least 60% of my grade is based on final exams. But then work did pick up. And I felt like I was drowning slightly. Not that it was an amount of work I wasn’t capable of or used to…I think Middlebury prepared me more than enough for heavy workloads. I just wasn’t used to that here in this setting.
Additionally, I hadn’t left Dunedin since our “fall” break and forgot how much a change of scenery can help put things in perspective. I’m not used to being able to just pack up and leave campus in Vermont because of weekly races. I also still have a hard time believing in the clichéd idea of abandoning academic stress and delving into nature. Like, how is that helpful?! Won’t I just be more stressed out if I’m away from work that I need to do?? But it turned out that this weekend was exactly what I needed…
.My flatmates and I ventured out to Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook; not for any crazy-intense tramping but just for some good old-fashioned sightseeing/ exploring. [Yeah, I guess I forgot that I don’t need to do some aggressive hike every time I leave Dunedin.] Mentally and physically, it was refreshing to be content with a simple day hike- even if I did choose to run up Mt. John instead of hike. We spent Saturday night at a campsite on Lake Tekapo, snuggled up in our sleeping bags, reading from Sarah Kay’s No Matter the Wreckage before we went to bed (at 9 pm…).
And then we woke after a [very] chilly night and drove an hour to hike to the base of Mt. Cook, along with literally every other tourist in New Zealand. But it was a gorgeous day so even the large amount of Asian tourists with selfie sticks couldn’t dampen the mood.
Lately, I have been feeling guilty because I am looking forward to going home. And after registering for classes next semester, I feel like I’m not as present as I should be here. It has almost been ten weeks since I arrived here in Dunedin, which is by far the longest I’ve ever been away from my family- so yes, going home is something that I am excited about. Does that mean I’m not enjoying New Zealand? I was scared that it might. I was scared that I was letting this incredible experience pass me by. But after this weekend, I think that it’s possible- and natural- to feel all of these things… so long as I make a conscious effort to be present for the short amount of time that I have left here. Because when it’s over, I am sure that part of me will have to be taken by force out of this beautiful country.
So here is a thumbs up- because I can admit that sometimes I get excited about returning home, but I can also admit that New Zealand is a place like no other. And I feel so grateful for this experience.