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How I Spent My Spring Break in New Zealand

Oct 13, 2017 11:30:00 AM / by Irene Kanthan

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Hanna is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Marketing, Finance, and International Business major at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities, Carlson School of Management, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

In this week's post, Hanna shares about her spring break stops in New Zealand and how it was a great chance to learn about another culture—and herself.

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Kia Ora!

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Fall2017_From Hanna Okhrimchuk - Spring Break in Auckland, New Zealand-378457-edited.jpgElizabeth Collier, Yaz Ketcherside, Kellie Reardon, Hanna Okhrimchuk, and Mitch Wesoly with their car in Auckland.

You might probably ask, "What does that even mean?" “Kia Ora” is a Maori language greeting which was introduced to New Zealand English and is now regularly used by locals. It literally means “have life/be well” as a way of wishing good health for others. Sometimes is might be used as an expression of thanks.

So, for many of us on the program the last two weeks have been especially intensive and nerve-racking. We were going through the middle of the semester last week with all our papers due and midterms to ace. Besides that, we were all emotionally overwhelmed from anxiety and excitement about the upcoming spring break.

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The long-awaited break started on October 7th, and interestingly a lot of students headed to New Zealand. It is probably one of the most popular destinations to go while studying abroad in Australia as it is so close— might as well go while you're already on this side of the world! Anyway, along with some part of my squad decided to explore the new land as well. We decided and had been trying to plan this trip earlier rather than later.

However, we all know nothing goes right all the time, right? Having my visa approved less than 20 hours before the flights was not an issue we even considered. Thus, on top of school and other planning, my friends and I were worried about my New Zealand visa approval. Now I must say, having a valid passport and the right visa organized is the key to a trouble-free entry into New Zealand. But if you are a citizen of a country that has a visa waiver agreement with New Zealand (which includes USA citizens), then you can stay up to three months without applying for a visa.

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Finally, we were all ready and packed when we rolled out of the Urbanest apartments. We took the train to international airport on Sunday morning…about 3.5 hours of flying and now here we are: in Auckland! When we got there, we rented a small, but convenient Toyota Yaris. We named it "Tim Tam," of course. We loaded the car, updated our carrier and cellular services, pulled up GPS directions, and headed to Rotarua. This small town is known for bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers, and natural hot springs. Rotarua is also perfect for showcasing the well-known and fascinating Maori culture.

I really enjoyed this small and quiet destination. There we tried "Zorbing," the activity that, by the way, was first established in Rotarua. It is kind of a recreational sport of rolling downhill inside of a giant inflated ball, typically known as an orb. We stopped at a hostel in Rotarua, a perfect option for an inexpensive and short-term stay, especially if travelling in a big group.

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On our way from Rotarua we planned our next stop at Waitomo Glowworm Caves. This was an exceptional experience. Adventurous and risky, not something we would normally do. We did the original Waitomo black water rafting tour during which we had an opportunity to explore and tube through the mysterious Ruakuri Cave in the water with a temperature around 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). The glowworms that we saw, Arachnocampa luminosa, are unique to New Zealand. Thousands of these tiny creatures were radiating their unmistakable luminescent light while we were rafting. So beautiful!

After we went back to Auckland, we flew to our next destination Queenstown. It is an absolutely gorgeous city surrounded by stunning landscapes. So beautiful and peaceful that you almost don’t want to think about leaving. By the way, most of this post was written from the plane and inspired by the sky and the view on New Zealand from above.

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Queenstown is quite a show-off especially in spring when everything is blossoming and shining. It sits on the shore of the crystal-clear Lake Wakatipu among stunning mountain ranges. Queenstown is a tourist destination with many facilities and activities for visitors. For example, just recently my friends and I had a side trip to Milford Sound. As described by Rudyard Kipling, Milford Sound may be considered the 'eighth wonder of the world.'

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It was carved by glaciers during the ice age. Milford Sound sits within Fiordland National Park in the southwest area of New Zealand’s South Island; the park is a part of Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We were lucky to have our trip on a nice sunny day. An absolutely breathtaking experience!

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To sum up, besides sharing all these great ideas for your future spring break destinations, I want to emphasize another important point. Particularly during this spring break – comparing to the ones I had back in the US – this was a great chance to learn and explore another side of myself. I am not a person who would normally go hiking or do take risks doing things that are more adventurous such as staying in a hostel. I'm more used to the type of traveling where you stay in hotels and resorts, but this time around I was doing something more laid back that's also fun and exciting. It's not something I would have necessarily planned for myself, however, thanks to my friends from the CAPA program who I met in Sydney I was motivated with new ideas and interests.

We all come from different backgrounds and have different interests, but it is great that we are able to share and learn something new from each other. People we meet, who inspire us to try new things and widen our horizons, they give us an exceptional chance to explore even further while travelling. And, I believe, it is one of those things I will appreciate the most from my study abroad experience.

Thanks Hanna!

Hanna's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Sydney Program

Topics: Travel, Sydney, Australia