The End of the Road

I always knew that my journey of a lifetime would come to an end. But now that it has, I still can’t quite believe it. Yesterday, February 3, 2016 was the longest day of my life. In total it was 38 hours long. It started in Christchurch New Zealand, my home for the last 5 weeks and brought me back to school at the University of Delaware, still on the 3rd. It took 4 airports, 3 flight, 2 delays, 2 coffees, countless repeats of the same playlist, and 10 snapchats to documents the progress. And now, it’s over. Done.

I can’t believe that technically just yesterday I was halfway around the world, in the other hemisphere. It was warm, sunny and in the 80s. Now I’m in Delaware where there is some snow on the ground. In New Zealand the sun was out till 9:30pm and now it’s gone by 5:30pm. But even though it’s the end of a chapter, it’s the close of an amazing one.

I started this journey with 40 strangers. Yes I knew some of them already, two or three were already considered friends, but most I didn’t even know their name. And there we were on a 13 hour flight together. And in just a few days these people were my closest companions. We sat on endless buses together, hiked, biked, played pickup games of soccer and volleyball. We ate all our meals together, took class together, and traveled every where together. At the end of the day we unwound together, watching movies and just hanging out.

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Finding Hedgehogs in the Dark

If you ever go to New Zealand and walk around at night, there is a good chance you’ll stumble across a spiky little brown ball at some point. In New Zealand hedgehogs are considered an invasive species, but they are so darn cute. They’re fairly docile animals so you can usually pick them up. We happened to have a resident “hedgehog whisperer” on our trip who knew all about safe ways to handle them.

Basically they’re going to spike up when you pick them up as a natural defense mechanism. And let me tell you, it is VERY painful to hold them when they’re spiky. But if you just set them down on your lap or hold them gently from the underside and stroke their quills most of them calm down and will just sit with you.They really are adorable little animals. If flipped onto their back, they curl up into a tight little ball to protect their middle with just their face poking out.

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Getting Out of my Comfort Zone

So this past weekend I got to venture to Queenstown NZ, the adventure capital of the world. You can do all the crazy things there like skydiving, canyoning and white water rafting but the big one is the Bungy Jump. Bungy jumping was invented here and the original bungy jump is just outside of Queenstown. It was all started by A.J. Hackett and he opened another one in Queenstown that is much higher. It’s called the Nevis Bungy , and it is the worlds 3rd highest bungy. But what’s nice is there is the jump or a swing.

Originally, after watching a video of it I knew I would never be able to do that, so I signed up for the swing. But the night before I was thinking. I would probably never have this opportunity again, and I was going all the way out to the bungy to just skip it?

So the next morning during check in I asked “I’m supposed to swing but can I switch to bungy?” and just like that, in a mere 5 minutes I was on the bungy list. Now is when I started to panic. I was in a group of 20 of my study abroad group who were doing it. I endured the 45 minute drive out there with minimal panic, got my harness and even watched the first group go. Then I was in the little lift to the cable car suspended in the middle of the canyon. There are glass floors so you can see the 134 meter plunge you’re about to take (that’s 440 feet). And I was last. I had to watch my entire group go. And they all did it. Continue reading

My Little Four Leaf Clover

Today I crossed something off my bucket list that I never expected to in New Zealand. I found a four leaf clover. I actually found 2. Now my family heritage is Irish mainly and I’ve been there an met extended family. I listen to Irish Folk Music year round simply because I like it (Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers are a jam), but I’ve never found a four leaf clover.

Today I we were walking in cow pastures looking at the grasses and in total I think we found about 25 four leaf clovers. According to a bit of research there are 10,000 three leaf clovers to every four leaf clover. But we just kept finding them. I’m sure it has something to do with their pasture management process and the nutrients they put on their clover that helps it grow but all that mattered to me was I had one.

For me it felt like a connection to those roots that I try hard to hold on to. I love being Irish. And by no means am I the most Irish person I know. My parents aren’t direct descendants, or even my grandparents. But my family still holds on to some of those traditions and roots. And I’ve been making plans ever since I was about 17 to get myself back there and try to live there for a while. Right now I’m considering vet school in Dublin if I get in just so I can go back to that magical country for four years. Something about it just agrees with me and I can’t help but think that today was a bit of a sign that that’s the direction I’ll take.

Today I Climbed A Mountain

This past weekend I ventured to Hanmer Springs on the South Island of New Zealand. After being in Christchurch for most of my stay, the landscape was certainly different. The air wasn’t so dry and it was humid. It was also not nearly as much flat land and seemed greener. There were more big trees and forests and the town was very small, just 1 main street that seemed to go from one end of the town to the other. But I loved it.

Hammer is known for their sulfur hot springs which they’ve turned into a little water park with a few slides, a lazy river and lots of other pools to sit in and there is plenty to do there as well such as paintball, bungee jump, go jet boating or wine tasting but I was there to do some hiking. Since being in New Zealand I haven’t really had the opportunity to go on a good hike. So my first day there I did the short hike up Conical Hill. It was only about an hour total and was a nice easy to walk path that was somewhat steep at points but not too bad. To get there we literally only had to walk down the main road and that basically ended at the base of the trail. Up top there’s a nice lookout with 360 degree views of the surrounding town and land.

The next day I was determined to do some real hiking. My group had decided to do the “Waterfall Track” which was one of the hikes out of Hanmer Forest Park, which was ¬†accessible by hiking trails right out of town. There are tons of trail in there and many people out and about walking or hiking. It took us about an hour to get to the base of the “Waterfall Trek” where it said on the sign it was about a 2.5 hour hike.

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On the Other Side of the World

Currently I am residing in New Zealand, on the South Island, in Christchurch. That is 9293 miles away from home. It is without a doubt the farthest I’ve ever been from home and I am here traveling without my family. I am here at Lincoln University for 5 weeks as part of a study abroad program in animal science. And if you didn’t know, New Zealand is the perfect place for that because they have a lot of sheep and a lot of cows. Wherever you go, it seems there are always sheep up on the hill or cows in the fields.

Since arriving here I’ve been to numerous farms to hear straight from the famers about their farming practices, what they plant, how many stock units they have and what their daily routine includes. But in our down time when we don’t have class or farm tours we get a change to get out and explore this beautiful island.

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