The Circus Begins: First Week of Uni
My first class was Monday morning at 9am. Naturally I woke up WAY too early and was kind of just pacing around my room waiting for it to be time to leave. Well, that didn’t last long. I headed out and started walking. As I was leaving I bumped into another girl who was also headed to class. We left at the same time and it would have been just plain awkward if we ignored each other the entire trek so we started up a casual conversation about how early we were and being nervous about find the room and stuff like that. We never introduced ourselves. But it was so nice just having someone to walk with! It was a good sign for the start of a new semester. We soon parted ways and I found my class with little difficulty—big sigh of relief—more than half the battle has been won! And I’m early! At first I thought I must have been in the wrong place because the classroom was so small and I was expecting all of my classes to be a stereo-typical huge lecture at the big university. Nope. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the Loyola girls showed up and we headed into the little room together. There are 9 of us in this Theology class. 2
self-proclaimed “mature” students who are retiries looking for another degree, 2 20-something year old priests, a jolly Samoan (if you have ever met a Samoan guy you know what I mean), a very quiet 3rd year who I think is a Kiwi but he didn’t say, and then me and Amanda. It is by far the most diverse class I have ever been in and is likely to be my most interesting as participation is not only recommended but mandatory. We were given as much time as we wanted for introductions as we would be working together so much over the 12 week course so I learned some interesting tidbits about each of my classmates. One of whom is a criminal. No joke, he is on house arrest but is allowed to go to Uni and has an ankle tracker on and everything. Can you guess which one? Skype me and I’ll tell you! Just from the lit bit of intro material we covered I quickly started to feel the pressure of culture-shock press down on me. It isn’t long before I realize that the people sitting around me have a completely different view, perspective, lived experience, whatever you want to call it of religion than I do. I feel like the “token American” in the room and it’s disorienting. Our main topic for the day was answering the question, “Is New Zealand a Christian country?” I’ve been here a week, how am I supposed to know?! But I did my best to give my impressions of my experience so far in comparison to home and the conversation was really engaging. I’m thinking it is going to be my favorite class that I probably take the most out of—at least I hope so. The class is from 9-12 (yikes!) but only once a week and the Prof seems really nice so far. We get 2 breaks to get coffee and whatever we need to get through the rest of class so I’m thinking it won’t be so bad.
After class I head to a bench in the sun for an hour lunch before Sociology. I had packed it the night before and having learned from the best, packed it like a Mom would—inevitably making me feel a little like a 4th grader with my apple, carrot sticks, etc. but it was delicious after a 3 hour class so I didn’t care. I found a great people-watching spot, too. I couldn’t believe how different campus looks swarmed with people. Where did they all come from?! For the rest of the day I didn’t see a single Loyola student. Talk about feeling like a tiny fish in a giant ocean! On the way to class I bumped into a girl, Katie (I remembered to make introductions this time), who was incredibly lost and didn’t even know the room number she was looking for. Luckily she was headed to Socio 100 as well and we found our way together. Another good sign, I think. This time my expectations were met completely. 300 plus students packed into one room. The Prof had a microphone and talked the whole time with no expectation of student participation. I have to admit it was kind of refreshing not trying to prepare a smart answer or participate in a discussion. I could sit back and take whatever I wanted out of what he was teaching us—which wasn’t much since it was the first day. We went over a lot of house-keeping stuff, welcomes, and congratulations on not only figuring how to register for classes on the insane Uni website, but for also picking socio. How humble. He even threw in an Obama joke for good measure. I’ve noticed a lot of USA jokes slipped in here and there but so far I’ve found them all to be true and in good taste. He is funny and seems pretty down-to-earth which makes sitting in a huge lecture that much easier. I was free after that but it had begun to rain so I made my way back to Huia to decompress from everything I had just absorbed and see how they day went with everyone else.
Tuesday started with sociology again at 1. Even though I could have slept in I didn’t. Which is SO weird for me. But my sleeping patterns have been all kinds of screwed up since I got here. Anyway, after having a pretty relaxing morning I headed to campus to walk around a little. I went to the gym with my friend Zoë (she’s a Kiwi!) and finally signed up for my free membership
which I plan on taking full advantage of. After that I wandered around the quad and bookstore but mainly did a lot of people-watching. It can be pretty entertaining how people my age try to cover up how nervous and/or lost they are in public. Socio was more intro material and US jokes. No sign of Katie and I’m a little concerned because we are in a different classroom than the day before. Oh well, I guess. Another break for a snack before my double-header; History and English. I’m worried the most about history because I’ve heard a lot of bad things but how bad can it be right? Well, I didn’t find out. Prepare yourself for My embarrassing moment of the week. Sigh. Alright, well, a couple of kids from Loyola are in the same history class as me but on my schedule it is listed in a different room. So naturally I go to my assigned room and they go to theirs. Same building. One floor up. Ok so I’m in the lecture hall with a lot of people all waiting for History 104. I asked. We wait and wait but no Prof shows up. I guy across the room pulls out his laptop and checks the announcememts for the class. He stands up and tells us all that the lecture has been cancelled for today and won’t start until next week. Sweet! We all get up and head out. So, I go back to my room later and go online to check out this announcement. No announcement. There was a note from the TA that the tutorials for the class would start next week but that he was looking forward to meeting us TODAY. Well, crap. What happened? I
go online and check my schedule again to see if what mistake I and about 50 other students had made. And there it is. The room number is different online than the printed out copy I have been carrying around with me. I printed it out at home before I came to NZ and since there was no message that the classroom had changed I just assumed it hadn’t. So I missed my first lecture. I should have been in the room with my friends all along. It’s almost too silly to be real. I texted one of the girls I’ve been spending time with and tell her what happened. She thought it was too funny and reassured me that it was the world’s most boring class and that I didn’t miss anything. So at least my first missed lecture is out of the way and for a pretty funny/good reason. So back-track, I get out of class thinking that I’m super lucky and head to my English class.
Thank God I missed that history class because I never would have found my English classroom in time. It was in the most obscure place but I found it eventually with just the right amount of time left to catch my breath before we filed in. A girl from my dorm, Johanna from Germany, is in it too! She is super sweet and I’m glad I’ll have someone nearby to go over the material with because this class is the most advanced one I’m taking at Uni and I can tell from the first assignment that it is going to take some creativity to do well in it. Johanna speaks wonderful English but sometimes has a hard time understanding our Profs accent so we’ve worked out a little agreement that we will spend some time together after class filling in the blanks. Sweet as. After class I booked it to the gym for my first fitness class. It’s AB&T (abs, butt, and thighs wahhoo!) with a very big and intimidating looking instructor named Chris. The class is jam-packed and everyone has a free-weight and bar by their mats. This is all adding up to be a little overwhelming for me as I haven’t even thought about really working out since before Christmas. And then Chris speaks and all my fears are put aside. Chris is a classically trained ballet dancer and possibly the gayest man I’ve ever met. I think he saw how doubtful I was that I was even in the right room and started explaining in a sing-song-y voice that we would all be very sore but very happy come tomorrow and that he would be kind to the beginners. We get into the workout and he doesn’t stop talking the whole time, even over the great music. It’s a butt excise to start and as soon as its over we all slump over a little bit. And without missing a beat Chris chimes in, “Can ya feel that? So you know what that is? That’s your butt.” in the most matter-of-fact voice. I think I’m still sore because he made me laugh so hard for a full hour (there was a wardrobe malfunction involving red underwear that almost killed me I was laughing so hard while trying to do sit-ups). It was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to go back.
My schedule is great in that I don’t have class on Wednesdays too so I spent the day doing a little house-keeping. I tried to sleep in again but failed after a terrible night’s sleep but made myself stay in bed for as long as I could. Then I headed to campus to pick up a few things. One of the textbooks I bought for my English class was a very hard to spend $94 (and it’s a tiny book!) but of course my Prof told us that it was ridiculous to spend that much on it and since he was the one that co-wrote/edited it that he would send us a word document that we could use instead. Awesome, except I had already bought it. So I was able to return it and but 4 other books I needed. Hester, our New Zealand contact, made “office hours”—her office being a coffee shop on campus—on Wednesday afternoons so I went to visit with her next. We had a great chat and were joined by other Loyola students too. Eventually I walked back to Huia to have a Skype chat with the rents and Reilly before hitting the gym. Not an eay choice to make since I was already in so much pain from AB&T. But I figured warming up my muscle with a little Latin dance moves would help and I was right. Zumba was so much fun. It was the first time I’d tried it (you have to pay at most gyms for Zumba classes) and I highly recommend it. AB&T was all muscle intensive and Zumba was mainly cardio. Now, I am not at all coordinated. At all. and that was painfully obvious as I awkwardly hoped and spun around the gym trying to keep up with the crowd of Zumba aficionados I was in the middle of. But I got the hang of it eventually (with the help of a really talented guy who was in front of me that I just followed along with) and had a great time. Sometimes dancing like an idiot is necessary for your sanity. Some people do it when there drunk at bars, I do it at Zumba. I rushed home to get cleaned up and ready for dinner with the girls. Pasta night couldn’t have come at a better time.
Thursday I finally made it to my history class. And Laura was right, incredibly boring. The Profs voice is very quiet and his slow cadence has heads bobbing in no time at all. I look down the row of students and they all are just staring at him, no note taking happening at all. I feel myself start to daydream and do my best to come back to reality. I start trying to write down everything he says in order to stay awake. This sounds ridiculous but he is talking so slowly that it isn’t that hard to do. But as I write I realize that he literally isn’t making any sense. The tutorials are going to be a must for this class. He uses the term “those ones” in reference to EVERYTHING so that it is impossible to follow what he is saying. But I did my best. This is definitely going to be the most difficult class to go to each week. But then it’s English with Johanna again and we are starting to get into the readings. It feels a lot like English classes back home and thus is the most familiar and comfortable for me. That’s why I’ve started working on the first assignment in this class now, because I feel like it’s the only one I could reasonably start with the knowledge I have. Most of my classes have 3 assignments each including the final. One class doesn’t have a final at all so I only have 3 of those to worry about come June. Everything else is papers or in-class multiple-choice exams so I’m not too concerned about the course work but all the reading will be tough to stay on top of. Luckily for me there is a great park right next to campus that I can settle in after class for perfect reading conditions; white-noise and sunshine. Since sleeping as been an issue I’ve also taken to reading on my kindle quite a bit and to my great surprise I really like it. I’ve finished a couple of books already and it is so nice being able to read for fun during a semester, at least for now.
On Thursday night there was an AMAZING free concert that the University put on right on campus and one of new favorite bands was the main act, The Naked and Famous! I didn’t even know they were a New Zealand band until one of my friends told me they were playing during the first week of classes. They let people onto the quad where the stage was set up at 6 and since I had class until 5 I just stayed on campus and got a choice spot right in front of the stage. There was free food and even an area to buy beer if you wanted. The first act, unfortunately, wasn’t very good. The lead singer opened up the set by telling us she was having a bad day but that it was starting to look up. She kept bringing it up through the set that was very very odd and just made the whole thing very awkward. Next was a band called Artisan Gun who was a huge improvement and fun to watch. The last of the opening bands came on, Ruby Frost (who I think is a kind of mix between Florence and the Machine and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, definitely worth checking out for the musically adventurous) and everyone was starting to get excited for the main act. But I was ready and moved straight to the front of the stage with TJ and a couple of other Loyola students. It was the best I’ve ever had at a concert; front row, dead center. Not many people with us knew of the Naked and Famous like TJ and I did so we made sure to get as many people pumped about it as we could. And they didn’t disappoint. They talked to the audience, threw glow-sticks, and played an awesome set, saving my favorite and their most popular song for dead last. A lot of the Loyola people weren’t as impressed as the rest of us and headed back early but the die-hards stayed until the very end. And I got a set list! It was an awesome night and we ended it by hanging out in one of the common rooms until we were too tired to talk anymore.
Like I said, Friday has been a lazy-ish day. Got some work done, went to Zumba, and out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I still don’t feel great so staying in and talking to you was definitely the right choice. Well that’s it for now. It’s getting late and I’m actually tired! The weekend should be pretty eventful; a guinea pig festival/race, exploring a French market, and spending Sunday at Goat Island (snorkeling!). I’ll let you know how it goes.
Fun Fact: New Zealand is about the same size as Colorado (There ya go Gabriels!!) and was one of the last places to have contact with British explorers/colonizers/missionaries in the 1840s. Their goal was to create a link between the colonies and Asia for trade purposes. So when you think about it, New Zealand is very much a bridge. I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly that makes the Kiwi cultural identity so different from ours and that concept of this place as a bridge keeps coming up. I can see it in my classes too, a link in cultures like the British and Maori, in time and history, and in our experience with nature. I think that it is New Zealand’s pure youth that has allowed it to remain the green and beautiful place it is along with the adventure capital of the world. Just a bit of the perspective I’ve been getting while here. Maybe more on that later. (Kinda sounds like a good idea for a paper…)