High: Great Month of Traveling

The Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders

by Brittany Holt

High: May was, per usual for my time in New Zealand, a great month for travelling and generally having fun. The first weekend some friends and I took a trip to Dunedin, which is known by some as a crazy college/party town and by others as a cute city with a rich Scottish heritage in close proximity to the stunning scenery of the Otago Peninsula. We definitely saw both points of view, but had a really fun time – it was nice to have one “city” weekend that didn’t involve being outside all day and then sleeping in a tent/car. On the way back we stopped in Oamaru to check out a Steampunk-themed playground, and then the Moeraki boulders for a touristy photo shoot (see photos). I also got a chance to check out Paynes Ford in Golden Bay another weekend, an area with ample rock climbing that’s all within a 5 to 20 minute walk from a campground dedicated solely to climbers! The last weekend trip was to the west coast and then Arthur’s Pass National Park on the way back. I’d been to these places before (the west coast during my three week break, and Arthur’s Pass during field camp) but it’s always nice to revisit places, find new things, and see how your perspective has changed. We got some stellar campsites with beautiful lake and ocean views, saw Franz Josef Glacier and Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, and caught a killer sunset at Cave Stream on our way home. Oh and my birthday! Some friends put on a “high tea” celebration and baked a bunch of goodies, including a glorious ice cream cake with one very large candle. The next night my flat had a crepe dinner to celebrate my flatmate’s birthday, and my birthday/graduation!

The Moeraki Boulders

The Moeraki Boulders

Low: May turned out to be quite a busy month for school work – after not having many assignments (or any, for some classes) up until May, it was tough to come back from the three week break and have to immediately crunch out a bunch of projects and presentations that were each worth more than a quarter of my grade for the entire semester! I definitely got a bit stressed some days, especially since I was trying to finish everything within the week so I could travel on the weekends, but hey, they don’t call it study abroad for nothing, do they? A lot of important things tend to happen back home during May, as well – mother’s day; graduation; and my little sister’s prom, birthday, and dance recital are just a few of the events I had to miss out on this year, but I plan on celebrating all of those things when I get back to the states!

Glitter: Since my semester abroad is my last semester of undergraduate, I technically graduated from Smith College in mid-May. It was bittersweet to come back from a weekend of climbing and see all of the pictures of senior week, Ivy Day, and commencement, but several of my friends made sure to congratulate me and snap a photo of my name in the commencement program. Even though I couldn’t physically be in Massachusetts for the formalities of graduation, seeing how happy everyone was in the photos made me happy (thank God for social media!). I’m immensely grateful for the time I’ve spent at Smith and the smart, beautiful, amazing people I’ve met along the way, and no distance on graduation day could have changed that.

bholtBrittany Holt is a senior at Smith College majoring in geoscience. She is spending her last undergraduate spring abroad in New Zealand, where she first attended a 6-week geology field camp through Frontiers Abroad before starting a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Brittany loves being outdoors hiking, climbing, and exploring, and can’t wait to see what other adventures New Zealand has in store for her!

High: Seeing As Much Of New Zealand As Possible

Lake Marian

 

by Brittany Holt

High: Most of the month of April consisted of a three week, mid-term Easter break, which basically meant it was time for a speed round of “See as Much of New Zealand as Possible.” My friend Marley, who is studying in Auckland, flew down and met up with another Smithie friend (Jane) and me for a South Island roadtrip. We spent a few days in Milford Sound, and then hopped down to Stewart Island in the hopes of seeing the shy, nocturnal brown kiwi. After that we did some sightseeing in the Catlins and Queenstown, and then made our way back up to Christchurch. The next morning we flew to the North Island, where Jane and I parted ways with Marley to go see the Hobbiton movie set and Rotorua, which is full of stinky geothermal mud pools and other cool geology. Not long after arriving on the North Island, I left it to meet up with some other friends in Queenstown. From there, we took our time meandering up the west coast and marveling at mountains, glaciers, beaches, and all other forms of nature. Jane met up with us on the west coast and then we shot up to Abel Tasman, which is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks.” The walk is about 60km that alternate between jungle and coast, and usually takes about three to four days to complete (we did it in about two nights and two days). After that we headed over to Nelson to chill out for a couple days before moseying over to the Marlborough region to visit wineries and relax before returning to Christchurch for the start of the second term. Those three weeks were definitely a whirlwind, but a whirlwind of the best kind, full of beautiful scenery, laughter, and friends.

Low: The one low of the three week break was the car troubles we had with our rental car on the west coast – first we lost the gas cap, then we got a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, and then the headlights stopped working on our drive up to Abel Tasman! But in the end everything worked out fine, and we sure had some good stories to tell after the break ended. Oh yeah, that was probably the other low – trying to transition back into focusing on school work after such a long vacation in the middle of the semester!

Easter in New Zealand

Glitter: Easter is usually a pretty big deal in my family – we get together with all of my mom’s siblings and their children in upstate New York for a big Easter dinner, and this event is something I normally something I find a way to get to even when I’m at college. I was pretty bummed to be missing this time with family, but my friends Jane and Marley sure helped make up for it! We had a mini Easter candy hunt in the cottage we were staying at, and then we spent the rest of the day in Milford Sound National Park where we hiked up to Lake Marian, an alpine lake nestled between the mountains of the Fiordlands.

bholtBrittany Holt is a senior at Smith College majoring in geoscience. She is spending her last undergraduate spring abroad in New Zealand, where she first attended a 6-week geology field camp through Frontiers Abroad before starting a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Brittany loves being outdoors hiking, climbing, and exploring, and can’t wait to see what other adventures New Zealand has in store for her!

No Real Low in New Zealand

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by Brittany Holt

High: I have been in New Zealand for just over two months now. The first 6 weeks I spent on a geology field camp with 25 other students from America learning about how field research is done and putting that to practice, and I must say that the entire field camp was pretty remarkable. We got to travel all over the South and North Islands doing field work, spending a week each in Kaikoura (a small peninsula on the northeast coast of New Zealand, bustling with tourists and grazing cattle); Cass (one of the filming locations used in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe! Also a town with a population of 1 tucked into the foothills of the Southern Alps); Westport (an old mining town on the northwest coast of New Zealand, rich in both history and seal colonies); the Tongariro/Taupo Volcanic Zone (one of the most active volcanic zones in the world, and home to Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings); and Banks Peninsula (an ancient volcanic complex just south of Christchurch that forms a peninsula dotted with quaint, cozy bays and roaming sheep). All of the program leaders and guest lecturers were enthusiastic no matter how long of a field day we’d had, and we always returned to our field stations to delicious meals prepared by the two amazing cooks we had traveling with us. And let’s not forget the many lasting memories and friendships that were forged over the duration of field camp.

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Low: I’ve tried picking my brain for any particularly low points over the last two months and not many come to mind: maybe the rainy and cold weather we had on the North Island – but the other five weeks of field camp the weather was beautiful! Perhaps a lingering feeling of homesickness – but our field camp instructors kept us way too busy to think about that, and anyways I was having so much fun! Or should I have felt more stressed from constantly traveling and living in close quarters with 25 other college students for six weeks? – but honestly our accommodations were pretty nice and the lack of Wi-Fi some weeks was more relaxing for me than I would have envisioned. So I guess I’ll just say that the end of field camp two weeks ago was the low; but even then, now I have the rest of the semester in Christchurch to look forward to!

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Glitter: Most of field camp went like this (apart from a one day “vacation” in Punakaiki):

  1. travel to new destination
  2. do intensive field work all day and then work on assignments in the evenings
  3. repeat for four to five days
  4. complete major assignment for the field module
  5. travel to new destination the following day.

As exhausting as that was, our instructors made sure to set aside time for fun, and there were plenty of unexpectedly silly moments on their behalf. At the end of each field module our instructors would take us to a local pub to relax, chat, and have a beer. On a particularly rainy day on the North Island, we got to watch the Super Bowl in town instead of trying to do field work. One of our guest lecturers adored ice cream and scenery stops, so we got plenty of each that week. A different instructor did donuts on the beach in our 12 passenger van one day in Banks Peninsula. The same man also turned our entire field area into a game of Hot Lava, where the sand was lava, the rocks were safe, and the rules were strictly enforced as he leapt around the beach shouting “you’re dead!” whenever one of us touched the sand. The most literal glittery moment of field camp, though, was probably the night one of our fellow classmates built a bonfire for us all on the beach at our campsite in Punakaiki. Sitting in the sand listening to guitar and the crackling of the fire with the swell of the ocean in the background seemed good enough – and then while star-gazing, a group of three of us witnessed the same (and our first) shooting star in New Zealand.

bholtBrittany Holt is a senior at Smith College majoring in geoscience. She is spending her last undergraduate spring abroad in New Zealand, where she first attended a 6-week geology field camp through Frontiers Abroad before starting a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. Brittany loves being outdoors hiking, climbing, and exploring, and can’t wait to see what other adventures New Zealand has in store for her!