Student Blogger Study Abroad

Settling into Wellington: more from Michaela!

a vibrant street festival in Wellington

Scenes from the Cuba Dupa street festival in Wellington. 

Each semester, one student from each HECUA program abroad takes on the role of student blogger, sending regular dispatches from the field. Michaela Shea-Gander will be HECUA’s student blogger for the New Zealand program this spring semester. Michaela is a junior at Denison University, majoring in Communications with a narrative non-fiction concentration. Read on for Michaela’s second post, as she begins her internship in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city.

After spending my fall break in the Nelson area, visiting Abel Tasman National Park, surviving one freezing night of camping, and picking hazelnuts on a permaculture farm for two days (my personal favorite), I landed in Wellington sunburned, sleep deprived, and full of nervous excitement.

A lush green coastline cradles an ocean that fades into the sky like a photoshop gradient.

Abel Tasman National Park

Going from sleeping in the same room as twelve of my new friends every night to having a room and host family all to myself was more of culture shock than arriving in New Zealand. Suddenly, I was pulled away from everything I had known in the past five weeks and thrown into a new city and a new internship. For my first few days in Wellington, I didn’t even have a cell phone! This made navigating the unfamiliar bus routes twice as difficult. Though this was a discombobulating feeling for the first few days, after a week and a half, I feel much more settled (and only miss the bus once in a while).

I’m lucky enough to live in a homestay right next to the Otari Bush, the only public botanical garden in New Zealand dedicated to native plants. There are a series of nature walks and overlooks at Otari, and the opportunity for citizen scientist experiments like water testing, which we did as a HECUA class. I live in a suburb of Wellington called Wilton, which is a short bus ride into the city. Though living in a unfamiliar place can be disconcerting at first, I feel very at home here after only a little over a week.

A low retaining wall separates forest from more forest at a public park in Wellington.

Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington.

On Mondays and Fridays, we meet as a group in the Innermost Gardens, a community garden in Mt. Victoria. During these times we discuss how things are going for us and seek input from each other, as well as hear from speakers and go on field trips. It is a nice way to begin and end the week, especially since we do not all see each other in the middle of the week or the weekend. For two or three days a week, each member of our group has an internship at a different site. Each of these internships relates to some aspect of each of our interests, and range in size from very small non-profit organizations to the City Council.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, I intern at an organization called Conscious Consumers, located on a bustling area of Wellington called Cuba Street. Conscious Consumers is an organization of about fifteen people with a mission to connect ethically conscious consumers with sustainable businesses, in order to bring positive change to the world. They created an app where consumers can register to find businesses that have been accredited and follow sustainable practices. Working at Conscious Consumers is the perfect fit for me because I share the same values as them, and I have the opportunity to explore the sales, marketing, and communications world in real-life scenarios. Though I have only been working there for two weeks, I will be completing my own projects in the near future, which I am looking forward to.

With so much going on in Wellington, it can be difficult to balance academics with social life. Every weekend there are markets and festivals, like CubaDupa this past weekend. Even though Wellington isn’t a huge city, there is always something to do. As both my hometown and college town are small, it’s nice to be in a city for a few months.Though it feels like we just arrived in Wellington, the weeks are passing quickly and I am trying to pack in as much as possible in the time we have left.

the Wellington coastline, from a distance.

The New Zealand waterfront.

For more information about HECUA’s study abroad program in New Zealand, click here.



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