Group Shot from a day of Hiking at Lewis Pass
Group Shot from a day of Hiking at Lewis Pass

I’ve made a lot of friends at Uni, and the clubs I’ve joined are a great way to meet new people and try new things.  However, I found that in my New Zealand-focused classes and outing-focused activities, I’m mainly grouped with other international students, especially Americans, and there are few Kiwis.  To see the people of Christchurch, I decided to get more involved at my local church.  Of course I still wanted to see more of New Zealand—places beyond the bus route—so I started by joining the church tramping club for a day trip to Mt. Richardson.  The Kiwis were very welcoming, and I immediately felt that I was a member of the group.  On the way I was able to get to know a number of Kiwis as well as see the spectacular sites that make New Zealand famous for its beauty.  Excited to connect with people from all walks of life while walking through nature, I continued to go on trips with the group and to become friends with more of its members.

Through these tramps and socializing with church members, I came to realize what an international place Christchurch is.  I’ve met people from Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas over biscuits in the church fellowship hall.  It’s fascinating to hear the reasons they come to New Zealand: jobs, school, family, adventure, experience.  Everyone has a unique story, and though we are all following different paths, somehow we each ended up on the same island in the South Pacific.

“Tramping” known as hiking, rambling, hill walking or bushwalking elsewhere is popular in New Zealand

There is great variety among the Kiwis as well.  Kiwis are friendly and will tell you a lot about themselves once you get to know them.  I get a little glimpse into Kiwi life, from the voting system, to job hunting, to favorite places to visit.  I even had the privilege of hearing about lambing from a New Zealand sheep farmer.  It’s a lot of fun to chat with a group of people and see the differences in the parts of life we normally think are most mundane.  These new friendships have allowed me to see more of the nooks and crannies of Christchurch as well, and I have visited cafés where my new friends work or places they like to visit.

Interesting as it is to explore the differences, there are some things that draw all of us together—like a universal love of Disney movies, ice cream, or a great game of charades!  By hanging out with church members rather than just students, I have seen a greater slice of life in New Zealand and around the world.  Even though some of us come from tens of thousands of miles away, we can all come together and have fun as friends.

Elizabeth Jacobsen is a student from Williams College and a TEAN Featured Blogger. You can also read her blog, There and Back Again while at the University of Canterbury. Elizabeth is currently studying abroad with TEAN in Christchurch, New Zealand