Ian O’Malley is a student at the University of Connecticut, and an ISA Featured Blogger. He is currently studying abroad with ISA in Christchurch, New Zealand.
My name is Ian, and I’m excited to bring my perspective and learn a lot this semester from my stay in Christchurch, studying at the University of Canterbury. I arrived last Thursday in Sydney, Australia. Geographically, Australia and New Zealand are the farthest reaches of western civilization. I am in amazement every time I look at a map and see the sheer distance of the two countries from every other continent in the world. They are truly isolated, which explains the high prices! Everything that’s imported has to travel a long distance.
Upon exploring the city of Sydney, the cityscape was nice, but it turned beautiful once I hit the harbor. There was so much activity! I saw people of all backgrounds, street performers, and even a foreign TV show being shot right there on the harbor path. The opera house was absolutely majestic, even though I’ve seen so much of this structure being posted by friends, movies (Finding Nemo), and being talked about as the symbol of Sydney. With all those expectations, it still didn’t disappoint. Finally I felt like I was in Sydney, even though I had arrived a couple of hours ago. I was in a different world…Oceania, the southern hemisphere. Traveling by plane can easily fool you, and enable you to forget just how far you have really traveled.
My second and last day in Australia, I went to the Blue Mountains with an Aussie tour guide. He showed us a secret spot where we were given a stunning view. Cliffs surrounded the perimeter of the valley, with waterfalls dotted around the forest. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a koala.
I arrived in Auckland on Friday and was lucky enough to go to Hobbiton, a farm near the town of Matamata that Sunday. The name “Hobbiton” might give it away, but this is the piece of land that Peter Jackson used for his films “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” These rolling hills are truly stunning and a spectacle to behold. I’ve never seen grass so green and lush, and was surprised to see the steep gradient of the hills didn’t cause the sheep and cows to tip over ! It’s no surprise that Peter Jackson chose this pristine location for The Shire.
It has been less then a week here, and I have already seen some of the most stunning landscapes and features in my life. As I type, I’m in Rotorua, and have been travelling out of my bag for almost a week, along with my great ISA peers and directors. I can’t wait to get settled in, learn more about the culture of the Kiwis, and dig a bit beneath the surface.
The world awaits…discover it.