Adventures in New Zealand: On Food, Music, and iPhones

First of all, I’d like to give a bit of advice to anyone
planning to study abroad: keep a blog. Or a journal. Or anything
else that will help you mull over the outrageous things you’ve done that week and recall things you would rather not forget. My blog posts are playing a huge part in helping me
write an account of my first six weeks here in New Zealand.

In the first five weeks of my program, we did
“field camp,” a combination of chilling, exploring, buying food,
getting exotic illnesses, tons of snorkeling, beaching and [some] learning in
the form of field study. The
program is called Frontiers Abroad, and the focus of our field camp was “Earth
Systems”—distinct from the geology field camp, which a bunch of other
Pomona kids participated in.

When we’re talking about studying abroad, Pomona always
tries to emphasize that we should try to immerse ourselves in the culture. In the case of yours
truly, doing that was insanely easy, at least so far. Field camp took us first to the Cook Islands, then to the
Bay of Plenty area north of Auckland. I have to say that those five weeks were really quite amazing—we spoke
with experts in areas ranging from whale migration research to Maori (the
indigenous Polynesians) spoken lore. I’ve been really lucky to gain exposure to such a diverse array of

Food has
been an overarching, umbrella-like gluey substance that has so far connected
all of my experiences in New Zealand together. The Cook Islands are tropical, which means tropical fruits, which
means mangoes and starfruits galore hanging from trees lining the road, which
means super-delicious-amazing fruity goodness in my mouth all the time. Two weeks of that was more than great. On a more somber note, it’s not
difficult to start missing home food once you have zero access to the stuff for
several weeks. As someone who eats
fast food hardly at all, it was very surprising to be constantly craving
KFC. Weird.

My program’s field camp just ended and I’ve been in Auckland
for almost a week now. Most of
that week has been spent walking to and from grocery stores and The
Warehouse, which is basically like Kmart. So many back-and-forths! It should be noted here
that Pomona’s food stipend absolutely doesn’t cover the cost of appliances,
silverware and whatever else you need to turn your living space into a living
situation. Those things also end
up costing more than you’ll be happy to pay. It should also be mentioned that food in the U.S. is insanely
cheap. Food, especially meat, in
other countries around the world is expensive. That’s right, folks. We have it easy in the U.S. That was an interesting revelation for me.

Other interesting things:

IPhones cost $1,010 here.

The entire downtown area of Auckland transforms by night—literally overrun by college kids.

You have to pay for Internet by the megabyte, even when
you’re using university connection.

It’s been really
cool to see firsthand the global scale that music operates on. In the Cook Islands, I heard Broken
Bells being played by a gang of vacationing Aussies. On the bus leaving the Auckland airport, I talked to a
fellow from the southern tip of New Zealand who’d come here with his friends to
see Feist and M83 at a music festival here. Walking through the streets of Auckland, I’ve seen posters for
Bon Iver and Skrillex. One of my
flatmates, who works in a café a few blocks down, served System of a Down
yesterday (apparently, they’re a bunch of jerks). To top it all off, The Naked and Famous will be performing
for a University of Auckland orientation concert in a week. Amazing. This is really just the greatest thing ever for me, because
I’ve wanted to catch them for a few months now. 

Everything said, I have yet to even start my academic
semester. Classes will start in
four short days and, as usual, I’m dreading the textbook bill. Almost done with orientation. What an ordeal! Really, if there’s anything that a
Pomona kid appreciates about our school after he or she graduates, it’s got to be the amazing orientation and ease by which we slip into the community. It is pretty darn hard to approach a
mass of randos in a foreign country. Other things I’m sad about are the insane prices of outdoors clothes
here ($600 for a shell?!), lack of an ultimate frisbee team and
apparent absence of donut shops.

There are certainly a few hurdles to hop parkour over, but I’m
looking forward to the next phase of my study abroad semester here in New

How are the Kiwis? Birds are cute, fruits are delicious, people have accents.

Jonas Kwok PO ’13 is studying abroad in New Zealand for the spring 2012 semester. You can read more about his adventures at

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