Another Lap Around the Sun; 23 Priorities for Year 23

Today is my 23rd birthday, & for the past week or so, I have been consumed by reflecting on the past year & pondering what is to come during my next lap around our Solar System. While this my normal thought process during the first week of February, this year is a bit different. This year, is the first time since I was 5 years old, that I am no longer a student. In fact, between regular semesters & extra summer classes, this is the first term in 4 years that I haven’t been drowning in school work. The first time that I haven’t been working towards a long term goal: graduation.

People ask me fairly often what my plans are, whether or not I’ve applied for full time teaching positions, if I’m going to stay in the Duluth area, or if I’m going to move. They ask me if I miss school, or how it feels to be a graduate. Somehow the phrase “real adult” always seems to work it’s way into my answer about how I’m adjusting to not being in college anymore. & that’s just it, I’m adjusting. The thing is though, I’m not adjusting to working full time, or to paying bills, or even payments on my student loans (gross). I’m adjusting to being me. This is the first time that I haven’t described myself first & foremost as a student, or an Education major, & I’m not quite a teacher yet (which I’m okay with).

So, I’m adjusting to what it means to be Orianna.

Most importantly, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about who I want that to be,  the parts of myself that I am happy with, those that I want to improve, & the activities I want to devote my time, money, and energy to. So this year, I’m not in a hurry to get a full time teaching job, unless one falls in my lap. I’ll spend this year working at the Brewhouse, substitute teaching, experiencing life outside of studies, & enjoying being me.

So, without further ado, here are 23 things I want to do in Year 23.

(Sort of in a particular order, but not really. Could push shuffle & it would not alter the meaning of the album or the thought process.)

  1. Read More – I feel like this is pretty self explanatory, I have always had a very deep love for books of all kinds. I have been known to call them my friends from time to time, & I believe without a doubt that through books I can live a thousand lives in one lifetime. No matter how much I already read, there’s a great chance, I can read more. So, I’m starting this off with my birthday present to myself: a Book of the Month subscription; I’ve been wanting one for a few years now.
  2. Watch TV Less – See all the other things on this list – If I’m watching TV I’m probably not doing those things.
  3. Crosswords – Since graduating about two months ago, I haven’t been exercising my brain very much. I’ve always thought doing crosswords was incredibly sophisticated, but that I wasn’t really intellectual enough for them. WRONG. I am! Like most skills that improve with practice, I am getting better at them, & plan to continue to do so. Crosswords are a workout for your brain! They are so satisfying when you complete them, & I thoroughly enjoy the process of working on them, consulting friends for clue solutions, & the small surge of victorious joy when you figure out a really tough clue. 
  4. Write More – This one is hard for me. On some days I feel creative, & have an insatiable urge tell someone (or the internet) the random thoughts mulling about in my mind. A spontaneous motivation to string words together & personify objects. But on other days blogging feels like a chore. This was especially true for me while I was traveling & completing my EdTPA, which is quite unfortunate, because my experiences while in Europe were so rich, I wish I would have spent more time writing about them. Anyway, this year I want to 1. Blog more (says pretty much anyone who as ever had a blog in the history of blogs). 2. Write random stuff down. Courtesy of my friend Cedar, I am trying to write down random things. Dreams, ideas, quotes, recipes, lists, memories, jokes, goals. Anything, everything. Particularly just writing without thinking about what I’m writing, or being concerned with the writing being eloquent, clever, or inspired. This is really an important goal, because writing has proven to be very therapeutic & enjoyable for me. Now that I’m not in school, I want to explore more of my writing for pleasure, rather than for academia.
  5. Learn More about Brewing & Beer – I work at a Brewery, & as far as most 23 year old women are concerned, I know a decent amount about beer. From a chemists perspective though, there is so much more that I can learn, & am interested in learning! So many good beers to try, so much learning to do. I repeat – one of my goals is to DRINK MORE BEER.
  6. Visit At Least One New Place – This is a promise to myself that I made at some point in high school. The promise was that I would buy at least one plane ticket & travel somewhere new at least once per year. Because I just returned from two months in Europe & am financially recouping, traveling again, while very appealing in my dreams, is not necessarily looking good for my pocket book. I have been flirting with planning a trip to Belize next winter, & in order to do this, saving money with the intent to travel needs to be a priority.
  7. Scuba Dive at Least Once – The single happiest moment in my entire life was scuba diving at The Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand. It was B E A U T I F U L. I’m talking, crying in my scuba mask beautiful. I haven’t jumped back into the ocean in a BCD since, & that was nearly two years ago. That is not going to fly again this year (SEE Above: Belize).
  8. Practice Photography More – Photography is something that I enjoy mostly because it forces me to stop & smell the flowers. It also allows me to show people what I see from my perspective when I stop & smell the flowers. Perhaps you could look at it as showing people what, in life, makes me stop & smell the flowers. No, I’m not talking about photographing flowers. I am fortunate enough to have a really nice camera, & to live in a really beautiful state – I’m going to take advantage of those luxuries more.
  9. Get Back in the Pool – Mental & physical health priority. I love swimming. I have always loved swimming. I stopped swimming because I got busy, & I became unmotivated. But swimming has always helped me process life events, organize my thoughts, produce endorphins, & plain ole’ feel good about myself. It’s time to get back in the pool.
  10. Spend More Time With Family – Also fairly self explanatory. I easily get caught up in daily life in Duluth, & because my family doesn’t live in Duluth, I don’t spend a lot of time with them. I need to take the time to do so.
  11. Learn to Cook New “Go-To” Dishes – I’m getting kind of sick of spaghetti & tator tot hot-dish being the only meals in my cooking wheel house. I think I need to spread my wings a bit. Wings, maybe I’ll learn to make killer wings. 
  12. Stop Apologizing for things I don’t have to be sorry for. More on this in a later post perhaps – but “I’m Sorry” should not be the go-to response whenever I am insecure about something I’ve done or said.
  13. Be more crafty – First, I want to learn how to hand letter. It‘s pretty, do I need any more of a reason? Second, I got a Cricut for Christmas, & have next to no idea how to use it. Looks like hours of Youtube tutorials are in my near future.
  14. Wake Up Earlier/ Go To Sleep Earlier – I always feel more motivated & accomplished after a good morning. (Also find this super ironic because I am completing this blog post at nearly 3am)
  15. Have Less Stuff – Declutter my belongings & my life. Welcome the feeling of freshness and purpose for all of my belongings, but letting go of the things without purpose.
  16. Learn a New Language – While I was in Europe I was so painfully aware of my lack of lingual skills. Obviously this is not something that can be accomplished in a mere 365 days, but I would really, really, like to start learning a new language. 
  17. Explore more of Duluth – Shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, trails, etc. I’ve recently realized there’s a lot I haven’t tried in my city! 
  18. Loving the Skin I’m in – I am confident, & I am proud of who I am, but I definitely want to feel more at ease in my own skin. Whether that is physically at ease, mentally at ease, emotionally at ease, it doesn’t matter. It is no longer about embracing my awkwardness & who I am, it is about OWNING it.
  19. Discover New Music – Music used to be a really important part of my life, from hearing my dad sing & play guitar, to the countless hours spent practicing my sax, or singing along to the radio in my first car (wowza do I miss those subwoofers). Lately, it’s taken a seat on the back burner, & I haven’t spent as much time listening to new music, instead I settle for familiar music that I know I enjoy. The problem is, that I know I am missing out on copious amounts of incredible music by neglecting to branch out.
  20. Spend my money/time more intentionally – I spend a lot of time at work, and I work hard to make the money I do. In order to make the most of it, I need to spend the time that I’m not working more intentionally. Intentionality behind the money I do make, also transfers into intentionality behind my time. Do I value my time enough to make smart choices about money? Time is money.
  21. Spend more time near/ on lakes – I originally moved to Duluth because I was so drawn towards Lake Superior, but because I work at a busy restaurant in Duluth, MN, my summers are filled mostly by serving french fries and pints of beer, not by dishing out waves. (HORRIBLE surfing/water/wakeboarding joke? Maybe?) While the money is good, spending time on lakes in the summer brings me a lot of joy, so I want to do more of it. Again, lucky me, the state I live in is perfect for that – LAND OF 10,000 Lakes? I think we’ve got this one covered. 
  22. Be less Jealous – Generally speaking, I am not a jealous person. But lately, I have struggled with jealousy when I see other people experiencing the things in life that I long for right now. It has nearly destroyed friendships & caused me to push people away this year. Jealous is an ugly ugly feeling, & paints a retched color on the filter that we all see life through. & While I know that not everything will go perfectly while I am 23, I do have the ability to determine how I respond to external events, & I do not choose to respond with jealousy anymore.
  23. Love More, & Tell People I Love Them More – If I fail to do all of the other things I listed here, I will not give up on this one. Above all else, I will LOVE more. Love my family more, love my friends more, love myself more. Part of loving MORE, is telling people when they make you smile, telling people when they inspire you, telling people when you miss them. One of the most incredible feelings in the world is one someone tells you that you have made an impact on their life, that they appreciate you. Hell, it feels good to hear that someone enjoys your presence on this simultaneously tiny & enormous planet. So this year, I will LOVE PEOPLE MORE.

Leadership in the Classroom

I would not be where I am in life today, if not for those who led me yesterday.

No phrase has ever rung so true for me, nor have I ever felt so inspired to be that leader for someone else’s tomorrow. As a teacher, I have the invaluable opportunity and ability to cultivate the minds of the next generation, and it is for that reason that I have honed my leadership skills. As a woman in the field of science, I must lead with a unique style. I must be gentle, driven, fierce, determined, and inquisitive, all at the same time. In my classroom, I must be an impeccable leader.

A good leader, leads from a place of love for others.

A good leader, is one that knows their people’s strengths and weaknesses at all times.

They are able to alter their leadership style to best suit the person in need and situation at hand.

They are capable of dissolving conflict and inspiring the unmotivated.

A good leader, is a teacher.

One who does not teach the next generation success, but rather teaches them the skills they need to be successful.

A good leader is an exemplar.

They strive to live their life in the same manner that they encourage others to live.

However, they are not without flaws.

A good leader is relatable, she is humble, she is capable of making mistakes, and capable of owning up to them.

A good leader, is one who does not need recognition to triumph, but recognizes other’s triumphs.

In my future as a teacher, I will empower my students without fail. I will believe in them without waver, I will encourage their curiosities without doubt. I will instill confidence in those who do not see it in themselves. I will treat each student individually, so that they may know what it feels like to be seen and heard. I will command my classroom first and for most with love, so that my students will understand that failure is a part of learning, and learning is to be celebrated.

Rather than leading in front, I will lead my students from the side, and watch as they accomplish great things.

A letter to Ms. Thomsen: the woman who changed my life without either of us realizing it, until now.

As of late, I have struggled to answer the seemingly simple question, “Why do you want to be a teacher?” My struggle is not founded in uncertainty, but rather the inability to transcribe what is in my heart, to paper. Teaching is not only the career I have chosen, but the lifestyle that I choose to live every day: a lifelong devotion to encourage others, lend a helping hand, & ignite the curiosity that burns within all humans. I want to be a teacher, because what makes me happiest is positively influencing others. More than anything, I want to leave lasting, meaningful, & inspiring impacts on my students, whether they realize it or not.

In 11th grade, my chemistry teacher, Ms. Thomsen, asked each of us to think of someone who impacted us in our scientific lives. We were to dedicate our lab notebooks to them. It could be a scientist, a mentor, or an inventor, anyone really. I don’t remember who came to mind that September day at Milaca High School, but whatever name I wrote down 6 years ago, is drastically different than the name I would write down if asked to do the same today.

Ms. Thomsen was everything that I strive to emulate as a science teacher. She created a welcoming learning environment for all students, & motivated each of us to do our best & work hard. Rather than forcing us to simply regurgitate information about Chemistry, she encouraged us to get our hands dirty & DO science. She always brought lessons full circle, by showing us how they related to the real world, & she had a gift for instilling confidence in those who lacked their own. Perhaps most importantly to the younger version of myself, Ms. Thomsen modeled what it meant to be a fearless woman in a field dominated by men. I could write numerous essays about all of the incredible male science teachers that I’ve had over the years, but Ms. Thomsen was the first female science teacher I had in high school. If it weren’t for the passion that Ms. Thomsen brought to her classroom, I am not sure that I would have pursued science at the collegiate level at all.

It took me a long time to grasp that there is no limit on what we can discover through science, but when I did, I knew that I wanted to explore it all, & share it with others. I quickly realized I didn’t really want a career in science. Rather, a career devoted to unveiling the scientists within the next generation in hopes that I might inspire students to pursue careers in the sciences themselves.

In three months I will be tossing my cap at graduation, & like I dedicated my science notebook in 11th grade, I’d like to take the time to dedicated my degree to someone who inspired me. I am very passionate about science, & yes, scientists make incredible, noteworthy discoveries every day, but I have come to realize they are not who has inspired me most in my scientific life. My passions were in fact galvanized by my past teachers. Unfortunately, Ms. Thomsen passed during my freshman year of college, so I never had the chance to tell her how much of an impact she had on my life, or that I am now dedicating my life to being the type of teacher she was, but that isn’t the point of teaching, is it?

Interestingly enough, this is one of the aspects of teaching that I find most beautiful. I am not becoming a teacher because I expect my students to tell me that I changed their lives, but I AM becoming a teacher to change their lives. I want to be a teacher, because dedicated teachers played a crucial role in my life, expecting nothing in return & I feel that it is my calling to do the same for the next generation, whether they realize it or not.

7 hilarious ways to thwart off your relatives when you’re single as f*** for the Holidays.

So, it’s that time of year again.

Holiday get togethers.

Of course I’m SUPER DUPER excited to see all my relatives & explain how single I am. So while I sit here with a tub of ice cream (kidding), I resorted to a little holiday humor, & I thought I’d share my mischief with you all.

Here are some tips & tricks to getting through the Holidays with your relatives, whether you are notoriously single, recently heart broken, or just looking for some laughs.

  1. Pet Lover???
    Are you an obsessive dog mom? This trick works best with relatives who don’t know your pets name, & it goes like this:
    Relative: “So, anyone special in your life?”
    You: “Actually, yes! I was going to bring Jack* because I wanted everyone to meet him. He’s usually so obedient, but I got worried that he’d get too overwhelmed with all the people & food here. I really didn’t want him to have an accident, or jump up on the counters & eat all the horderves. Besides, his farts smell really bad when he’s nervous. 
    * Insert your pets name here.
    – Continue to rant on & on about all characteristics of your dog, as if you were talking about your significant other that you are infatuated with.
    – The goal here is to have one conversation that means something completely different to the two people conversing. You clearly know you’re talking about your pet, but your relative is left dazed & confused about what kind of weird kinky relationship you’re involved in.
    – If they seem concerned about what you’re saying, quickly respond with, “Oh, you weren’t asking about my dog?”, & walk away.images-1.jpeg
  2. World Traveler?
    Did you recently return from an amazing trip abroad? When family members ask if you’re seeing someone new, excitedly tell them all about your new romance from your recent trip to *Spain.
    Don’t forget to include all the details about how it was love at first sight when you caught him pick-pocketing another tourist, & how you couldn’t get enough of his beautiful voice as he said, “¿Te casarás conmigo para que pueda convertirme en un estadounidense?”* over & over again.
    Admit that the relationship has been pretty rocky since you don’t speak the same language, but you’re working on it because you can’t get enough of each other.
    – *Insert the country you visited here.
    – If you google translate the Spanish phrase I used, it actually means, “Will you marry me so I can become an American?” (You can use this phrase in any language to match the country you traveled to.) BONUS POINTS if: A.) one of your relatives is fluent in this language, or B.) if they ask what the phrase means: admit that you don’t actually know, & google translate it with them. Casually mention that it totally explains why he proposed to you so quickly, & act like it’s no big deal.images-2.jpeg
  3. Recent Breakup?
    Are you concerned about your relatives asking why you & your significant other recently broke up? Let’s be honest, no one actually wants to discuss the details of their latest heartbreak with their family over the holidays, so here’s a quick fix. If anyone asks why you broke up respond with a ridiculous reason, & act as if it was as absolute deal breaker. Feel free to make up your own, but here are some ideas: Insert your Ex’s name/pronoun where it fits.
    – Jack likes pineapple on his pizza, & I just can not stand those type of people.
    – Jessie brushes her teeth in the shower, & she won’t listen when I tell her how disgusting that is.
    – Justin didn’t water my plants while I was away for the weekend, & obviously if he can’t water plants how could I ever rely on him to take care of our future children.
    – He didn’t call me back after I told him I loved him on the first date.
    – Lucas posted an ugly picture of me on Instagram on our anniversary. So inconsiderate.
    – He kept doing too many nice things for me, so I was suspicious he was cheating.
    – *** If you want to be extra risqué and really throw your relatives off: Use this one. He refused to do it *insert sex position* & that is just a deal breaker for me.
  4. Oh I’m just playing the field. *Use with caution.When a relative asks if you’re seeing anyone, go into a huge rant about your nonexistent dating life, Sex & the City style. Don’t forget to mention these crucial things to make the conversation really awkward & ensure your relatives never ask about your love life again.
    – Well I’ve been going on a lot of dates lately, & it turns out that the great guys never want to spend the night on the first date, & the ones that do, are either married or have an STD.
    – Tinder is a total bust, it’s mostly horny college kids & single baby daddies.
    – I tried dating a girl once, but I realized right away that I’m definitely straight.
    – Apparently guys are scared off when you tell them you want to have their babies right after you meet. Who knew?
    – & to be honest, I’m actually seeing two different guys right now, but I couldn’t decide which one to bring, so I told them both I was going to Alaska for the holidays to visit my family. That they wouldn’t come with.
    Side affects include, but are not limited to: Your family thinking you’re a slut, family interventions, your family thinking you’re boy crazy, your family thinking your unstable, or even worse, a family member asking for dating advice!
  5. Oh, didn’t you meet my new boyfriend? He’s around here somewhere.
    *This trick only works if you are at a very large gathering!
    If a family member asks if you’re seeing anyone new, act surprised & say, “Oh, you didn’t get a chance to meet my new boyfriend? He’s around here somewhere!” 
    Come up with different places he’s disappeared to as you see fit.
    – In the restroom.
    – Helping with dishes
    – Ran to the liquor store
    – Ran to the grocery store for any odd item.
    – Downstairs playing with the kiddos.
    When people start to catch on, leave the family get together. Run.
    BONUS POINTS: If people catch on too quickly, act like you can’t find your imaginary boyfriend & get your entire family to start looking for your boyfriend who doesn’t exist, & sneak away while you have the chance. I mean it, GET OUT.images-3.jpeg
  6. Star Crossed Lovers
    This one works for just about anyone. Explain to your family that you couldn’t bring your boyfriend home for the holidays because no one can actually know you’re dating, or you’re in love, but you can’t actually be together for various reasons. Here are some ideas:
    – You’re dating your boss
    – You’re dating your professor
    – You’re boyfriend is on house arrest
    – You’re boyfriend is in jail
    – You’re boyfriend is your sibling’s Ex
    – You’re in love with someone who doesn’t know you exist.Act as if  this is a totally reasonable excuse, and your relationship is totally normal & healthy. Watch as your family members begin to believe you are insane, but hey that’s better than being single right?!Unknown.png
  7. Holiday in Handcuffs
    If you’re still really worried about being single, you can always pull a full fledged Trudie from Holiday in Handcuffs, & kidnap someone to pretend to be your significant other. But watch out, you just might actually fall in love, & your life may turn into a second thought, the odds are pretty good & this definitely seems like the best option!In all reality here’s to everyone out there that goes through the Holidays single (whether you’re ready to mingle or not). Curl up by the fire, & enjoy your hot chocolate alone, with no one to annoy you, interrupt your favorite Christmas song that’s been on repeat since Dec 1st, or judge you for watching ABC’s 25 days of Christmas Movies, 24/7.


    Walk into your family get together with confidence, & brag about how freaking amazing you are. Don’t forget to talk all about your awesome new job, wonderful grades, the amazing solo traveling experience you just had, & especially how much you don’t need a significant other to be happy during the Holidays! 

    I hope you all found this as funny as I did, & remember, these tips work just as well, if not better for high school reunions. (:

The Heart of New Zealand Pt. 1

Let me start by saying that I am well aware that Queenstown is a very touristy town in New Zealand.

That being said, to me, my experience in Queenstown encompassed all that I wanted New Zealand to be.

So here’s how my two days in the coolest place ever went:

I allowed myself to sleep in on Tuesday morning, knowing that I got to do whatever I wanted for the entire day. (Perks of solo traveling!) However, since I’ve been waking up so early every day for the last month, I woke up at about 8:30 anyway. Not my idea of sleeping in.

I woke up to some bad news from another girl sharing my room at the hostel. She had traveled all the way to Queenstown for an interview at a horse farm, only to be told that they couldn’t come & get her because it was raining. Charlotte & I were very confused as to why rain would prohibit them from driving to get her, but it was out of her control at this point. So seeing that she was in poor spirits, & I was about to spend the day by myself, we decided to go for a walk around the lake together.

Charlotte is from the UK & was fun to talk to. One of the most amazing parts of traveling is the opportunity to meet people from around the world, share, compare, & acknowledge one another’s ways of life. Also, luckily she didn’t mind my obsession with taking some photos of the beautiful scenery.


Luckily during our walk Charlotte got a phone call from the horse farm that they were in fact coming to pick her up so we walked back to the hostel and she was on her way! (Charlotte, where ever you may be, I hope you got the job!)

So now my solo time actually started. Kim (another hostel mate) asked my if I wanted to go up the gondola (enclosed ski lift that goes up one of the mountains) so I knew that I needed to go purchase my ticket. I set up in that direction, but was quickly distracted by some hot chocolate from Bob’s Weigh.

If you’re ever in Queenstown, Bob’s Weigh is a must. It’s a small cafe, but well worth it.

This was my BOWL of hot chocolate. YUM.

IMG_2547  IMG_2548







Yes, I did get hot chocolate from Bob’s Weigh three days in a row… It was that good.

After I read my book and finished my hot chocolate, I walked the rest of the way to the gondola station, bought my ticket, & even found a cool trail that I planned on hiking the next day when the rest of my friends got to town.

I still had some time to kill before Kim was ready to do the gondola ride (she was busy Canyon swinging – like bungee jumping, except swinging over a canyon). So I found a dock & grabbed my book.



I could have sat in this spot reading for hours. Queenstown gave me the same feeling that Duluth does. A homey vibe, with a spark of adventure. (Or perhaps a flame of adventure in Queenstown’s case). I was 100% content.

But, I bought a gondola ticket, and nothing was going to keep me from the top of the mountain, so Kim & I headed up at 1:30.


Not only was the view at the top gorgeous, but included in my gondola ticket, were also a couple runs on the luge at the top! I also had a blast on the luge. At one point it started to drizzle, so the track got wet and slippery. The wipeouts made it even better! It reminded me of something both my dad & my brother would have had a blast doing! (go pro videos to come)


We took the gondola back down, & I waited to have dinner until Emily, Jack, Kelcy, & Ro arrived in town. I was very happy to see the four of them as they got off the bus from Fiordland, & they came baring lots of stories from the Keplar track.

Much to my surprise, Kelcy didn’t arrive with the others, but I quickly learnt that she ditched them to go & see Milford Sound. Okay, ditched was perhaps an exageration, but none the less she showed up about 45 minutes later, with quite the tale of her past 24 hours.

We went to Fergburger again for dinner, & this time I decided to get a hamburger (still going to only eat fish from here on out). After dinner we went to a place called the Beer Cafe for some drinks.

New Zealand has some really amazing heat lamps outside everywhere (like at Tavern) so even though it was a bit chilly, we enjoyed our beers (& Ciders) outside, as we swapped stories from the past week since we split up in Auckland.

We were all very tired, so with full tummies, rosy cheeks, & good spirits we turned in for the night, knowing that Wednesday would hold just as many laughs that would turn into fond memories.

Dunedin to Queenstown

When Kaitlyn & I woke up yesterday (Sunday) we went to a place called Tunnel Beach with two of her friends, Leah & Angela. In order to get to tunnel beach we took about a twenty minute bus ride, & once we got off the bus we walked about 30 minutes to the ocean front.

What a view. I’ll let the photographs speak for themselves.


Our time at tunnel beach was limited because we bought tickets for a Brewery tour. Speights is New Zealands largest brewery, & the Speights location in Dunedin is the largest on the South Island! The 2011 earthquake in Christchurch took out the Christchurch location, & Dunedin picked up the slack.
The tour was mint (prime/awesome/on point). It lasted about an hour & went through the history of beer in the world, Speights beer, & ended with a half hour all you can drink “tasting”. Yum. Their 5 Malt Dark beer was good, but The Brewhouse’s Beaver Bay Brown still has my heart.
After the tour we were quite exhausted so we walked back to Kaitlyn’s house stopping at some shops along the way, & getting some take away pizza.
We basically relaxed, ate food, & watched shameless for the rest of the night. For the record, this was exactly the kind of night I needed, as the last 3 weeks have been pretty go go go. We did however go out at around 9pm to get real fruit ice cream/yogurt. & man was it good. I got a raspberry yogurt, & it’s the best frozen yogurt I’ve ever had, raspberry chunks & all.
This morning (Monday) Kaitlyn woke up to go to Uni, & I hung out at her place while my laundry dried, so that I could pack up my things.
*Side note: Let this be the official record that I will never use a suitcase again. If it doesn’t fit in my 50L backpack, it doesn’t need to come with.
After I had showered & repacked my luggage, (Man did I overpack for this trip.) Kaitlyn returned from class & we walked around the botanical gardens. The gardens were beautiful & also had an aviary we could walk through.
Unfortunately [most] good things come to an end, & that includes my time in Dunedin. I’m currently writing from a coach bus that is bringing me from Dunedin to Queenstown where I will be spending the next three days before I’m off to Christchurch, & then Sydney, Australia.
Kaitlyn walked me part way to my bus stop before going to her next class, we bid farewell & I continued on my way to the bus station. I’m so thankful that I was able to visit her while in New Zealand! It was a great weekend, & it was fun to see the place she studies, & meet some of the people she spends her time with.
*Side note: if you’ve been thinking about studying abroad (or traveling) in New Zealand, or anywhere for that matter, stop thinking & just do it. It’s amazing. If you’re worried about the money, a wise woman once told me that your 20’s are the best time in life to be broke. Maddy was right, I don’t regret a dime I’ve had to spend on this trip. It’s been too incredible, & money can always be made.
The view on my bus ride has been awesome as we progress westerly across the country we have gone from rolling hills with sheep everywhere (like most of NZ) to beautiful mountains with mountains & rivers cutting in-between. Oh & snow. Damm that white stuff, I thought I was rid of it.
Upon arrival in Queenstown I checked into my hostel & got settled. One of my hostel mates actually has a friend studying his Phd at Goat Island Marine Reserve, which is where we stayed for the last 2.5 weeks! Small world!
For dinner I met up with & old friend that I know both from summer camp in middle school & Bemidji State. Ryan & I walked around the city center & then got Fergburger (famous burger joint). Per my trying to eat less meat, I got a fried tofu burger, & it sure was tasty!
For now I’m just chilling at my hostel planning tomorrows adventures. Since my bus got in after dark today, I’m looking forward to stepping outside tomorrow & being “wowed” by Queenstown.
Since I’ve forgotten to do them for a few days here’s another translation:
Flipflops = Jandals

A piece of home, in a land far, far, away.

This morning I rose at 4:00am in order to catch a 4:30 shuttle to the airport. I was set to fly from Auckland to Dunedin, & luckily my excitement made it quite easy to wake up so early.

It was a pretty quick flight, most of which I spent alternating between reading & a state of unconsciousness. Upon arrival in Dunedin I easily found my shuttle which dropped me off at Kaitlyn’s front door on Castle Street.

Castle street is hoppin’. & that’s no exaggeration. Filled with international college students it seems as though theres always a party going on. As I’m writing this (11:12pm) I can hear the bass thumping across the street, & the mulling about of college students… I mean, Uni students.

Today was fun exploring the city center of Dunedin with Kaitlyn. First off, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, so it was great to catch up, & meet some of her friends.

We started off by grabbing some Mcdonalds & checking out an old bookstore/antique shop with Kaitlyn’s kiwi friend Taylor. Afterwards we headed back to Kaitlyn’s flat, I had a shower, & we got ready to explore the city center. The city center is modeled after another city in Scotland, called Edinburgh, & is in the shape of an octagon. Even all of the street names are the same!

First, we walked through the campus of The University of Otago, where Kaitlyn is studying. The campus is quite beautiful, & because it is autumn here, feels very similar to the beginning of the school year in Minnesota.


We explored a church that had beautiful stained glass windows.


As well as a train station, & the near by Chinese Gardens.

*disclaimer: we didn’t even pay to enter the Gardens, we just walked in, took a picture, & left.



At the train station there was an open art gallery going on, so we also took a peak at that! There was lots of very beautiful artwork on display, but unfortunately being traveling students, far far far out of our price range.


After the train station we walked to the Cadbury Factory for some hot chocolate. YUMMM. This was the most delicious hot chocolate I’ve ever had. (:

*side note: this place was exactly like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

After we finished our hot chocolate we headed across town for Baldwin Street, which is home to the worlds steepest residential hill.



We returned home from the hill, & got ready for dinner. We met up with Kaitlyn’s friend Jamie from DC & went to Mac’s Brew Bar for dinner. We started out sitting outside, but got cold so we tried to move inside. We accidentally took a gentlemen’s table, but he was willing to share. Unbeknownst to us, we got to have dinner with the live musician, for some good conversation, good food, & even better beer. He tried explaining the game of rugby to us as we watched the Highlanders play, & his music wasn’t too bad either!


Baby get your [glow] on, [glow] on.

Today was our last day on the north island & it was well spent in the Waitomo Caves black water rafting, & viewing the glow worms.

Glow worms are in fact fly larvae, & not worms, but they look pretty amazing none-the-less. They are actually pretty vicious creatures as they produce a webbing that hangs down from the roof of the caves & grabs hold of anything that flies into it. This webbing has paralytic properties, & allows the larvae to feed on live food. Pretty fascinating that such a gruesome little larvae can also be so beautiful when you turn out the lights.


Lexi & I



Lexi & I again!
The exit of the cave.
The group post-Glowworm caves!

The caves were really cool,  but sadly GoPro’s aren’t allowed, & all the photography is done by the company guides.

Speaking of guides, we had three great guides with us. Brendan was quite funny, & knowledgeable about the caves & the Maori significance of them.

The caves were in fact used as sacred burials many years ago, as they believed the glow worms symbolized the stars, & the caves were a portal to the underworld. Don’t worry, we definitely weren’t tubing near any of the burial tombs.

After leaving Waitomo we ventured back into Auckland to a hotel near the airport. For dinner some of the group headed into the heart of Auckland, but Lexi, Maddy, Kendra, & I opted to stay at the hotel. We walked to a near by liquor store, got some Feijoa Ciders (seriously you have to try these), & proceeded to watch Frozen until we were hungry enough to head to the hotel restaurant.

I am very sad to leave so many of the group from UMD, but also very excited for the travels that tomorrow brings. I will be meeting up with my friend from high school,  Kaitlyn, in the city of Dunedin where she has been studying for the last three months.

Again, I wanted to say how thankful I am for my time on the north island of New Zealand, all the opportunities we had as a class, & the amazing TA’s (Ros & Jenni) we had while we were there. I met so many wonderful people, made some great memories, & friendships that I really do think will last a long time. It feels as though we just arrived, & yet our course has come to an end. Thankfully, the rest of my travels are just beginning.

E noho ra (goodbye) Leigh

Today we said goodbye to our home for the last two weeks. The people at the Marine Lab were so welcoming to us, & we enjoyed our time there so much, we are sad to leave.

As we left Laura said, “We all have to come back here at some point in our lives.”

& although New Zealand has been an amazing place, I find myself thinking of all the other places there are out there to travel to. Being torn between coming back to an incredible place, & going somewhere new. Truly, when the travel bug bites, it’s hard not to crave to see places you haven’t yet.

Anyway, thankfully, my time in New Zealand isn’t over yet. We left Leigh & made our way to Auckland to drop off some of our group at the airport. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to five of our classmates today, because their flights left a day earlier than ours. Thankfully, I have the chance to explore Queenstown with Emily, Jack, Kelcy, & Ro in a few days, so it was just see-ay-later.

After we dropped them off we continued into the more southern region of the North Island for our second excursion. Our first stop was at the Kiwi House, a bird sanctuary in  Otorohanga. We stopped here because on our original Kiwi hunt, there were a few people that didn’t get to see the unique nocturnal creatures. I saw the first kiwi, so I enjoyed looking at the other birds in the park.


We left the bird park & continued to the Holiday Park we are staying at. Holiday Parks are like a glorified campground with cabins & such. We unpacked, & took advantage of what little daylight we had left by going to a nearby water fall & cave.

When it got dark we ventured back to the Holiday Park & walked to a nearby bar for some fish & chips. After stuffing our bellies with deep fried Dory (the type of fish we ate) we walked back to our cabin, & jumped in the hot tub.

Right now we are chilling out before bed. Tomorrow we are going black water rafting in glow worm caves! All of us are pretty jazzed to explore the Ruakuri caves.

Sea time. Seal time.

My morning started abruptly when Kelcy grabbed my foot to wake me up. Last night we decided to do an early morning hike up the hill to watch the sunrise over the ocean, but I was still in REM when Kelcy was ready to go. I groggily got out of bed, brushed my teeth, & put on my hiking boots. At the top of the hill we ran into LJ & Madel for some good conversation, & beautiful views.

After breakfast we hopped aboard the Hawere, the labs marine vessel, for the second time. Jenni & Ros showed us how they collect under water acoustic data.


We collected data at four different distances (other students will be using the data in class later on in the winter when the weather is not good enough to collect new data), & then set off for a cruise down the coast.

Today’s boat group! (Minus Roland & Chayse) (PC: Ro)

On our coastal cruise we were lucky enough to see a pod of six dolphins!

Bottlenose Dolphins we saw today. (PC Lexi)
Bottlenose Dolphins (PC Lexi)
The Dolphins saying goodbye after they got bored with us & swam away. (PC Lexi)

After returning to the bay we went back to the lab for lunch. Because our course final is tomorrow morning, we began to study as we ate. After lunch the other half of our group went out onto the Hawere, & we stayed back at the Lab.

Looking for any excuse not to study, Kelcy convinced me to go snorkeling one last time before we have to return our wet suits, & boy am I glad that she did. On our snorkel we saw loads of Snapper, Red Moki, a couple jelly fish, & many Rays (both Sting Rays & Eagle Rays).  Last, but certainly not least, after exploring a cave, Kelcy & I were lucky enough to sea a New Zealand Fur Seal!!!

Unfortunately, for the first time on this trip, I had a mishap with my GoPro, & did not manage to record any of these awesome sightings, so you’ll all have to take my word for it. Just so you get an idea of the incredible marine life we saw, here are some google images.

This is a photo of a New Zealand Fur Seal.
& This is what it looked like when we saw it today, except there was only one.
Red Moki: Usually seen in pairs because they mate for life.
New Zealand Snapper: Beautiful sparkly specks on their backs.
One Sting Ray pictured on the far left, & two Eagle Rays on the right.

In all honesty I do not like snorkeling very much. I get freaked out about what is around me that I can’t see due to the limited peripheral vision & tend to feel very vulnerable. Regardless of feeling uncomfortable, todays snorkel was well worth it. Between all the marine life we saw & the cave we got to explore, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that swim. & that is why you should always push yourself out of your comfort zone. If I wouldn’t have, I would have never seen that seal today.

We finished the day with delicious stir fry, courtesy of Megan of course, studying for our exam, & more cards.

Todays US -> New Zealand Translation

Garbage = Rubbish