Hello from Wisconsin
January 6, 2020
Upon landing in O’Hare Airport in mid-December, my nose still red and peeling from a sunburn, I stepped outside and breathed in the crisp, Midwestern air. I smiled, and looked around at the puffs coming from my fellow travelers’ mouths, and noticed that cars were now on the opposite side of the road. I then immediately turned around, went back inside, and put on an extra pair of socks, another pair of pants, another sweatshirt, and dug out a winter hat I had been saving for this exact moment. Having come from 75 and sunny, it was a bit of shock to step out into 15 degrees at sunset, which was starting at 4:30pm instead of 9:30pm. It felt good to be back though, and I was excited to see my family, who I would see at the end of a two hour bus ride back to Madison.
It was an incredible last week in New Zealand, filled with celebration, adventure, and plenty of sadness. With New Zealand’s summer break quickly approaching, the last few days at school were packed with classroom cleaning, end-of-the-year games and activities, and graduation ceremonies for the year 8’s. I really enjoyed the awards assembly, which highlighted the achievements of many students at TNIS in academics, music, sports, and citizenship. I found it inspiring to see how incredibly talented and passionate the students were, and I wish all of the graduating students the best as they enter the next phase of their education.
The week was full of plenty of good-byes, which historically aren’t my strong suit; I prefer to slip quietly out the back door. The students and staff were very thoughtful, and sent me home with plenty of gifts, snacks, and kind words. It was particularly hard saying goodbye to the students, because I know that the likelihood of seeing them again is quite small, but such is life. In the last morning tea, I bid farewell to the staff and thanked them for all of their kindness and laughter over the past eight weeks. I feel at peace with leaving Takapuna Normal Intermediate School; I’ve done everything I wanted to do and feel that no day was wasted. I hope to return someday soon to connect with friends and see how the school has developed and grown.
Saying goodbye to James, Rosie, and Bryn was much harder. They were lovely hosts and are now amazing friends. We spent our last nights together eating great meals, squeezing in a few more episodes of Breaking Bad, and playing Gin Rummy late into the night. I am so thankful to have met them, I hope to see them soon. Maybe the next time Bryn and I meet we will be able to have full on conversations with each other!
My last day at TNIS was a Friday, and the next day I flew to Queenstown, an adventure-junkies’ dream with amazing hiking and biking. Queenstown is on the South Island, which looks the complete opposite of the tropical, beach-filled North Island. I stayed in a hostel for three nights, meeting and hanging out with people from around the world. During the day I explored the local nature, renting a bike on my first day and biking 43 miles through the countryside. On the second day I hiked to Ben Lemond Summit, where I peered through the cloud-mist out towards the Remarkable Mountain Range. It was a great cap to my time in New Zealand and allowed me to reflect on my experiences abroad.
Now that I am home, I am beginning to look for teaching positions in Madison, Wisconsin and preparing my applications and transferring my Iowa certification to Wisconsin. It is good to be back, but I find myself looking through photos of New Zealand every now and then, to remind myself that it actually did happen. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have student-taught abroad, and to all of those who helped make this experience possible, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Thank you for reading, and “kia ora.”
Caleb is from Madison, Wisconsin with a major in education and English and a minor in civic engagement.