April 17, 2020
The Decision to Stay in New Zealand
The decision to continue my study abroad experience during this global pandemic was not an easy one. Both Champlain and my family strongly recommended I come home once New Zealand reached a Level 4 alert. New Zealand entered Level 4 as a precautionary measure, rather than a reactionary measure. I felt more comfortable sheltering in place rather than traveling through multiple airports on the journey home. About half of the other students at Champlain returned home, while the remainder is staying in the dorms. The staff at the Wellesley Student Apartments have been nothing but supportive. They’ve gone above and beyond by delivering three meals a day and conducting frequent wellness checks.
Originally, AUT decided to extend spring break by a week to give the university time to prepare to move classes online. Once the lockdown was announced, they decided to put classes on hold for students’ wellbeing. During this time, AUT created an innovative class model with a block format that was met with outrage from students. Under this model, classes would be taken one at a time in four-week blocks until December 2020. This created logistical challenges for many students. Champlain exchange student alumni and current AUT student, Jacob Pietras, helped lead the effort to return to a normal semester model by encouraging fellow students to sign an ongoing petition. AUT thankfully responded to the effort by agreeing to remove block learning and return to the original semester format.
What Level 4 is Like
Level 4 only allows for essential trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, and exercise in a local area. Physical distancing rules apply. The country may move to Level 3 soon, but the government is not in a rush. It is much easier to prevent the spread right now than it will be later. Level 3 will allow for outdoor activities, such as hiking and visiting beaches, takeaway service, and other small risks. Life will not return to a version of normal until Level 2. The government is being extremely careful in its decision to move down in levels. New Zealand would like to contain outbreaks and avoid ascension back up to Level 4.
Life in Lockdown
Since classes have been put on hold, there is not much to do. All three of my flatmates have birthdays during Level 4 restrictions, so we have done our best to celebrate and make their days special. We take occasional walks to Mt. Eden and have homemade pizza and movie nights. I’m feeling blessed to have gotten the flatmate pairings that I did- their company has made the circumstances more bearable!
Predictions for Life After Level 4
One of the reasons I decided to remain in New Zealand is because it’s still early in the semester. I would have just been beginning my fifth week of classes. I planned on staying in New Zealand until the end of June, so I’m remaining hopeful that I may have a few weeks left to travel at the end of the term. So far, the country is on-track with the current plan, so this remains a possibility. Even if the current restrictions remain the same or similar, I’m happy to be living independently in New Zealand. From what I’ve heard, life in the U.S. is not too different from the current circumstances right now. The decision to stay was a personal one, but I feel the safest and most comfortable sheltering in place. I’m happy to have both my family and Champlain’s support in this unprecedented time.