My Love Letter to New Zealand

Dear New Zealand,

Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all this time you’d like to talk
To go over everything

Now that my semester is coming to a close, I thought this would be the perfect time to express my gratitude. Despite any complaints about the workload and the distance between me and my family or my girlfriend, I truly have enjoyed my time here. The experience as a whole has helped to increase my appreciation for the simple things in life and my enjoyment in everything.

Over the past few months, I have had plenty of wonderful experiences that I will never forget. Recently, I went out to see Thor: Ragnarok (phenomenal film) before singing my lungs out at a skating rink and soothing my vocal cords with Oreo pancakes and milk all before waking up at 4am to watch the sunrise on the New Brighton Beach… needless to say, it was an eventful end to my time here in New Zealand! Times like these make me feel so alive… I never want to lose the memory of this feeling and I hope that I can recreate it wherever I go.

But the thing that I have loved the most is what I always seem to love about any place I call home: the people. I have met so many of you wonderful people here in New Zealand that I am deeply saddened by the possibility that I might never meet with you in person again… but I hope that you will stay in contact with me via FaceBook and any other social media platforms!!! Your friendship has helped me through my lowest points this semester and it has fostered me to greater high points than I ever imagined I would experience here.

I must confess that I am thoroughly excited to return home to my family, girlfriend, and other friends, but this is certainly a bittersweet departure date. Leaving the place I’ve called home for nearly 4 months is never easy! I am hopeful, though, that I might one day return to New Zealand and reconnect with some of those same people I met the first time around.

Until then, New Zealand, I hope you’ll continue to protect those wonderful people who protected me and continue being a beautiful land filled with awesomeness.

Sincerely,

Joshua Bregger

P.S.: To the many Kiwi friends I have met during my time in New Zealand, I say this: “If any of you are ever passing Bag End, tea is at four, there’s plenty of it, and you are welcome anytime… Don’t bother knocking!” ❤

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Three Weeks of Thrilling Adventure

Welcome one, welcome all!

This time around I’ll be talking about my recent adventures to Westport, the North Island of New Zealand, and the University of Canterbury’s Cass Field Station.

Just over three weeks ago I embarked on an adventure to Westport with my Field Geology classmates in order to study all sorts of interesting geologic features in the area. We took measurements, collected samples, created detailed maps, tested hypotheses, and recorded everything within our field notebooks. There were multiple localities that we visited, but the most memorable ones were Denniston Plateau, 14 Mile Beach, and the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. We spent most of our time at Denniston Plateau working on our geologic maps, but my favorite was Punakaiki because there was a great view of the ocean, an ice cream shop nearby, and a great doggo named Sam right outside!

In all honesty, though, I must confess that it was not all sunshine and rainbows in Westport. That’s mostly because Westport is infamous for having a lot of rain, so it ACTUALLY wasn’t sunshine and rainbows most of the time, but I say that primarily because it was one of the most difficult weeks of my life. I went into the week never taking a Petrology course or a Structural Geology course, but all sorts of facts from both realms were required from the very beginning of the trip. I did everything within my power to pick up on the essential knowledge from each subject as quick as possible, but it’s insanely difficult to learn while out in the field. Out there, there’s no time to sit and fully comprehend the flurry of facts being thrown at you, no time to triple or even just double check your answers to ensure you’re understanding everything properly, no time to hesitate or second guess yourself. It’s seriously hard work! However, you must not assume my wealth of stress was linked to a lack of interest. Even though we had to make maps in the rain and slip on rocks in order to get the best measurements, I had fun each and every day we were there. Geology is my passion. Hell or high water, through the fire and flames, it will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart. No amount of uncertainty could ever change that, and that’s exactly what this trip taught me. The friends I made on the trip and my family back home motivated me to keep working through all the pain and I think I did a pretty good job considering my (initial) lack of experience!

Two days after I returned from Westport, I was off on another adventure. This time around, the rising of the Sunday sun marked the beginning of my adventures on the North Island of New Zealand. I visited waterfalls, the National Aquarium of New Zealand, and multiple cities along the way, but my visit to Hobbiton was by far the best adventure I had that week. The moment that I gazed upon the beauty of Middle Earth in the theatrical adaptation of Fellowship of the Ring, I fell in love with it instantly. Peter Jackson depicted the world so vividly that I couldn’t help but dive into Tolkien’s books soon after. The more I read, the more I learned and the more I wanted to know as much as I could about this fantastic new world. To traverse that beautiful landscape on my own two feet- that was my dream. And two weeks ago to the day I accomplished that dream. To say that I never, even in my wildest dreams, thought that I would enjoy the ultimate privilege of walking in the land of Hobbits would be a glorious understatement. And yet, here I am two weeks later recounting the tale of how I personally stood in front of Bag End in the Shire and gawked at the paper sign on Bilbo’s gate!

You may be asking yourself, what did Josh learn from this entirely unexpected journey? I learned that the world is larger than I had ever realized before. I have been thousands of miles from home every single second that I have been in New Zealand. To be honest, I never imagined that I would ever be farther than a car’s drive away! Now I need to sit on an airplane for more than half a day just to get back to America!!! However, the truth is that I haven’t been anxious every minute of the day while I’ve been here despite all of that. It shows me that the world is large, but my ability to accomplish the goals I set for myself is much larger. That my passion can propel me forward in life beyond the restrictions my own mind builds in fear, THAT is what I’ve learned. Wherever my passion takes me, no matter how far I have to travel, I know that I’ll succeed and return to the place I call home, in due time. Tolkien said it best: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” I never knew that the world would sweep me off my feet and take me to New Zealand, but I am thankful that it happened.

This past weekend I traveled to the Cass Field Station with other students and faculty involved with the Philosophy department here at the University of Canterbury. The mountains were spectacular, the discussions we had were inquisitive, and the friends I made were delightful. We played board games most of the time we were there, but I did set aside some of my personal time to work on an essay for a different course! That weekend where I was constantly between mountains taught me to appreciate the little things in life. Even though I forgot my hiking boots and was unable to traverse the steep trail nearby, I found friends to bond with, professors to have discussions with, and an essay that needed some serious editing! Now my fellow Philosophers and I have a FaceBook group chat where we contemplate the ethics of clones, laugh at various inside jokes, and plan group meetings (AKA board game sessions). All things considered, it was a weekend that I won’t soon forget and I will never regret.

Before I wrap this super sappy inspirational recount of my past, I’d like to give a short advertisement to anyone who wants to see the sights I saw over the past weekend. You can click here to see all the photos I’ve taken over the past three weeks and the entire time I’ve been in New Zealand. Alternatively, I shall include the link in its entirety for those of you that are unfamiliar with hyperlinking: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1748394885184849.1073741843.100000430644489&type=1&l=9cf4a4ebea

That’s all for now, but I hope you enjoyed and that you will tune in next time for more details on my adventures in New Zealand!

Until next time,

Joshua Bregger

This Was Much More Emotional Than I Planned

Hello everyone!

A lot has happened since you last heard from me, so I felt obligated to write you tonight!

Firstly, I’ll give you an update on how classes are going: great! … mostly. For the courses “Paradoxes” and “Coming of Age in Global Cinema,” I am understanding the lessons well and completing the assignments easily. In fact, I gave my first presentation in Paradoxes last week and I received an A- despite being sick before, during, and after the presentation! (Don’t worry- I feel much better now!) The hesitation in my voice is due to my two Geology courses here: “Magmatic Systems and Volcanology” and “Field Studies & Field Techniques” are their names. Despite the fact that I haven’t had an Exam in either course yet, both have tested me physically and mentally. I can already tell that these courses will receive the bulk of my time devoted to studying and homework. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my academic progress!

Next up I wanted to provide a social update because I’m sure you’re all wondering who I’ve been associating myself with since I got to New Zealand! The simple answer is this: even though I spend most of my nights alone in my room working on homework, planning future excursions, or playing video games, I’ve been trying to force myself into situations where I am required to socialize. For those of you that know me well, the fact that I find social interaction difficult sometimes may come as a surprise. Truth is, the suave gentleman you know today was once a timid boy who mumbled his way through every conversation he got into. Although it may sound like a downer, I have to acknowledge this part of me because it still exists to a certain degree. Like anyone, I enjoy my “me time” and there are times when I’m more introverted than extroverted. However, I bring attention to this mostly because I am proud to be the weird, funny social butterfly I am today. I can honestly say that being myself has made me more friends than pretending to be someone I’m not ever did. And that’s pretty cool! On campus, I am technically a member of EIGHT different social groups and clubs. I don’t actively participate in each and every one of them, but I do dabble! My personal favorites so far are KAOS (which is like an awesome mix of BIG and EC from back at SNC), DramaSoc (which has awesome Improv Comedy nights), and the Tramping Club (which has nothing to do with the film Lady and the Tramp and everything to do with hiking).

Speaking of the Tramping Club, you may have noticed that picture of me on top of a mountain (brilliant segway). That’s yours truly atop the summit of Mt. Richardson. 600m of elevation, 2.5 hours of hiking, and ~40 minutes of breaks & breathing exercises. That last number is no joke- there were PLENTY of times where I needed to give my flimsy, asthmatic body a break from the rigor in order to not feel like death. In all honesty, this hike was one of the hardest things I have EVER done… and yet, it is also one of the greatest things I have ever done. Why? Because I did it… Let me say that again, but this time with more emphasis: I. DID. IT. Despite the self-doubt, the asthma, the burning lungs, the racing heart, the aching knees, the sore feet, and all other discomforts, I CLIMBED THAT MOUNTAIN. Some special thanks are in order here, because there were plenty of people who helped inspire me throughout the climb. Samantha Myatt, for being my rock and believing in me even when I don’t; Karen Bregger, for building a mountain of support beneath me; James Bregger, for encouraging me to be the *cough* genius I’ve always wanted to be; Amanda Stewart, for pushing your little brother toward his big goals; Steven Su, for hanging out at the back of the pack with me and engaging in all sorts of conversation, but always being polite about it; Ripley Shi, for keeping the car travel interesting, cheering for me when I made it to the summit, and even checking up on me after the trip to ensure I was recovering; and lastly my grandpa, Doc Savage, for always being a reminder that anything is possible if I want it bad enough and work hard enough. I love and appreciate each and every one of you for the help. Whether you knew it or not, your support is what carried me up that mountain.

And now, we’re here… Man, that got a lot more emotional than I was expecting! But this blog is supposed to be a raw, unfiltered account of my New Zealand tale, so I’m leaving it all in! I just recovered from a wave of sickness, so apologies for the lack of FaceBook posts and Instagram pics recently. I hope to go on another trip like Mt. Richardson soon 🙂 Be sure to stay tuned here and on my social media platforms when those updates arrive! Thank you all for reading and for your time.

Until next time,

Joshua Bregger

The Beauty is in the Details

Hello, once again audience!

Unlike the last two times I wrote to you, I am now officially and undeniably IN New Zealand! Although the flights were long and exhausting (flapping my arms up and down for multiple hours at a time really starts to hurt after awhile), I can say without a doubt that I am thoroughly excited to be in this exciting new land.

As for a general overview of my current situation, I will recap the basics and add some additional info: I am currently living in the Ilam Apartments at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. I live in a flat with four other students: James from New Zealand, Rondo from China, as well as Shelby and Miranda who are both from the United States. They are all very nice, although we usually keep to ourselves while spending time in the flat. I sometimes wish we would socialize more, but I’m sure that as the semester gears up we will all have plenty more to discuss with each other!

My dorm is not much larger than my room back home, but it is furnished well and has everything I need in it (especially after a few trips to the nearby supermarket, Countdown). Bed, desk, shelves, and drawers- just what you’d expect in a college dorm! I also have my own heater in my room so I can alter the temperature as I see fit. Despite being the person that is usually renowned for his constant warmth on a regular basis back home in Wisconsin, I find that I have been keeping the heater in my room quite high the past couple days… I guess I am still used to the summer weather back in Waukesha!

Shopping for the necessary ingredients to prepare my own meals has proven to be much more of a challenge than I anticipated. Not only are the brands unfamiliar to me, but the very composition of food products is vastly different in New Zealand. As I mentioned last time, I am a rather selective eater. This has made things difficult, but not altogether impossible! After all, I tried fish for the first time in a long time a few days ago and I actually enjoyed it. Plus, there was no allergic reaction, so that’s a positive! Although I will likely be bored of eating a ham sandwich and an apple for lunch along with chicken nuggets and carrots for dinner by the time I return to Waukesha, I will no doubt survive and evade malnutrition while I am in New Zealand.

As for my classes, I actually begin my studies tomorrow afternoon! I say afternoon, of course, because Monday at 11:00 AM is the earliest that I have any of my classes on any day of the week! ^-^ I will enjoy the opportunity to maintain a glorious sleep schedule while at Canterbury. Beyond all belief, I am actually looking forward to starting class because it will keep me occupied and prevent the onset of boredom while I’m here. Also, I seem to have a curious thirst for knowledge, so why not drink up?

I’m not sure what else there is left to say to you at this point beyond the fact that while I am not terribly homesick (yet), I am missing everyone back home and I will greet you all with hugs and/or firm hand shakes upon my return.

Prepare yourselves!

Joshua Bregger

My Three Passionate F’s: A Title in Progress

As I begin writing this, I am entirely unable to even momentarily ignore the fact that I will be on a plane flying toward the wonderful land of New Zealand in less than two weeks. An entire country filled with mountains, volcanoes, beaches, caves, Hobbit holes, and many other things which, if you read my first post, you’ll know I am passionate about. However, there are plenty more things which I am elated to learn about and experience while studying abroad, and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there I’ll tell you what it is I’m looking forward to while I’m there:

Food and I go way back, almost 20 years! For as long as I can remember, I’ve been eating. What some see as a monotonous chore that humans are required to accomplish in order to receive the nutrients their bodies require in order to properly function, I see as an opportunity to bless my tongue with the taste of delicacies. What may come as a surprise to you, though, is that my eating habits are infamously selective. That is to say, many of the people closest to me know that I like the foods that I like, and I heavily dislike those that I dislike. There is little to no gray area here. Despite all of this, I am excited for what New Zealand does for my palette. Since there is no cafeteria like Ruth’s Marketplace at the University of Canterbury, I will have to fend for my own meals day by day using nothing but my wits, three pieces of wood, a shoestring, and possibly a few New Zealand dollars. Whether I’m heating up a bowl of ramen noodles (again) or trying something entirely new, I will enjoy each and every meal knowing that I am lucky to be eating in New Zealand and I am lucky to be eating at all.

Faculty is one of the primary reasons that I chose St. Norbert College over every other college in existence for my time as an undergraduate student. Throughout the many courses I have taken in geology, philosophy, and other fields, I have learned that the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge CAN be fun. I know this may come as a shock to those of you reading this that are still in high school, but it is true. What seems to always be my favorite part of each course is the individual leading and teaching it. Even if a particular topic of discussion seems bland to me, I am interested in the fact that there is a person standing in front of me talking with the same enthusiasm about this topic as I would have talking about the relationship between pyrite and marcasite. It’s incredible! It is nothing short of the truth for me to say that with the help of my professors, I have come to realize what it is that I want to study and (just maybe) what it is I want to do with the degree I receive at the end of it all. I hope with the highest of hopes that I can meet the same quality of faculty that will inspire me to achieve greatness once I begin studying at the University of Canterbury.

Friends mean a whole lot more to me than a television program. That being said, I must now suppress the overwhelming urge within me to belt out the introduction to the song “I’ll Be There For You” by The Remembrandts… you win this time American sitcoms. In an attempt to end this paragraph on a serious note, I shall say this: I have made more friends in the past two years at St. Norbert College than I ever could have imagined. In fact, there was a time when I didn’t even know that many people were capable of thinking I was friend material! Naturally, with the friendships of my past and present astounding me as much as they do, what I cannot even begin to fathom now is how many friends I will make in New Zealand. My only hope is that they are just as excited to meet me as I am to meet them… and that at least one of them is not a rock.

Before I go on, I have a request for all those that are just crazy enough to consider me as a friend (and crazy enough to read this far): I implore you to think of a time when I made you smile, laugh, or even just think a happy thought. I would now further encourage you to reach out to me in any way that you can at your nearest convenience and tell me all about that memory you recollected. I truly believe your friendship will allow me to complete what is likely to be one of the happiest yet most challenging parts of my life.

Now, as I bring this piece to a close, I must confess that I have no concrete schedule for when updates will be posted once I arrive in New Zealand, but what you can count on is that I will submit notifications to my various social media profiles when a new piece of writing arrives. I hope that my writing continues to amuse, inspire, and interest you as my study abroad experience carries on.

Until next we meet,

Joshua Bregger

Infinite Possibilities, Infinite Excitement

New Zealand: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the geologist Joshua Bregger. His four-month mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where he has never gone before.

If you approached me on my first day at St. Norbert College and told me that I would study abroad in New Zealand in the future, I would have initially been grateful that you did not begin our conversation with an ice breaker, but eventually I would have realized what you just said and laughed at the very thought that I, a kid from the small town of Waukesha, WI, would EVER travel somewhere as far away as New Zealand… And yet, here I am: nearly 2 months away from my departure date.

If previously I would have laughed at the idea of traveling to New Zealand, why am I about to do just that? The answer is quite simple: the fact that I once viewed studying abroad in New Zealand as an impossibility is why I desire to make it a reality! My four semesters at St. Norbert College have shown me that a kid from Wisconsin can achieve the seemingly impossible dream of being a volcanologist, so now I must continue to push the limits of possibility by taking my dreams to New Zealand! Oh, and there’s supposedly an entire country’s worth of geology to explore there, so that’s a major motivator.

As I began the application process to study abroad in New Zealand, I immediately had an important decision to make: which university would I select? While there were pros and cons to both the University of Canterbury and the University of Otago, I decided to select the prior because of the courses it provided, the location, and the faculty. When a simple search revealed that interesting courses such as “From Bambi to Kong: The Animal in American Popular Culture,” “Music in Aotearoa New Zealand,” and, most importantly for me, “Magmatic Systems and Volcanology” would be provided, my head was set on Canterbury. Learning Canterbury is located in the city of Christchurch also added to my motivation because I remembered that Christchurch is considered a hub for travel and transportation throughout all of New Zealand. With all the adventuring I plan to perform, ease of travel is a necessity! Finally, the fact that someone from Canterbury traveled 8,595 miles to SNC just to talk about the university gave me all the information I needed to set my heart on Canterbury.

Before I end this introduction to my travel blog, I want to provide you with a forecast for the future of this blog: during my time spent in New Zealand, you can expect to see pictures of volcanos, mountains, beaches, and everything in between. You can look forward to my honest criticism of restaurants, hostels, museums, and much more. Most importantly, you can look forward to the comedic yet elegant prose characteristic of yours truly, Joshua Bregger. ~