Written on 21 March, 2013 by AbigailRivers.
I was 14 when I went to Christchurch, New Zealand on exchange from Scotland. To say it's a long way is a serious understatement. It takes two days to get there, however it was well worth it. I had applied to go the year before as its one thing that my school offers as an experience and I wasn't going to say no. Arriving in Christchurch I met my new mum, brother and dog. The excitement never stopped, it was amazing. For the first week we were over on the west coast, 'glamping' with an 8-man tent for the three of us, prop up beds and showers. I kayaked down a river, saw the famous pancake rocks and went caving. When we returned to Christchurch I was starting school and its fair to say I have never been more nervous in my whole life. Not only was it the thought of all the new faces, but also the new campus, and I would stick out due to the fact I had to wear my school uniform. Four weeks went by and I was finding my way around, meeting new people and beginning to have a ball. Then I had the terrifying experience of being in an earthquake, 6.3 on the ricter scale it flew me into a state of panic. Everyone always asks what it felt like, I can't reply, there is no way to describe it, it literally is like nothing on earth. I couldn't stand up, the ground was throwing me around and a low grumbling noise was barely audible over the screams and crying out of people. At the time it started I was standing under a four story high building and it took me a good 10 seconds to unfreeze and realize that this was not the best idea, before I ran into open space with my friend. When the shaking stopped I can't remember what anything looked like, to me it was a blur. People crying, screaming, running, lying on the ground, it was chaos. Looking back on it now, it was an exchange experience that I will never forget, I will never regret going on exchange, no I didn't have the same exchange as many of my peers and this was a shame, but I feel like I learnt a more valuable lesson. I was up the Christchurch cathedral tower just 2 days before it collapsed. I met the most incredible people out in New Zealand, one man who particularly inspired me was the local butcher, I went and helped him give out free hotdogs to passing people. They would look at my twice when I said free, asking if I really meant it. This man managed to pull the people of Christchurch together. So in all yes it did change my life for a bit, I still can't listen to a plane flying close over head without stuffing my fingers in my ears, but I can understand a select few people who have been through the same experience as me, and this I believe to be a far more valuable lesson. Kia Kaha.
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