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The Exchange Experience: My New Zealand Birthday

Caves, Cakes and Cool People.  

One cool thing about moving across the International Date Line is that your birthday lasts for twice as long. As it was my twentieth birthday, I was ready to celebrate leaving my teenage years like any rational adult: doing crazy things and staying up late, all the while being in a foreign country. I was also surrounded by some of the coolest people ever to make the day even better.

It started off with my friends keeping me awake the day before my birthday, until midnight, when I was officially no longer a teenager. This unfortunately meant that I got very little sleep that night as it was an early start the next morning for our next adventure. It just so happened that my birthday weekend coincided with a trip to the Waitomo caves, one of the most breathtaking places you’ll ever visit, I promise. The first day (my “New Zealand birthday”, as I was calling it) we spent running around in the mud and jumping in the river. They called it “team building,” and they weren’t wrong! You can’t help but form a bond with people when you slip and slide through rivers and mud together. I also saw the elusive kiwi bird at the Otorohanga kiwi bird sanctuary. Does that make me a real New Zealander yet?

That evening, despite being exhausted from the day’s adventures, we all headed down to the local pub and grabbed some drinks and food. As we were sitting in the crowded pub, the lights suddenly dimmed and people started singing happy birthday. I awkwardly thought, “Oh, whose birthday is it?” Then, as my friend walked towards me carrying a cake, I remembered that it was mine. 

I sat there feeling slightly like the kid in elementary school who was embarrassed that the entire cafeteria was singing happy birthday to them; however, I was also touched that these people, who’ve hardly known me for more than two months, had gone to much effort to make my day extra special. I couldn’t stop saying thank you, probably to the point where they just wanted me to shut up. I still don’t think they could understand how much their efforts meant to me. But before I start tearing up and turning this into the most sentimental, cheesy post that it’s becoming, I should also mention the best part about this weekend: black water rafting through the caves.

Even though it was the next day in New Zealand it was still my birthday back home so it felt like having a second birthday. This weekend would have been amazing enough on its own, but the fact that it was my birthday made it even more special. I felt so much love from all around the world. I guarantee that there’s no cooler way to spend your birthday. 


Sources: Cover Photo, Photos were provided by the author.


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