Student - 29 november 2012

Quaking in New Zealand

Who? Dick van den Hoogen, fifth year MSc student of Biotechnology
What? Internship at Plant & Food Research, a research institute for agricultural crops.
Where? Christchurch, New Zealand


Foto: .

I wanted to go abroad - preferably as far away as possible. You can't get much further away than New Zealand and I was keen to go there. I ended up in Christchurch, where there was a severe earthquake at the beginning of 2011. I hadn't thought about that when I went, but my housemate showed me the damage when she picked me up. The centre was closed because many of the buildings are on the point of collapse.
During my stay I experienced some severe earthquakes myself. The first time it happened I didn't know what was going on - it was a quake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale. I was alone at home at the time, vacuuming. Luckily I was staying in a wooden house that doesn't collapse easily. The stone chimney had already been destroyed by a previous earthquake. I was still feeling shocked afterwards, so I went for a cycle ride. But there were still several aftershocks to come. The asphalt shook beneath my wheels, car alarms went off, street lamps were swaying to and fro, and in the end I just looked for a safe place on the verge.
On the other hand, New Zealand is incredibly beautiful. After my internship I travelled around the North Island by car. I preferred going to remote, deserted areas that the Lonely Planet  guidebook had little to say about. I found the area full of volcanos and geothermal phenomena particularly impressive. In any case, I did a lot of outdoor activities, such as hiking and cycling. That was great, especially after an internship full of lab work.
For my project I worked on the development of a new transformation method for potatoes. Only I didn't see a single potato because I spent most of the time in the lab. I was left to my own devices, but there were lots of people I could consult if I had questions. Anyway, people there are much more relaxed, helpful and friendly.
Milou van der Horst