This summer I travelled to Christchurch, New Zealand to undertake a short medical research project with a research group within the University of Otago, associated with the local hospital. Following the major earthquakes that hit the city in 2010 and 2011, the project aimed to look into whether exposure to such traumatic stresses can have long term effects. It was an exciting prospect to be part of research within a city where the city-wide exposure to such an event provides the opportunity for the health consequences to be explored on a population basis.
Before going I was fairly anxious about travelling across to the other side of the world. I had never travelled overseas alone before so the thought of going to New Zealand was more than a little daunting. However, the excitement took over as soon as I embarked on my journey. When I finally arrived (after over 30 hours of travelling!) and started my project, I was warmly welcomed into the research department where met lots of fantastic people and any worries of feeling isolated or alone were quickly dispelled.
Going to Christchurch provided a unique experience to visit a city affected by such a major natural disaster and to personally see some of the consequences, giving some perspective to the research I was doing in the area. The earthquakes caused extensive disruption and damage to the city and even six years after the events, much of the central city was still very much in the process of being rebuilt. Across the city, although mixed in with the restored and new buildings, there was still plenty of evidence of the earthquakes in the form of damaged buildings – many still abandoned and untouched. I even felt a mild aftershock or two while I was there! In addition to the results I started to collate during the project, this certainly provided a different learning experience.
While the effect of the earthquakes was still very much present in the city, life appeared to go on as usual in Christchurch. While some areas were quiet and abandoned, others were vibrant and lively. Evenings and weekends provided the perfect opportunity to properly explore the city. Between the museums and galleries, the “Container Mall”, the remains of the city’s cathedral and a walk up the Port Hills and through native bush, I filled my time in New Zealand with fantastic experiences and wonderful memories. I couldn’t have wished for a better experience!
I took a stroll around the colourful “Container Mall”, built out of shipping containers in the early aftermath of the second earthquake
The remains of Christchurch Cathedral which was badly damaged after the earthquakes
Exploring the city’s culture at the museum and Art’s Centre