When I first came to Palmerston North, I was shocked at the number of people living here who were ready to write it off as no big deal. When I first got to know the Kiwis living in my building, the first thing they wanted to know was where I was from; the second, why on earth I decided to come to “Palmy”, instead of studying in one of the bigger cities. I can see how the allure of somewhere like Auckland, with its nightlife and buildings higher than four stories, might draw the unassuming American in a little quicker than The Square of downtown Palmerston North. But unless they were born here, all the students at my school chose to come to Palmy from somewhere else, too, so I knew I wasn’t the only “crazy” one. Knowing almost nothing about my new home away from home, I set off to discover the true essence of Palmerston North.
Firstly, you should know that the whole reason I chose to come to Palmy is because it had more to offer for me personally than any of the other university towns in New Zealand. I was looking for a small campus with the right class offerings, in a city that had enough things to do without being overly-sprawling. Cue: Palmerston North. I mean, it’s known nationally as “Student’s City”. It seems to me like as a student, I really could not go wrong here.
Let’s start with the Massey University campus. The whole campus is enclosed by a giant circular road, and the concourse is right in the center. Trust me when I tell you that it is impossible to get lost here. I live in one of the newer residence halls on campus and nothing is more than a five- or ten-minute walk away. Call me lazy, sure, but I really appreciate my central location on bipolar weather days when I’ve forgotten my umbrella. My favorite part of Massey’s campus, though, has to be its totally natural feel. Every open green space is covered with trees, and there’s a nice little duck pond right near the vet tower. Not to mention, the Manawatu River is just a step off campus. I absolutely cannot wait until spring, when all of the deciduous trees are green again and Massey’s natural beauty is at its finest.
Maybe you’re not convinced about Palmy from its university and natural beauty. Maybe the concrete jungle is more your style. I say, to each their own, but I haven’t even started yet. Let’s talk about downtown Palmerston North. To clarify, the part of Palmy that isn’t “downtown” is mostly Massey’s campus, mountains, windmills, and residential areas (with absolutely beautiful houses!) If students want to go into town weekend/weekday/night/day/whenever, we can catch a bus for free and we’ll be in the town center in fifteen minutes. What do we do once we get there? Well, besides the more obvious choices for uni students (*cough* pubs *cough*), Palmy has two indoor shopping centers, a cinema, an ice rink, swimming pool, museums, racetrack, golf course, and more cafes than you could visit in one semester. (The nerd in me would also like to add that the central library is absolutely fabulous.) I don’t even have the free time to visit all these places as it is – I honestly don’t know how you big city kids are coping.
Now that I’ve given you the tour guide rundown in Palmerston, want to know some of my favorite things to do? Well, if there’s live music, anywhere and any kind, guaranteed you’ll find me in the audience. On any given Wednesday you can find me at one of Palmy’s hotels, playing a few rousing rounds of trivia with my friends. Come October, you can see my name in lights! Well, on stage at least, acting in a Massey University Drama Society play. And really, you can’t beat scarfing down hot chips from a hole-in-the-wall takeaway joint.
Palmy might get some flak for its size (80,000 compared to Auckland’s 1.4 million), but this little city can’t be beat in terms of good fun and a great educational experience. And, if I really felt like leaving, I’m only a short bus or plane ride away from some of the more well-known New Zealand destinations. For now, I’m happy as a clam to have chosen Palmerston North as my new home. And isn’t it more fun to be a tourist in a big city anyway?