Forget what you know about American football fans, the Rugby World Cup has come to New Zealand, and the people could not be more proud. I had the chance to go to a few of the games, and I have never experienced such a fun atmosphere; even the workers are happy to be there. All over Dunedin there are banners and flags, All Blacks merchandise being sold in the grocery stores, painted faces and colorful wigs. I am so lucky to be amidst the excitement!

Rugby is huge in New Zealand, and the fact the Cup is being held here for the second time in history only makes it more of a big deal. The most interesting part of watching the sport is that everyone is respectful, regardless if you are cheering for different teams. Perhaps it is because of the kiwi charm, or maybe the fact that people just want to watch the sport they grew up loving. Even if you can’t physically be at the game, you can walk into any flat and find 20 people watching it, all crowded around one television.

It feels good to learn about a new sport as well as participate in the thrill of an All Blacks win. I knew absolutely nothing about rugby before coming here, and now I can’t stop watching it. Rugby fans are similar to football, with the passion and trust they put into supporting their teams, only amplified. The players don’t wear pads and many of the rules are different from American football, so it is truly a new experience, but it was easy to catch on. It is such a big part of the kiwi culture that anyone you talk to can tell you a thing or two about rugby.

Monica Dzwonkowski is studying abroad at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.