First impressions of New Zealand

By Vanessa Maloney (University of Auckland, New Zealand).

Having finally sorted out my flights, accommodation and visa it still hadn’t really sunk in that I would soon be moving on my own to the other side of the world. I was so used to thinking of New Zealand as some far-off dream that as my departure date drew nearer I was still in denial that it was actually happening! In the busy days before leaving I managed to pack in a few emotional goodbyes and then suddenly it was time to go…

The plane journey was long and uncomfortable but I was so excited about arriving in Auckland that the pins and needles in my feet, the baby shrieking behind me and the fact that my TV monitor was broken didn’t seem to bother me.  The stopover in Malaysia was so short that I barely had time to explore the airport, never mind Kuala Lumpur. I did however get a small taste of Malaysian culture in the coconut rice served for breakfast and the short tourism film that Malaysian airlines forced us to watch (complete with a very amusing propaganda-style song about how we were now entering paradise on earth)!

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A very Maori welcome into baggage claim at Auckland International Airport
 Considering the Kiwi reputation for being welcoming and friendly, I unfortunately didn’t have the most welcoming start to my time in New Zealand. Having arrived at my accommodation at 1 am after a whole day’s worth of flying with very little sleep, I was locked out of my apartment building. The duty manager who was supposed to let me in had obviously fallen asleep at his desk and left me and 5 other international students stranded in the lobby. After 3 hours of waiting and calling various emergency numbers we eventually gave up and decided to share rooms in the expensive hotel next door. So… my first night in New Zealand was spent sharing a bed with two Irish people! Although it wasn’t the best start, It actually worked out for the best as you would be surprised how quickly people make friends at 3 in the morning when they are cold, angry and sleep deprived! It seemed like a weird social experiment to see what would happen when you shove a bunch of people from England, Ireland, Norway, Germany and Poland in a room together. Luckily, the results were good (and sometimes hilarious) and we have now formed a team for the orientation week quiz night called ‘the Locked Outs’.

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My apartment block is the building on the left… not bad!

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My first couple of days here were spent exploring the area and trying as hard as I could to get over the jet lag by staying awake past dinnertime! My first impressions of the people here are overwhelmingly positive. New Zealanders seem to have the right balance between being laid back and friendly but also being able get stuff done. I’ve had some really great conversations with people serving me in shops, who are just genuinely interested in why I’m here and happy to spend ten minutes telling me about all the places I should go to. Auckland is a beautiful city.  It makes a nice change to be in an environment where you can travel five minutes from the bustling city center and suddenly be in a nature reserve by the sea.  It is a city built on about 48 Volcanoes. On the downside this means that a walk to the shops feels like a marathon, but on the upside it has some incredible views…

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View across the bay from Parnell – just ten minutes walk from my flat
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You can understand why Auckland is nicknamed ‘the city of sails’

Orientation week itself has been great fun. Some of the highlights included a welcome Haka performance (the Maori war dance) for new students, meeting the infamous ‘chicken boy’ (Youtube it…) from New Zealand X Factor and getting a taste for Kiwi beer and music at ‘Winterfest’. We also arrived in time for the Maori new year celebrations, which involved special markets, art exhibitions and film screenings on the harbour. I took this chance to try the Maori food Hangi, which involves cooking meat in a specially made pit in the ground. It was by far the best lamb I’ve ever tasted and I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m going to get very fat in New Zealand…

My next blog posts will be updating you on how classes are going, a bit of weekend travelling and I’ve also booked tickets for the All Blacks vs Springbucks rugby match… So watch this space!

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