Study v Abroad: How I’m balancing university and travelling

by Emma Colson, University of Auckland, New Zealand

If you’re anything like me, the main motivation to studying abroad is to travel and explore another country. Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity to do this, but being a student, the commitment to studying means we can’t run around the country free rein as much as we’d love to. It goes without saying that university has to take priority, but that doesn’t mean you can’t free some time to appreciate the country you’re in without falling behind. So, I thought I’d share my experience so far of how I’ve balanced the two, and some tips on how to get the best of both worlds. 

The only way to get the most out of your time is do to the one thing students (including me) usually hate – organisation.

Look up term dates of your host university as soon as you know where you’re going and work around them – for me, the University of Auckland didn’t start until late February, so I flew here at the beginning of February in the hopes of having some time to explore the city and further afield before the semester started. I had planned a trip up to the top of North Island, but thanks to Cyclone Gabrielle I had to rearrange that.

Being organised can free up time during the semester as well – as I’ve got Fridays free on my timetable, I’m able to do weekend trips. Recently, I went with two friends to Taupo and the Tongariro National Park to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is a highly recommended day hike here (it is 7 hours/20k long!). If you study here it is a must-do, but it’s definitely not for the faint hearted.

Speaking more to university here in Auckland, I have found that the workload is very manageable. They use a system called canvas as opposed to blackboard, the one UoM uses (which we are all too familiar with). This has a calendar which states the deadlines for all classes throughout the semester, which makes it really easy to plan ahead.

Also, the majority of my assignments have been online, and they’ve all had plenty of notice and all the information available so they could be started early – this also made it easier to plan trips, as I didn’t have any surprise assignments to focus on.

Obviously there is time during the semester break and after to travel, but if you’re like me and wanted to spend as much time as possible travelling, I’d recommend doing day and weekend trips during the semester! It’s also a nice break from studying and it gave me more motivation to get the work done knowing I had a trip planned at the weekend.

Other ideas for day or short trips to do around Auckland are the islands, such as Waiheke Island and Rangitoto, which are easily accessible by ferry from downtown Auckland. Waiheke is known for its vineyards but there are also stunning beaches and a few hikes; Rangitoto is only really for those wanting to hike but is still a great day trip with some amazing views. One thing I love about studying in Auckland is how close it is to so many different things – islands, beaches, mountains, waterfalls, etc; you don’t have to travel far to see some incredible places.

No matter where you go, I’d make a list of everywhere you’d like to travel to during your time and organise them by distance and how long you’d spend there – I divided mine into day trips, weekend trips and 2+ day trips. By doing this, I realised a road trip in North Island would be the best way to see most of the places, and I decided to spend my mid-term break here doing that!

Whilst some of this may seem obvious, definitely avoid leaving this to the last minute – you don’t want to go home feeling like you’ve missed out on anything!

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