The year of two summers…

Emily Barnes // University of Auckland

One main advantage of studying abroad in New Zealand or Australia is that by starting the semester in July, you’re finished by early November and get to enjoy a four month summer break. This is made even sweeter by the fact that it’s cold, wet and wintry back home and everyone is still at uni, stuck revising for exams. Having said that, I have revised for and sat three separate exam seasons this year, so I think my rest is well earned.

The last half of this semester was pretty hectic, finishing all my coursework, revising for exams and saying goodbye to all my one semester friends that had finished their time abroad. The actual exam set up was a little different here compared to Manchester, and I was a little confused in my first one where we were given 15 minutes of reading time to look through the questions prior to the actual exam beginning. This can be taken as a blessing or a curse as either you read the questions and know how to answer them, or you’ll just be sat there for 15 minutes panicking once you realise the questions don’t refer to any of the topics you actually revised! Most of the exams were also done in lecture theatres which made them feel slightly less formal and serious than the ones I’ve taken in Manchester.

In between revision, I did manage to get out and about a bit, including a three day ‘revision break’ down to Tongariro National Park, where a few friends and I hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. As it was early spring, there was still loads of snow all over the place and it was so pretty and scenic. We also walked past the volcano that Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings was based off which was really cool!

 

Tongariro Group Photo
In front of Mount Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom)

 

As my exams finished on the 1st of November, I decided to head over to Australia before the weather got too hot and spent a month travelling up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns, stopping multiple times along the way. I saw so many cool animals out in the wild, including kangaroos, koalas, dingos, crocodiles, sharks and even some poisonous spiders! My favourite part of the trip was visiting Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, where we drove on the beach and got to swim in so many beautiful lakes. I also got to ride a horse on the beach which was amazing and has been a dream of mine for some time now.

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Riding Dolly along Rainbow Beach in Australia

I’m now back in Auckland, enjoying the sunny weather and Christmas festivities whilst looking for a job as all these trips don’t come cheap! Hopefully I can spend the next couple of months saving up a bit of money for when I head down to South Island in the new year for some exploring there!

Mid-semester adventures and dealing with homesickness…

Emily Barnes // University of Auckland

I’m now well in to the second half of the semester here at Auckland which is strange as all my friends back in Manchester have only just started. And to be honest, whilst I have been having an amazing time here, it has made me feel a little homesick, hearing about everyone back home reuniting after summer and doing things together whilst I’m here on the other side of the world stuck writing essays and lab reports. Over the summer it was easy to push life back at Manchester to the side as I was out here having an adventure whilst they were all either working or just chilling, all dispersed across the UK. But, now everyone is reunited back in Manchester and I’m the one left out whilst they’re all starting third year it has thrown me a little. However, I think it will just take a bit of time for me to readjust to this new normal!

Feeling homesick is something that is certain to hit everyone at some point during a year abroad, however I think it’s important to remember that in general, you’re almost definitely having a more exciting, interesting and rewarding experience than you would have had back home. I’d advise trying to keep busy when you’re feeling down, organising to meet up with people and to also plan lots of things for the upcoming week so that you’ve constantly got something to look forward to. I’ve also found video calling friends from home also helps, as it makes you feel a little more involved in uni life back home. The time difference can make this pretty funny though, as last week I videoed my friends whilst they were dressed up ready to go out, yet I’d just woken up and was eating breakfast!

Anyway, I’ve had an amazing month or so out in New Zealand since I last wrote. Mid semester break has been and gone, in which I went on a week-long field trip down to Gisborne for one of my classes. Part of the reason I came here was to learn more about coastal geography as it isn’t really offered in Manchester, so to actually go out and study wave processes in the field was really cool and interesting. We spent the week out on a shore platform working with wave pressure sensors, wading in water up to our knees at times and even got chased by a lone seal one afternoon!

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My coastal group out on the shore platform

The second week, I flew with a couple of friends down to Christchurch in the South Island where we picked up a car and drove it back up to Auckland. This was probably my favourite week here so far as we got to see such a diverse range of different landscapes, including snow capped mountains, volcanoes, beaches and lakes – all in one country! It was also nice to chill out for a bit after an intense first half of the semester. I’ve also been on a few weekend trips out exploring the North Island – one to Taupo, an area with lots of geothermal energy and hot springs, and out to Mt Taranaki which is a huge standalone volcano in the middle of an otherwise flat area of the west coast.

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‘Craters of the moon’ geothermal park in Taupo
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Sunset in Milford Sounds down on the South Island

These trips have made me realise just how much there is to see and do here in New Zealand and that even with a year to explore, it’s still going to be a push to see everything I want to!

First few weeks in New Zealand….

Emily Barnes // University of Auckland

Despite only arriving in Auckland three weeks ago, it feels like I’ve been here and known everyone much longer. The flight over was long and after a small incident getting locked out of my accommodation at 2 am on a Sunday, I finally made it to my room after 26 hours of travelling. My first week here was spent exploring Auckland and making friends, dealing with the worst jet-lag of my life and trying not to cry over the ridiculous price of chocolate and pretty much any fruit/veg item that isn’t a kiwi fruit.

auckland harbour view
View of Auckland from the harbour

Luckily, I had university starting back up the next week to distract me from my fruit and veg woes and to keep me busy. It was weird to be back studying so quickly after the end of second year, but my courses have all been really interesting so far and I’m enjoying my geography courses learning about processes from a different country perspective. More contact hours and continuous assessments throughout the semester means I am doing more university work then I would have done back at Manchester, especially for the first two weeks. However, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing as it encourages you to really engage with what you’re learning week by week, plus it’ll be less stress towards the exam period.

I joined the university study abroad student society (SASS) during orientation which is something I can’t recommend enough. They hosted multiple social events in the first week and it helped me meet loads of other exchange students, whilst proving cheap food, nights out and day trips. I also joined the Tramping Society (tramping = hiking in NZ) and went with them to Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park last weekend, a two hour drive out of Auckland. We drove down Friday night to Waitawheta Hut and spent Saturday out tramping, playing games in the evening and eating huge amounts of chilli and chocolate cake before heading back on Sunday. The tramp was so fun and it actually felt like we were walking through a rain forest at times. We even went through some old mine tunnels and saw loads of glow worms which was really cool. The only downside of epic weekends trips I’ve found however, is that you don’t really get the weekend to rest and relax ahead of the upcoming week, which makes for a very tiring Monday!

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Path through the forest

This weekend a group of us hired a rental van, lovingly nicknamed ‘Mikey’, and headed out to explore some west coast beaches for the day. Despite being less than an hour from Auckland, the black sand beaches and lush green forestry made Piha feel like another country entirely. We spent the day wandering along the beach and around the various coves, climbing up Lions Rock and of course, taking about a thousand photos of everything. I don’t think the scenery will ever get any less amazing out here, everything is so beautiful.

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The black sand beach at Piha
waterfall group pic
In front of Karekare Falls

These first weeks have been super hectic and I don’t think things will slow down anytime soon but I’m having the best time and can’t wait for more adventures over the These first weeks have been super hectic and I don’t think things will slow down anytime soon but I’m having the best time and can’t wait for more adventures over the upcoming weeks.upcoming weeks.