Video Blog – The Positives and Negatives of Studying Abroad

Simon Hird  / /  Geography  / /  University of Auckland  / /  NZ

So as part of year abroad we were asked to produce a series of blogs for Geography. Each had to be a on a different topic and in a variety of formats (i.e.referenced essay, diary entry, video). This particular video blog entry was reflecting on the positives and negatives that I have experienced on my year abroad – it is slightly more personal and geography related than my other posts, due to it’s initial purpose, but hopefully you guys can take something from it:



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P.S. If you guys want to see a few more photos feel free to check out my Instagram: @simonhird 


the Instagram run by study abroad students at The University of Auckland if you want more of an insight into day-to-day life of an exchange student @studyabroad_auckland 

10 things you should know about studying abroad in New Zealand

Simon Hird  / /  Geography  / /  University of Auckland  / /  NZ

Hope you guys have all had an awesome year at Uni and are enjoying your summer holidays. I’ve just got a couple of weeks left of my year abroad at Auckland so I thought I would put together a collection of advice and some important things I think you should know about, if you are going to or are considering studying abroad in New Zealand. Some of these are specific to the University of Auckland, but I am sure there are parallels to other Universities in NZ and studying abroad in general.

Alpenglow on Mt Cook

Continue reading “10 things you should know about studying abroad in New Zealand”

Studying at the University of Auckland: what’s different?

Simon Hird  / /  Geography  / /  University of Auckland  / /  NZ


I thought it would be a good idea to dedicate one blog post specifically to academics and the differences I have experienced between Auckland and Manchester. New Zealand and the UK definitely have many parallels and it didn’t take much time to adjust to a relatively similar style of life and study that they have here. But there are some distinct differences in how university works here compared to Manchester and the UK in general.

One of the most resounding differences you will experience here is the way degrees are set up. Like many universities outside of the UK (US, Canada, Australia etc.), undergraduate students enrolled on a degree program at the University of Auckland will usually not be solely enrolled into courses on their discipline, but have the flexibility to take a variety of different courses. Take a Geography degree, for example: students will be enrolled on a Bachelor of Science programme in which they may choose Geography as a major and another subject as a minor, based on the courses they wish to take and allowing them to tailor their degree to their interests. Whilst this does not directly affect us as exchange students (we are enrolled on Certificate of Proficiency for Exchange) it does change the class dynamics noticeably. Continue reading “Studying at the University of Auckland: what’s different?”

A southern hemisphere summer

Simon Hird  / /  Geography  / /  University of Auckland  / /  NZ

This summer has been pretty special.

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Summit of Mt. Armstrong, Southern Alps

It’s been almost four months since the end of last semester but the time has absolutely flown by. It’s been a pretty full on summer and now that I am back in Auckland for the start of my next term, I thought it was time to write something down about it. I’ll try to keep it brief…

Continue reading “A southern hemisphere summer”

Semester Wrap-up

Simon Hird  / /  Geography  / /  University of Auckland  / /  NZ

It’s been a while since my last post so I apologise for that but this semester has been pretty full on, I promise…

Evenings in Rarotonga, Cook Islands

One thing you will no doubt experience whilst studying abroad, are the countless comments you’ll get about this crazy ‘holiday’ you’re going on. Let’s not take away from what an incredible experience it is, but let me assure you it’s not all mountains, waterfalls and beaches. The level of work may not be as rigorous at the University of Auckland as it is back at Manchester, but regardless it is a world top 100 University and the work is still to a high standard. So, whilst time spent working may at first appear to be less whilst abroad, when this is combined with adjusting to academic differences, a new environment, the desire to travel every weekend and get involved with as much as possible, this can produce a busy schedule.

So here’s a run down of what I have been up to this semester:

Continue reading “Semester Wrap-up”

Getting Acquainted

Simon Hird  / /  Geography  / /  University of Auckland  / /  NZ

First few weeks

It’s funny how much things have changed since my first blog post back at Heathrow. I have now been in NZ for 17 days and in that time I have explored the city, set up a bank, got a NZ SIM, had my first week of classes, been on a weekend trip to the Bay of Islands and made some pretty special friendships.

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First day at school

The first week saw a lot of time dedicated to sorting out admin things like banking, phones, 18+ cards (bars don’t accept UK driving licenses for proof of age – you can use your passport but this could be risky on a night out) as well as household and food shopping. It wasn’t all menial things like that though – we watched the sunset over the city from Mt. Eden, watched an Auckland Blues rugby match at Eden Park and we have been on a few nights out. I don’t think we have sussed out the right places just yet – I guess a contrast from Manchester where you are generally spoilt for choice.

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Sunset over Auckland from Mt. Eden

My first week of classes here went pretty fast. Most of the lectures were introductory so didn’t require a great deal of thought but most of them seemed really interesting. I won’t go into specifics on my Geography courses (do feel free to email me if you have any Geography specific questions: but in one of my classes the first reading was a paper published by a Geography professor back at Manchester. The way my lecturer spoke with such sincere respect for this professor made me feel kind of proud and made me realise that perhaps I had forgotten how lucky I am to be part of such a global institution and influential department back in Manchester.

One stand out course that may be relevant for those thinking of taking a NZ specific module whilst here is Politics 107G: New Zealand Politics. A first year module aimed at exploring and understanding the development of and workings of modern day politics in NZ. Perfect for those with no prior experience of Politics at degree level and/or those with a limited knowledge of politics in New Zealand. There are some academic differences to studying here but I think I will dedicate a blog post to it later on in the year for those interested…

Seeing as most of my friends and I don’t have deadlines for the next few weeks, 10 of us decided to go on an impromptu trip this weekend. The weather forecast for the south wasn’t looking great so we hired some cars and headed north, to the Bay of Islands. We booked into a little hostel in Paihia for Friday and Saturday night, leaving a few days to explore some of the Northland. After a somewhat shaky drive up from Auckland in small little automatic, dubbed ‘El Cheapo’ by the rental company, we arrived in Paihia, 3 hours later.

Driving in NZ is relatively simple. As long as you don’t mistake the brake for the clutch… if you aren’t used to driving an automatic. Manuals don’t seem to be as popular here. The roads are generally much quieter than the UK, particularly when you get out of the city, and routes are generally much more simple due to fewer roads. We spent most of the drive on Highway 1, the main road up both Islands, I guess this would be the equivalent of maybe a an A road in the UK in terms of size and usage.

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Ben / / Halfway up St. Pauls Rock, Whangaroa

We spent Saturday in Whangaroa, where we hiked up St. Pauls rock for a misty view over the rolling bays and harbours of the Northland (a less touristy recommendation from a local we met on Friday night in Paihia, not that the Bay of Islands were very busy at this time of year anyway). After the hike we enjoyed an Indian Takeaway in a sleepy town just North of Whangaroa before checking out the thermal pools at Ngawha. The hot springs were kind of weirdly set-up and in the middle of nowhere, arriving at night time didn’t help either, but they were pretty relaxing after our slip ‘n’ slide up and down St. Pauls Rock. After leaving the mysterious hot pools stinking of Sulphur we headed back to Paihia. We checked out a local bar in Paihia where it seemed most of the relatively small village were out in force. Without a doubt people here seemed much more friendly than back in Auckland. Up until now I was beginning to believe that all the things people have told me about how friendly the Kiwis are was perhaps just spew from clouded loving memories of travelling here. But this, as my first experience in NZ out of Auckland smashed that thought and overshadowed the slight cold shoulders I felt I was being dealt by staff and workers back in Auckland, minus the lovely ladies in the Co-op bank though! Having spoke to a few Kiwis about this there is apparently a bit of a divide between people in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand. But don’t get me wrong, people in Auckland are certainly more friendly than your average stranger in London – this is all just relative to the friendliness of Kiwis outside of Auckland.

On Sunday morning I woke relatively early and I was starting to feel the Auckland strain of Freshers Flu taking hold. A run along the beach and a dip in the icy cold  hostel pool freshened me up though and we headed to Whangarei (different place to Whangaroa…). Some Instagram research on Saturday night threw up this waterfall that looked pretty cool, so we tapped that into google maps and headed off. Ben and I were both pretty adamant we were going to swim at the base of the waterfall but it is mid-winter here, and the prospect of chilly water and damp sulphury swimming shorts weren’t overly inviting. From the car park at the top of the falls it doesn’t seem that special. The area around the falls is still kind of built up and the paved surfaces and fences definitely ruin the aesthetic. But once you get down to the bottom it’s like being in a tropical jungle. Warm golden sun, thick alien vegetation, rainbows projected from the spray of the falls, it felt a bit like paradise. This place was special.

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Whangarei Falls / / Contemplating the cold turbulent water

Wet trunks on I decided this was too good not go for a swim. The water was cold and the current strong but slowly everyone else came in. Ben and I managed to swim up the current and get round the back of the thundering waterfall. The noise, spray and adrenaline as we perched on slippy rocks behind the powerful falls was insane, we were both so hyped to be there, in the moment.

Filled up with Whangarei’s finest pizza we cruised back as the sun set over the rolling hills of the Northland. It’s weird, considering how briefly we have all lived here, but it felt as if we were heading home. Seeing the Auckland skyline after the weekends adventure made us all realise that Auckland is very quickly becoming a home from home for us.

Apologies for the long post… I guess a lot has happened recently.


🤘 🖖

P.S. If you guys want to see a few more photos feel free to check out my Instagram: @simonhird 


We have just set up an Instagram dedicated to studying abroad at The University of Auckland: @studyabroad_auckland 


NZ Time

Simon Hird  / /  Geography  / /  University of Auckland  / /  NZ

London Heathrow

This all feels very surreal.

Over the last two years study abroad has been the goal, the next big thing, the last thing written in my diary, the thing my conversations always seem to touch upon, so much chat it almost felt mundane.

Now it’s finally here I can’t really fathom that it is real.

But this is happening… I am going to New Zealand… for an entire year.

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Writing it down helps – the excitement is kicking in again.

The hardest bit up until now hasn’t been choosing where to go, or writing all those personal statements and applications, or applying for a visa, or accommodation, or choosing what to pack – it’s been saying goodbye and loosening my grip on my life in the UK.

Saying goodbye to friends and family is the worst. But that’s good. Sometimes you need something like this too realise how much it all matters. And anyway they all know that you are doing something pretty special.

My flight leaves in an hour or so (11:25 am), with a brief layover in Singapore. In total I think it is about 24 hours of flying/connection time and I am due to arrive in Auckland tomorrow at 22:20 local time (11:20 UK Time). From there I will be picked up by the uni and dropped off at Carlaw Park Student Village, the second year halls that I will be staying at for this semester at least. I will probably do a blog post on accommodation at some point, so keep an eye out for that if you are looking for some guidance.

I guess that is it for now. I will post another one up in a couple of weeks once I am somewhat settled in to life at Auckland.


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