New Zealand is such an amazing country and the landscapes and views are always beautiful, no matter what the weather or time of year. Over the course of my year I took thousands of photos, so for my last post, I thought I’d share a video of some of my favourites so you can really get an idea for how diverse and awesome New Zealand actually is!
I’ve been back in Manchester two weeks now and have just finished my first week back in lectures. It’s been surprisingly easy to slot back into life at Manchester and it’s almost like I never left.
One of the reasons I was initially hesitant to do a study abroad year was that all my friends would graduate, and I’d have no one when I got back to Manchester, however it’s turned out to be almost the complete opposite. Minus two of my closest friends, everyone else is still living here, either doing masters or working, which has worked out really well. I also feel a lot more confident making new friends now and joining societies and stuff, so I’d say if anyone’s feeling something similar, not to worry as things do tend to work themselves out!
Another reason I wanted to go on a year abroad was that I didn’t feel quite ready to really knuckle down for third year and start thinking about what I wanted to do after university. After spending a year abroad, with minimal university pressure as I only had to pass the year, I feel like I now have the motivation that I was maybe missing before. I’ve also had time to really think about what I want to do both in my final year, and after university which is something I wasn’t expecting but am now glad to have.
But of course, I really miss Auckland and the more relaxed kiwi style of life. Living so close to the sea and being able to go on road trips every weekend was really cool and can make living in Manchester a little bleak in comparison! I used to love walking around Auckland with all the volcanic cones so not being able to leave my flat and walk up Mt Eden in half an hour does take some getting used to!
I honestly couldn’t recommend going on a year abroad to anyone enough as it is hands down the best thing I’ve ever done and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to live and study in New Zealand for a year. But now it’s time for third year and I’m excited to see what my final year at Manchester will bring!
If you’d have told me two years ago that I would have just got back from studying abroad in New Zealand for a year, I would have thought you were crazy. I’d always known I wanted to go on a study abroad exchange year, but for some reason, I always imagined myself studying in the USA. However, it wasn’t until I started the application process that I even realised New Zealand or Australia were options for me. I then began researching the two and decided, despite never having even been remotely close to that part of the world before, that I wanted to study in New Zealand. And now, looking back on my year, I’m so glad I did. So, here are my top five reasons for why you should choose New Zeland for a year abroad.
1) Excellent Universities
A bit of an obvious reason, but the main purpose of the year is to experience studying in a different country, so it’s important that the universities are good. Auckland University is New Zealand’s largest and most prestigious university and I really enjoyed studying there. There was a wide range of module choices, the lecturers were really good and the campus was also really nice, with a modern science centre and new business school.
2) A Year Long Exchange
The university year starts in March for New Zealand and Australia, so for an exchange year, you head out in July and do semester 2, followed by a four-month long summer, and then semester 1, finishing at the end of June a year later. This means you get a full year away, rather than the nine months or so you’d get with a northern hemisphere exchange, to explore New Zealand and its surroundings.
3) Amazing Country
I think it’s fair to say New Zealand is one of the most stunning countries in the world, with an amazing landscape filled with diverse flora and fauna. It’s also really achievable to visit the whole country during a year, with the long summer and 2x two week-long mid-semester breaks ideal for travelling. Getting around the country is also really easy, with cheap hire cars, frequent airline sales and multiple intercity buses.
4) The People and Culture
All the people I met in New Zealand were so friendly and welcoming. It was so easy to make friends and everyone seemed genuinely interested in getting to know you. My course mates were always asking what I’d been up to at the weekend and giving me tips on where to go next. I was also surprised at the huge range of nationalities within New Zealand and met so many people from different places all over the globe. The university was also great at highlighting specific culture/nationality weeks, such as Maori week or Samoan week, from which I learnt loads.
5) New Zealand’s Location within the Pacific
Whilst a world away from the UK, New Zealand has a prime location within the Pacific, with close proximity to Australia, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Asia. Cheap airline tickets and the long summer holiday means lots of opportunities for travel and I knew people that went to Bali for mid-semester break, or the Cook Islands for a week during summer. I went to Australia for a month back in November, taking advantage of an airline sale so my plane ticket there only cost $150 (£75)!
These are only the beginning of a very long list as to why New Zealand is an amazing study abroad destination, but hopefully they’ve inspired you to consider it yourself!
After possibly the longest summer break ever (a whole 4 months!), I am finally back for my second semester at the University of Auckland. I spent most of the summer travelling around, with the highlights including a trip to the South Island where I visited Milford Sound in Fiordland and hiked the Abel Tasman Great Walk, which had some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
In three days time it will be exactly a month since I left the second home I had forged after a Semester in Auckland. I’m currently sat in Cairns (Australia) airport mulling over the last month and the highs and lows that come along with leaving your exchange city. Continue reading “Sad Goodbyes and a New Adventure”→
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:
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
My time in New Zealand is unfortunately coming to an end. I thought I’d do a quick blog before I leave Auckland, on my highlight of the semester. It’s difficult to choose just one, because my whole time here has been unbelievable, but if I had to pick one it would be doing the Abel Tasman Great Walk on the South Island.
New Zealand offers 9 Great Walks, that are multiple day hikes. You walk and camp or stay in huts, passing diverse and spectacular scenery. Abel Tasman was a four day trek on the northern tip of South Island. I thought I’d give you a bit of an insight into the hike, or at least how it went for us anyway.
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.
Apart from getting to see the world and meeting amazing people, studying abroad throws you in at the deep end in terms of developing life skills. I thought I’d share my experience of trying to ground a good work-life balance while being in New Zealand. It definitely hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learnt a lot from my experience so far… Continue reading “Work-Life Balance Abroad”→