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:



🤘 🖖

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.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
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”

Auckland pre-departure

By Megan Turner (The University of Auckland, New Zealand)

I have one day to go before I fly to New Zealand, a journey that will take twenty-six hours and include two planes, one layover and no comfortable sleeping positions. My suitcase is almost full, but I have only packed half of my things and it still feels like there are a million things left for me to sort out. It’s tricky to condense a year’s worth of stuff into 30kg of hold luggage, especially when I have to cover all seasons and I’m trying to think of everything that I could possibly need in a country that I have never been to before which really bombards you with shipping costs because it’s so far from everywhere else.

Continue reading “Auckland pre-departure”

Final NZ round-up

By Vanessa Maloney (University of Auckland, New Zealand)

I have to admit that over the summer this blog got pushed to the back of my mind, but (finally) here are my last reports on my year abroad. I am now back in good old rainy Manchester so writing this last entry is an excellent excuse to look back at some sunny pictures and imagine myself on a South Pacific beach!

First things first… before I talk about the more recent events, I just wanted to upload some of my Canoe Club pictures as promised. These are pictures from weekend trips throughout my second semester. Some of the most fun that I had in NZ.

Rafting a seven metre waterfall at Kaituna
Rafting a seven metre waterfall at Kaituna
Kaituna - Taking the leap
Kaituna – taking the leap


the milky way visible from our campsite!
The Milky Way visible from our campsite!
Peaceful scenery on the Mohaka
Peaceful scenery on the Mohaka
Thankfully we were only looking at this waterfall!


Part 1 : Leaving New Zealand

Exams finished at the end of June and I had two weeks before my flight to properly say goodbye to this country that I have come to love so much. Although the weather at this time of year is a bit dull, I set out on a little road trip to Taupo/ Turangi, on to a kayak trip organised by the Uni Canoe Club and then went on to another friend’s family bach on the Coramandel peninsula.

It was such a nice way to say goodbye and I couldn’t believe how hard it was to leave some of my friends behind. I must admit that the last few days in New Zealand were very difficult for me and there were some teary goodbyes. However, I found comfort in reminding myself that if I had never signed up for study abroad I would never even have met any of these people or had any of these experiences int the first place.

One last bach trip on the Coramandel peninsula
One last bach trip on the Coramandel peninsula


Part 2 : Island Paradise

Instead of going straight back home, I booked my flight to go via Rarotonga (Cook Islands) and then to LA. I was in the Cook Islands for five weeks doing a placement as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I flew an hour from the main island to a small island surrounded by a beautiful blue lagoon (population under 2000) called Aitutaki.

Aitutaki has got to have been one of the most incredible/fulfilling/surreal experiences of my life. It is impossible to explain this island to anyone who hasn’t been there. Just to try to paint a picture, here are a few bullet points…

  • There are roosters wandering around the airport (roosters also served as my alarm clock every day at 6.30)
  • Goats and pigs roam around the streets. Kids sometimes have fun by chasing a pig around the school field.
  • I saw whales from the golf course.
  • Literally everybody drives a motorbike (even 80 year old grannies!).
  • Everybody says hello to you in the street, and when you meet people it feels like you are old friends.
  • You will regularly be invited to a ‘feed’ – a massive feast where I have literally never seen so much food. I often saw people put cake and dessert on their plate first and then pile main course on top , so you literally eat through to your dessert.
  • I got used to drilling a hole in a drinking coconut to refresh myself on a hot day.
  • People gossip and news travels faster than what seems humanly possible. Talking is the main hobby in a place where there’s not a lot else by way of entertainment.
  • Nobody will let you walk! You cannot go for a walk without somebody insisting that they give you a lift on their bike, even if its only 50 yards.
  • Families are big! When getting a lift into town from my neighbour, it would be normal for him to wave to at least 5 of his cousins or nephews.

Some of the people that I met on Aitutaki are the friendliest, warmest, most open-hearted people that I have ever met, and I will never forget the kindness they showed me.

Island paradise
Island paradise
Me with Mama Tutai at the new school's opening - wearing the dress that was made for me
Me with Mama Tutai at the new schools opening – wearing the dress that was made for me
Mama Noa and one of her grandchildren
Mama Noa and one of her grandchildren
The mural I helped paint in the newly built pre-school
The mural I helped paint in the newly built pre-school
School Assembly
School assembly
If you've ever wondered how many kids you can fit on the back of a truck...
If you’ve ever wondered how many kids you can fit on the back of a truck…


Part 3 : Homecoming

After a stopover in LA, I finally flew into Heathrow to greet my family. I loved seeing them again and had a permanent smile on my face whilst I was catching up with family and friends. It was quite surreal seeing everybody in 3D again as I was so used to seeing them inside a computer screen!

A nice airport welcome from my sister
A nice airport welcome from my sister

I must admit that it has sometimes been difficult settling back into English culture. I found it hard to get used to a less laid-back lifestyle, the lack of sun and the sheer amount of people. Going into central London was a stressful experience, especially after coming straight from Aitutaki where the population was so small.

However, I am starting to settle back in again and I’m doing my best to continue some of my hobbies (e.g. kayaking) and attitudes from NZ back here in the UK. Sometimes I think back to New Zealand and almost can’t believe how incredible it was. Sometimes it feels like a dream, until I talk to a Kiwi friend online or see an All-Blacks game on TV and remember that it was actually all real!

My year abroad was beyond all of my expectations. I expected to meet some cool people, but didn’t expect to make friends for life. I expected to travel to some beautiful places and experience a different culture, but didn’t expect this to become such a huge part of who I am. It’s so hard to reflect on my year abroad without sounding cheesy, because all of the cliches are just so true. If anybody is thinking of doing a year abroad, I just want to say that in my experience (although it was by no means always easy,) studying abroad was probably the best decision I have ever made. I cannot imagine my university experience and my life in general without having done it and am so grateful that I was given this amazing opportunity.

Arrival in Auckland

By Thomas Chapman (University of Auckland, New Zealand).

I’m here! The world. Oceania. New Zealand. Auckland.


So far my reception of New Zealand has been great. The campus is right in the city centre and everything is right on hand. Things like setting-up mobiles and banking could not be more straight-forward, which is great when coming to the other side of the world (literally). I suppose it’s just the amount of smaller tasks and their time-consuming nature that is a little ‘boring’, but once you’ve done them then you’re free to begin a 6-month adventure and to study.


The hardest task of all by far though, has got to be finding accommodation. Although it’s exciting to wake up most days in my hostel with optimism in my heart and a full suitcase under my bunk bed, it is not a straight-forward process to find the right place. I have got to say though, the help has been great from the Uni; advice on prices, where to look and the whole process out here, has been thorough and entertaining. The speed-flatting (like dating) made me realise that I’m not the only one still without a house. It got me in touch with some really cool people who also have come looking for a base of operations in a foreign country.


Hopefully, the housing should sort itself out in the next few days, just as term starts; which is the main reason I’m in New Zealand I suppose. The courses I chose all sound interesting and I’m looking forward to starting them and getting a bit of structure to my time here.


Auckland itself is a beautiful city (and surprisingly hilly). It is New Zealand’s largest city and, although it’s no Manchester, it has all the features of a multicultural CBD. A large asian and polynesian influence can be seen around the city, which has left me keen to meet some more Kiwis between all the other international students I have become friends with, but there is plenty of time for that once the semester starts.

mt eden

The hills, as mentioned earlier, provide great backdrops of the city from a suburban surrounding, giving clear views of the iconic Sky Tower from almost all the surrounding regions. I’m keen to get out more, away from Auckland, and to see what New Zealand really has to offer outside of it’s largest city, but that will have to wait until the weekends and to when I have a house.


A quick note to anyone who might be interested in New Zealand’s military history – the War Museum is worth a visit. It has a full-sized spitfire – awesome, I know! It’s also a rather dramatic-looking building and worth a wonder up to.

War Musium Auckland domain


To anyone back home reading: Hi! I hope it’s all going okay. Also, congratulations to my sister, Hayley, who gets married next weekend. I hope it’s a magical day – you deserve one!


Anyway, that’s it for now. I’ll keep you updated on everything as it happens so…. yeah…. watch this space!

Semester 2 weekend adventures

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

I’ve just had my last exam and realised I should probably upload a blog about all the fun I’ve been having this semester.

This semester has been incredible. I feel like my first semester was good because everything was so novel and such an adventure as I was getting to know the country and meeting new people. However, this semester has been a whole different experience as I feel like I have been living more like a local and less like an exchange student – especially as I have a job and am no longer living in halls. I feel so settled in that I could definitely imagine coming back to live here for a while after my degree.

Joining AUCC (the University canoe club) has really defined this semester for me. I was going away on kayaking trips almost every weekend for the first half of this semester. In fact, it has taken up so much of my time that I am going to dedicate a whole post to it rather than trying to squeeze it into this one.

So first of all, here are a couple of my favorite non-kayaking adventures…


Bungee !

At the museum where I work, we sell tickets for Auckland Bridge Climb and Bungee, so my boss managed to get some of us a free bungee as a familiarization experience.

I’m so glad I did it through work, because I’m not sure I would have had the guts to sign up myself without any prompts!




I was the first to jump out of our group and I’m not going to lie… my heart was literally in my stomach.  But, after the initial scariness of jumping, it was just surreal – I just remember kind of zoning out and watching the water moving in and out. After that it was just a huge adrenaline rush which left me on a constant high for the next week or so. On the whole I’m so proud of myself and so glad my boss signed me up!


Sailing to Waiheke

Another great experience that I got through work was a surprise staff day out organised by my boss. We sailed one of the Museum’s heritage vessels to Waiheke Island. It was pretty hands on as I had the opportunity to hoist the sails and climb the rigging. The sea was very choppy at some points, to the point where half of the passengers were sea sick, but luckily I don’t get sea sick and actually thought the choppy bit was the most fun. When we got to Waiheke we visited a vineyard where we had an amazing lunch, a wine tasting session and enjoyed the view.





Bach weekend

Another awesome weekend I had was one spent at my friend’s bach 3 hours north of Auckland. A ‘bach’ is basically a Kiwi holiday home by the seaside. A surprisingly high proportion of New Zealanders own family baches  – they are usually a pretty basic house on a beach somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

I love the fact that in New Zealand (partly because the weather and landscape is so incredible) you don’t really need to plan anything extravagant to have a really memorable time. All you need is a car, some meat for the BBQ, a few beers and some good mates (and maybe a Ukulele if you’re pushing it…).

My friend’s bach was in such a remote, untouched place that we had to arrive during low tide so that we could drive along the beach to get to it! The first evening dolphins came so far in that we could watch them from the deck of the house. The weekend basically consisted of eating, swimming, walking on the beach and campfire in the evening. Perfect.







A Bit of Advice

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

I have decided to dedicate a blog to some advice and information for anybody who is planning to come to study in Auckland (but it might also be useful for anyone visiting New Zealand in general or anybody doing study abroad). It’s just a few nuggets of information that I would have liked to have known before I came here. Hopefully it will be useful to someone. So here goes…

1. Academics/ University life

I’ll start off by getting some of the practicalities out of the way. Auckland Uni is a really good university which is pretty similar to Manchester but also quite different in a couple of fundamental ways. You take 4 modules (or papers as they are called here) each semester. The student system and online enrolment is identical to Manchester. Some papers (and especially the nice tutorial slots) fill up quickly so I would advise you to choose your courses as soon as you have access to the student system. However it is mostly pretty laid back here and you can change your courses until the end of the second week of term. It is more common than in Manchester to sign up for a few courses and then go to the first lectures to decide which ones you want to keep or drop. Unfortunately, sorting out your courses and timetable is a long and complicated process for which you will receive no guidance so my only advice would just be to get on it as early as possible and be patient.

I can only speak for my course (social anthropology) but I have found the difficulty level pretty much the same as in Manchester. You certainly have to put in a fair amount of work, especially as if you are taking 3rd year papers it’s a step up from what you’re used to. The structure and assessment of my course has been the same as in England. I mostly have a two hour lecture and one hour tutorial for each paper. Assessment is done by coursework essays, the odd presentation and exams (although all of my third year papers have had no exams). The only significant academic difference that I can think of is that your work is assessed with a letter grade system (A+, A, A- etc…).This takes a bit of getting used to and I still haven’t worked out a definitive grade conversion rate but if you have trouble getting an idea of how you are doing then you can always ask your lecturer. Most of the lecturers I have had are really approachable and have office hours you can use just like at Manchester.

Auckland uses an online system called Cecil rather than blackboard to post resources and announcements for courses. To be honest I find blackboard a bit more organised and clear, so it took some getting used to. I feel like a lot more information is given out in lectures in the form of handouts etc… So it’s really important to attend so that you get all the information you need about assignments. One thing that I think is great about Auckland is that they publish course books. These are available at the University bookshop at the start of term and they are basically books including all of the required readings for each course. They cost a bit but ultimately save you the cost and effort of printing. Make sure you get in there in your first week to snap one up for each module and if you can’t find one then ask your lecturer about it.

The main difference that I have encountered with University life here is the fact that most Kiwi students still live at home with their parents and commute into Uni every day. This changes the whole dynamic and atmosphere of the university. It’s not the same as in the UK where freshers is a kind of moving-away rite of passage with a massive party atmosphere. I think that students here tend to take their studies a little more seriously and university is more about your course than about the ‘university experience’. It also means that it’s unfortunately a little more difficult to make friends with local students and with people on your course. Everybody comes from all over the Auckland suburbs and people aren’t really looking to make new friends as much as they would be if they had moved away from home like most people do in the UK. The only way that you will probably make friends with many New Zealanders is by getting a job or joining in with extra-curricular activities.

2. Accommodation

I lived in Unilodge halls in the first semester which were pretty nice and in a really convenient location but also quite expensive for what you get. Especially as I realised there was only one kitchen for the whole apartment block. I would advise people to apply as soon as possible for accommodation as I applied too late to get put in a flat with people so ended up in a studio apartment. In my case I was lucky that I met other people in my halls at the beginning, but I would definitely choose to get put in a flat with people if I had the choice. It’s a great way to meet people straight away so that you have somebody to explore the city with. Some of the halls (such as Huia) have age limits and are strictly regulated (eg. alcohol bans). These are designed for first year students and from what I’ve heard they have the feeling of boarding school dorms so I wouldn’t recommend them. I think the only halls that are meant for exchange students are the ones classed as ‘University Flats and apartments’ as opposed to ‘University Halls’. Carlaw Park is an apartment block that has just been built and seems really nice.

After the first semester my apartment block emptied out (as most people were exchange students doing one semester) so I applied for a Home-stay on North Shore. This was a really great decision – It was cheaper than Unilodge, even including food and bills. It is also a good way to actually get to know local people as opposed to just exchange students. This is the site I used – . If you drop me a message or email I can put you in touch with some really nice people who might be looking to rent a room in their house.

Quite a few other exchange students I’ve met actually had no accommodation sorted when they came here. They stayed in hostels and then met people to flat with. The international office can also help you out with this as they run events like ‘speed –flatting’ where you can find flatmates. There is also which is sort of like Ebay for New Zealand. As weird as it sounds, it is actually quite common for students to find flatmates and accommodation on there!

3. Climate

The weather is generally amazing – and the quality of light is so much better than in England that I swear it makes everyone just a little bit happier! But in Auckland you often get all four seasons in one day. Sometimes you wake up and it’s grey and miserable but then at midday it turns into a scorching hot summer’s day. Don’t pack too many winter clothes – It generally doesn’t get really cold, even in ‘winter’. Your Kiwi friends might tell you that its winter weather, but it’s really more like the English summer. And let’s face it, when you are used to living in Manchester any day when you can see the sun feels like a day in the Garden of Eden.


This isn’t the same ‘remember to wear sun cream’ warning that you got from your mum when you were little and went to the beach; this is the real deal. New Zealand, along with Australia, has some of the highest melanoma rates in the world. There happens to be a hole in the o-zone layer above New Zealand which means that if you get burnt it feels like your skin is being fried like a piece of crispy bacon on a hot pan. I learnt this the hard way and looked like a tomato for about 2 weeks.

5. Culture/ Politics

New Zealand has a really unique and complex history and cultural backdrop because of colonisation and the relationship between Maori and Pakeha (NZ European) cultures. A lot of New Zealand politics centres around ethnic relations and my advice to you as a foreigner is to just be sensitive about these issues. People’s cultural and national identity is a complicated and often controversial issue in New Zealand so just make sure you don’t make any assumptions about how people identify themselves. Every society has its injustices and social hierarchies and in New Zealand you may at some point encounter a bit of racism, especially from some white people towards pacific islanders. I suppose it is pretty mild compared to some other parts of the world but I would just advise visitors to be aware of what people are saying to you, who’s saying it and why. It is a minority and most people you meet here will be pretty liberal and forward thinking, I just mentioned it because it’s something to be aware of.


6. Get a Job

I don’t think you can get a job on the 6 month student visa but if you are here for the full year like me then I would definitely recommend getting a job . First of all because New Zealand is unfortunately quite an expensive place to live in, but also because you can meet people and feel like you are a bit more settled into local life. On a year-long student visa you can work full time over the holidays and up to 21 hours during semester. Things work pretty much the same as in England – You probably stand quite a good chance if you just hand out tonnes of CVs to places in town. Also, New Zealand is a small country where it seems like everyone knows everyone, so ask around. I got a couple of interviews just from asking friends if they had heard of anything. Student Job Site is a pretty good website for finding jobs as well. In order to get your first pay check you need an IRD number . This takes a couple of weeks to come through so I would make sure you apply for it when you decide to start looking for jobs (if you have one already it also shows potential employers that you know what you’re doing).

7. Get out there and travel

New Zealand is a stunningly beautiful country. The actual city of Auckland is pretty average compared to a lot of European cities, but it’s the surroundings that make it so cool. I’ve heard exchange students complaining about the lack of good shopping, restaurants, public transport etc… but to be honest you shouldn’t come to Auckland if you are a major city person. People come to New Zealand for the great expanses of wilderness, the incredible beaches and the laid-back outdoorsy lifestyle. Quite frankly, if you want Sankey’s, the Trafford centre and magic busses then stay in Manchester.

Pretty much everywhere you go is amazing, so even going on weekend or day trips to places nearby on North Island will give you some incredible memories. The only real way to get around is by car so I would recommend getting together with other exchange students and renting a car for road trips. There are loads of car rental places on Beach Road near Uni. You can also get the ‘Naked bus’ to major destinations (and no, this is not actual a nudist bus, just a pretty awkward name for a regular bus company). It’s pretty much like Megabus in the UK. You can also get crazily cheap flights to South Island if you book in advance. Some of my favourite destinations so far have been…

– Abel Tasman National Park (south Island)

– Napier/ Hawkes Bay

– Hot pools in central north island (especially Kerosene creek near Rotorua and the hot/ cold water bridge at Lake Taupo)

– East coast beaches (Ohope was one of my favourite)

– Tongariro Crossing (This is supposed to be one of the best one- day treks in the world. Something I haven’t got round to yet but I’m looking forward to it)


8. Jump off something really high

This is the country that invented the bungee jump. When you get to know New Zealand you will understand why. I feel like only a Kiwi could think it was a good idea to attach somebody onto a piece of elastic and throw them off a cliff. If you are looking for a way of going native while you’re here, the first step is jumping of a building, bridge, cliff or plane at some point. Have fun and don’t look down.

9. Join Clubs. Seriously.

This is something which I really regret not doing at the start of my first semester. Try and join clubs that allow you to meet people, get out there to see the country and hopefully broaden your horizons by trying something new. I’ve heard good things about the tramping club (tramping means hiking), the underwater club, the meat club, the international society and even the dessert society! Go to the orientation week fair and have a chat to as many stalls as you can!

I’ve only had time for one club this semester and that’s the Canoe club . Going on kayaking and rafting trips with the club has made for some of my best memories of New Zealand and it has introduced me to an awesome bunch of people. It doesn’t matter if you have zero experience – they will look after you and show you the ropes. Seriously, Join. Just do it. Trust me. Go to the AUCC stall at the orientation week fair and tell them Dobby sent you… You won’t regret it!

10. Be proactive. Put yourself out there. Challenge yourself. And all those other clichéd bits of life advice…

This is more of a piece of general advice for anybody doing a study abroad placement. Before I came here, I heard of all the amazing stories of people who had done study abroad and heard the classic ‘it was the best year of my life’ tale a thousand times. However stupid it sounds, I suppose I kind of assumed that you just get dropped off in some far off place and automatically have ‘the best year of your life’. In reality, very little is actually sorted out for you. You have to essentially build your life from square zero in a place where you have no history, friends, family or knowledge of your surroundings. It is up to you to sort out your accommodation and courses, meet new friends, maybe get a job, try new things, create adventures, organise your travel plans and get to know the country you are living in. Although this is daunting, and not always a walk in the park, it is also what makes study abroad so fulfilling. I am having the most incredible time in New Zealand at the moment and don’t want it to end, but the most satisfying thing about it is the fact that I built the life I have now from scratch. It’s the knowledge that nothing was handed to me and I created all these incredible memories by getting out there and being proactive. I know a lot of other exchange students who feel the same way. Doing an exchange year turns you into a bit more of a ‘yes’ person and makes you want to seize every opportunity that’s handed to you. If you go into it with the right attitude then you will have an amazing time.



I know this blog was a bit long and rambling but I hope it is useful! Please feel free to comment/ message me if you are a student who wants to know more about anything and I will try and help you out.


An Upside-down Christmas

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

The last three months or so have made up a new and exciting phase in my New Zealand adventure. I finished semester one in December and I’m just starting semester two now. Most year-long exchange students have to at some stage answer that nagging question – will I go home for Christmas? In my case I decided to stay down under. It certainly wasn’t an easy choice, especially as I miss my friends and family so much, but in the end the cost of flights and the desire to make the most of my time here won me over. Part of me has been missing home cooking, winter weather and family traditions, but spending this time abroad has allowed me to get involved in new traditions and create new experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. Hot-chocolate, scarfs and gloves have been replaced my barbecues, sun lotion and flip flops.

Unfortunately most of my friends from university halls were only doing a semester exchange so they left before Christmas. Instead of moping around in an empty apartment building I decided to do something completely different and registered on a home-stay site The site links up international students with Auckland families who are looking to rent out a room in their house. I visited a few homes but in the end found one that was perfect for me – a nice quiet location on the edge of a forest with a family of four (with two really sweet little girls). Although I’m glad I stayed in halls for semester one as I was able to easily meet other students, I would also strongly recommend the home-stay option to anyone going abroad. When you’re boarding with a family you don’t need to worry about bills and grocery shopping and it gives you a chance to really get to know  the local way of life.

At the same time as I was looking for a place to live, I was also busy job hunting. I got a lucky break as the woman I was staying with was able to set up an interview for me at the museum she worked at. Fortunately I got the job and it has probably turned out to be the best job I’ve had yet (it beats restaurant work anyway!). I work at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum [ ] and my job involves being out on the waterfront chatting to people, giving directions and taking/selling photographs of tourists going out on the harbour sailings. On my first day I got a tour of the museum and a free boat trip in the sun – it was pretty sweet as far as first days go! Even though (as with any job) some days drag on, most days are great as everyone who works there is really nice and I also get to meet and talk to tourists from all over the world. There is also the office view… I get to sit out in the sun by the boats looking out over the harbour. Can’t really complain about that!

My Office view. This is a traditional Waka – a polynesian voyaging canoe that is similar to what Pacific Islanders would have first used to first come to New Zealand.


Before I moved house and started at the museum I went down to south island with some of my friends from halls to go on a sea-kayaking trip in Abel Tasman National park. This was an incredible experience and unlike any other holiday I have ever been on. We packed up some food and supplies and headed off down the coast for three days. It was essentially blue skies, lush green mountains and white sandy beaches. Most of the time we were paddling about 100 yards from land but sometimes when the tide was high we would paddle into a lagoon to check out the valleys. On the last day the sea suddenly turned rough. Trying to paddle along the infamous ‘mad mile’ and feeling like I was going to be engulfed by massive swells was a little bit scary at first but was actually a real adrenaline rush. Our accommodation was a lodge with no electricity or showers but home comforts don’t really matter when you’re slap bang in the middle of paradise. On the calm days we kayaked alongside seals who were jumping out of the water like dolphins and for dinner one night we dove for mussels and cooked them fresh in the fire. The whole thing was so idyllic and beautiful that I felt like I was in the middle of some New Zealand tourism advert. It has encouraged me to sign up for the university kayaking club next semester so hopefully I will be reporting on some pretty similar experiences soon!

Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park

Kiwi adventures: Part 2

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

Part two: Road trip, All Blacks and Fat Freddy’s drop!

The two-week mid-semester break gave me a well-need break from the stress of catching up with essays. Me and a couple of friends decided to head off around north Island on a road trip which ended up being one of the best parts of my kiwi experience so far.

We started off going to my friend’s holiday house (or ‘bach’ as the kiwis call it) on Lake Tarawera near Rotorua. The trip had a bit of a bumpy start as a wallaby jumped out in front of our car, resulting in the entire bumper being taken off. But the next day was much calmer. We spent the day kayaking on the lake and exploring the area and had a barbecue in the evening. The view when we were kayaking was incredible and I even had a little bit of a swim in the water (well, as much as I could with a broken arm!)

It was unbelievably quiet and calm there – as you can see from the picture!…

The view across Lake Tarawera.
The view across Lake Tarawera.
Nothing like a bit of kaying to wake you up in the morning
Nothing like a bit of kayaking to wake you up in the morning

After leaving Lake Tarawera we had a look around the town of Rotorua and stayed in quirky hostel there called ‘Cactus Jack’s’. Rotorua is surrounded by hot springs which are pretty spectacular. We also climbed up Rainbow Mountain on the way out of Rotorua and went to a place we had been told about – a hot spring called ‘kerosene creek’ in the middle of a forest where a small waterfall of hot water leads into a pool. It was probably one of my most memorable experiences of the trip – It was like having a bath and spa treatment in the middle of a forest!

Cactus Jack's Hostel
Cactus Jack’s Hostel
The hot spring park in Rotorua
The hot spring park in RotoruaHaving a hot bath in the middle of the forest at 'Kerosene Creek' !Having a hot bath in the middle of the forest at ‘Kerosene Creek’ !
Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain

From Rainbow Mountain and Kerosene Creek we headed south to Great Lake Taupo. Taupo is a massive Lake which is surrounded by beautiful scenery and snow-capped mountains on one side. We did a lot of hiking and had a swim in a hot stream which fed into a cold river – quite an experience!

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo

From Taupo we headed east and spent the rest of the trip travelling back up north along the Pacific Coast highway. This took us through the art deco town of Napier and Hawke’s bay (wine country) where we made a point of sampling the local produce…

Wine tasting in Hawke’s Bay

The East Cape  was filled with spectacular scenery and deserted beaches. The only towns we saw were very small villages which each consisted of a few houses, a church and a Marae (a Maori meeting house). At one point we had a bit of a petrol crisis and ended up being stranded at the most easterly point of New Zealand. Although we had to share our motel room with cockroaches and spiders, the scenery was incredible. We also visited the ‘Hot Water Beach’ where you can dig into the sand to make yourself a Jacuzzi!

This really is the middle of nowhere!
This really is the middle of nowhere!
Ohope beach
Ohope beach

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After we got back from the road trip, I also had a Jam-packed weekend. On Saturday I went to see the All Blacks play against South Africa. I would recommend anyone who visits New Zealand to try and see a Rugby match – even if you’re not a Rugby fan, the atmosphere is incredible and you get to see the Haka LIVE (complete with flamethrowers and fireworks!).

The following day I also went to see one of my favourite bands Fat Freddy’s Drop play live in Auckland and it turned out to be one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.

Fat Freddy's Drop
Fat Freddy’s Drop

Kiwi adventures: Part 1

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

Greetings from the land of the Kiwis! I’ts been a long time since I posted so I’m going to split this update into two parts. Here is part one…

Hills, Hobbits and hospitals…

My first month or so in Auckland after the semester started was up and down to say the least…

I settled into the routine of classes quite easily as all of my lecturers are really approachable and interesting and I definitely chose the right courses. It is very hard work doing four modules of mostly 3rd level courses, especially as a couple of my courses had postgraduate level students as well, but as long as you keep up with the reading each week it’s not too bad. I also realised quite early on that when you’re doing study abroad its really important to be organised with your work so that you can make the most of opportunities to travel and have exciting experiences.

As well as anthropology courses I decided to take a couple of Pacific Studies classes. I didn’t realise however that the department is mainly designed for ethnically Pacific Islander students and was very surprised to see that I was the only white girl in the class! I’m sure I at first looked like a lost puppy who had wondered into the wrong lecture hall. Fortunately though, the lecturer and my fellow classmates were very welcoming and actually really appreciated the fact that I wanted to learn about their culture. It is a strange and slightly uncomfortable situation when I am sat in a tutorial having to discuss with my Samoan classmates the British colonisation of Samoa. I feel like I have learnt more in this module than in any other simply because it’s so mind broadening being put in a room with twenty people who have a completely different view of the world from you. It was quite surreal becoming the novelty English girl; the strange and exotic outsider in a class full of people who had their own frame of reference. I would recommend anybody who is studying abroad to really make an effort to step outside of their comfort zone and take the kinds of courses which you can’t take at home.

Unfortunately, just as I felt I had settled into classes I managed to have a nasty fall and break my arm/shoulder. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult having to go through my first broken bone ever when I’m on the other side of the world from my friends and family. Fortunately I had some good friends in my halls who really looked after me in terms of cooking, washing dishes and opening jars etc.. (Thanks Jack and Deirbhile!). Also, the New Zealand medical system is pretty reliable and because it was an accident it was covered by the government so I didn’t even have to use my insurance. Having a British passport also allowed me to get discounted painkillers which was useful. All in all it was a pretty bad experience but after a few weeks I started to get back into the swing of things and tried to not let it ruin my study abroad experience.

Care packages from home included chocolate, plasters and a pair of boots I had forgotten!
Sympathy care packages from home included chocolate, plasters and a pair of boots I had forgotten!

A Kiwi friend of mine invited me on a much needed weekend away at her home in Matamata – a couple of hours south of Auckland. Matamata is famous for being the host of the Lord of the Rings film set of Hobbiton and it turns out that my friend worked there and was able to give us a tour. Even though I’m not a massive Lord of the Rings fan it was a really fun day out and produced a few classic shots of us standing in hobbit doorways… The visit was topped of with a bit of cider and ginger beer in the hobbit pub ‘The Green Dragon’!

Discovering my inner hobbit
Discovering my inner hobbit

From Matamata we also drove east to Mount Maunganui which is a beautiful coastal town with white sandy beaches and a small mountain overlooking it. The long walk to the top of the mountain was certainly worth the view!

At the top of Mount Maunganui
At the top of Mount Maunganui
Strolling along the beach at Maunganui
Strolling along the beach at Maunganui
This is supposed to be winter in New Zealand!
This is supposed to be winter in New Zealand!