Winter in New Zealand is not nearly as cold or “wintery” as I expected. No snow or freezing rain. No days where it’s so chilly you can’t bear to leave your bed. The days are in the 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit), and with a light jacket you don’t notice the weather. It has been the perfect premise to explore Auckland and orient myself to a New Zealand way of living—which is relaxed, flexible, and fun!
My first few days in New Zealand were quite eventful, beginning with my flight in. I landed in Auckland from Sydney at 3 a.m. and watched the city pass in darkness on my way to Carlaw Park Student Village, which would be my new home for the next four months. After a quick nap and day of unpacking, I met the rest of the IES Abroad Auckland students for dinner. For the first time, I saw Auckland without a sleepless haze and the blackness of a 3 a.m. morning. The city was small but busy, with steep hills, small parks, and the looming Sky Tower always watching over our heads.
For the weekend, we traveled to Waiheke Island, only a short ferry ride away. We stayed at a local marae, a sacred meeting ground for the Maori community on the island, and learned about the New Zealand culture and environment, and each other. We listened to the myths and legends of Maori beliefs and embraced the connections between the group by singing Maori songs together and learning each other’s stories. Cheering on the local rugby team at an afternoon game and trying olive oil samples that made our taste buds flutter at the Rangihoua Estate, I officially felt part of my new family abroad.
Back in Auckland, I spent a few days doing the bare bones of learning how to live in a new place, like grocery shopping, cleaning, and figuring out university schedules. Around these technicalities, I explored the city with my new friends. Though Auckland is full of people, always walking the busy streets with purpose, the beautiful natural environment that New Zealand is known for is a short distance outside. Within my first week of Auckland, I’d traveled to all four corners of the city outskirts. Out west, we followed the curvy mountain roads and explored Waitakere Regional Park, which gave outstanding views of the coast jaggedly winding around the blue water of the Pacific Ocean. We walked out to Kitekite falls, where cold (so cold!) swimming shocked our systems before an evening walk on Piha Beach, one of most famous beaches in New Zealand (it even has it’s own rescue TV show).
The one downside of Auckland in winter is the rain. It might shower all day or come down in a rage at random intervals, which makes planning excursions difficult. The day a few friends and I hiked One Tree Hill in southern Auckland, we were lucky. It drizzled until we summited the long-dormant volcano, where we earned sunny and beautiful views of the entire city and coastline. Another day, I planned a trip to Long Bay, another regional park about an hour bus ride north of Auckland. The moment we stepped on the beach, we were met with chilly gusts of wind and pelting rain. After thirty minutes of wishing we were all indoors in warm clothing, the sun reappeared for the rest of the afternoon and we walked along the coast, took a dip in the ocean, and danced to music in the sand as rainbows appeared above us.
After my first few weeks here, I’ve found that Auckland is both relaxed and always-on-the-go. Everyone is friendly and every day is a new day to explore and learn. I have a feeling my four months here are going to be fun and memorable!
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<p>I am a sophomore anthropology major and pre-med student at Southern Methodist University. I love hiking, camping, rowing, and exploring new places!</p>