Orientation with IES Abroad in Auckland

Lisa Penfield headshot
Lisa Penfield
February 28, 2024

To help our adjustment into Auckland, the IES Abroad program hosts a series of events in the week before the University of Auckland’s (UoA) orientation!

Dinner at Orbit 360° Dining in the Sky Tower 

To kick off the program, we had dinner at the Sky Tower in the Orbit 360° Dining Floor—an amazing (and fancy) experience. While there, we had a three-course meal. I opted for a starter with watermelon, cheese, and tomato, a main with grilled chicken, and a dessert with raspberry sorbet and chocolate. Paired with the meal was a stunning view of Auckland as we sat at the highest point in the city. At the time, you could see the clear water, many sailboats, and even the Carlaw Park Student Village!

Orientation and Mission Bay

The next day, we had the IES Abroad program orientation where we learned about the important logistics concerning emergency contacts, health insurance, and classes and participated in fun activities such as writing letters to our future selves and guessing the meaning of common kiwi phrases. After orientation, we headed to Mission Bay (a beach about 4 miles away from campus) to have lunch at Portofino—a restaurant with tasty pasta and pizza dishes and a beautiful view of the beach.

Overnight Trip at Waiheke Island

Day 1: Exploring Oneroa

The highlight and main event of the IES Abroad orientation is the overnight trip to Waiheke Island! At Waiheke Island, we stayed on the Piritahi Marae, allowing us to learn more about Māori culture while participating in island activities. On the first day, we went to Oneroa Beach. At Oneroa, we could swim, kayak, and explore the town. Swimming was so refreshing as the water wasn’t too cold, clear, and quite blue! Also, the waves were minimal, so treading water was significantly easier! Instead of kayaking, my friend and I explored the town where ice cream shops, clothing stores, and cafés lined the main street. While there, my friend and I ran into Billy, a magician who performed two card tricks for us! Billy even shared his career aspirations of pursuing a postgraduate degree in geography and becoming an actor. After meeting Billy, we tried tea at Timmy Smith, a cute shop with stunning jewelry and delicious tea. At Timmy Smith, you can also make your own tea mix with various leaves—a perfect gift for tea lovers!

Day 2: Various Island Activities (Singing, Weaving, Snorkeling, Wine Tasting)

The second day on the Piritahi Marai was jam-packed with planned activities such as singing, weaving, snorkeling and catching sea urchins, and wine tasting! 

In the morning, I learned the haka (a performance used to show strength and intimidate opponents) and hope hope (the hokey pokey). Apart from improving my singing and dancing, I also learned how to cut and weave flax leaves into a flower. Now I have some new room décor! Following singing and weaving, we went snorkeling, which was VERY difficult. For snorkeling, make sure you wear properly fitted goggles; although they provided various goggles, I chose a pair that did not fit well. All in all, I ended up drinking a lot more salt water than I would’ve liked to. However, in the end, I got to see some fish and collect sea urchins, an invasive species with no predators that disrupt the ecosystem. After snorkeling, we learned how to harvest the uni of a sea urchin, which is edible.

After a busy morning, we went wine tasting at a vineyard. Waiheke Island is famous for its vineyards and high-quality wine. I’m not the biggest fan of wine, but it was still a cool experience, especially since I can’t buy or drink wine yet in the U.S.

Overall, the first few days with the IES Abroad program were certainly eventful as I met the people in our program and explored new areas, creating memories for a lifetime.

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Lisa Penfield headshot

Lisa Penfield

At Tufts University I’m a Sustainable Solutions Fellow, a member of the Chinese Students Association, and a Volunteer Coordinator for the Food Rescue Collaborative. Outside of school, I enjoy running, baking, and learning to play frisbee!

Home University:
Tufts University
Engineering - Environmental
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