Before coming abroad, I didn’t really know what to expect from New Zealand, what the university would be like, I didn’t know where I would live, I didn’t know how the classes would be, and I didn’t even know what to bring in my luggage. This can be scary! Are you planning on studying abroad but have absolutely no idea how this is going to be like? That's okay! We all go through that. And it doesn't really matter how many blogs you read, your experience will be different because, just like they say, your experience is what you make of it (remember that!) But reading blogs, and magazines, and listening to your parents and friends can help you getting prepared for what's to come, and this is what I decided to do on this blog post.
After 5 months here, I have decided to create a small guide for future NZ study abroad students. If you have the same worries I had before traveling abroad to New Zealand (especially if you are coming in the fall semester…), take a look at some of my (very carefully selected) recommendations:
Whether you are part of IES Abroad, or just doing an exchange program directly with the University of Auckland, there are a couple of official university housing options to consider. Here I will highlight 2: Carlaw Park Student Village and Unilodge.
I currently live in Carlaw, which is the most modern of all housings. The apartments are very big, and you will probably have 3 other flatmates – you don’t get to meet them until you arrive here. The entire student village has very good free wifi under the University of Auckland system, several study rooms, a reception with extremely friendly staff, and an entire team of RAs ready to help you. The good thing about Carlaw is that the staff and the RAs are always organizing events such as movie nights, field trips, and other free-food get togethers. Honestly, Carlaw is a very good place to live at! The kitchen is fully equipped and everything looks pretty new and modern. If you are like me and can’t bring duvet and other beddings because your luggage is already too full with clothes and shoes, you will be able to purchase a $NZD 100,00 sleeping pack with pillow and all other things for bed. You can get it at the reception at the moment of your arrival and you don’t need to pay immediately.
Now the downside about Carlaw: between the student village and the university main campus there is a hill. The hill isn’t that long, but it is quite steep. It usually takes me about 10 minutes from Carlaw to the university campus, which is not bad at all. But there’s a hill, which isn’t the nicest thing to walk on in a cold winter morning.
The second best option for me is Unilodge. But to be honest the only good thing about Unilodge for me is its location. This housing is located on the same street as the university main campus, so basically you can wake up 10 minutes before your class and still be there on time.
But there are a couple of (serious) negative points about Unilodge: the apartments are very, very small. In Carlaw I have a huge kitchen directly connected to a very spacious living room with couches, table and chairs. At Unilodge you won’t find that, it is very hard to share it with other 3 people. Another very bad aspect on Unilodge is that it doesn’t have wifi in the apartments! Yup, no connection. To get free wifi you need to go to the lobby of the building. If you want to get wifi in your room, you can purchase it and get a monthly plan, which I’ve heard isn’t cheap at all.
So now that’s up to you. I would highly recommend Carlaw for very good reasons: spacious and new facilities, free wifi everywhere, and great staff/events.
If you are coming for the fall semester, definitely bring water proof jackets and shoes because you will get wet. This is essential because I noticed that during the semester here the weather was quite unpredictable. I would wake up to beautiful sunshine, but as soon as I’d get out of shower right before heading to class it would start a terrible storm outside which would last for a week. Quite disappointing!
If you like going out, people in New Zealand usually dress quite formally when going to town. For men, some places won’t let you in unless you are wearing a bottom up shirt and nice shoes.
Don’t worry too much about what to bring besides essential clothing and some pictures to put on the wall of your room. All the rest you can buy here at very affordable supermarkets (like Pack N’ Save) and small shops in town. I made a big mistake coming to New Zealand with way too much, because I noticed I could have avoided carrying all of it at airports around the world.
At the university, expect hard graders, 40%-of-final-grade exams, and an extensive number of papers to write. The system here is very different from my liberal arts college, so you definitely need to adapt to new standards when you come. Nothing to worry! To know more about classes at the University of Auckland, refer back to my post “New Zealand is: Impressive”.
Auckland is a very international city. I didn’t expect to see so many Asians (especially Chinese) here, for example, which is probably the biggest foreign group in the city. Most of these foreigners are residents or citizens. There isn’t a lot of tourists, but you can find them around Queen Street and the Sky Tower over the weekends.
Expect great restaurants and unique clothing stores. H&M and Zara have just opened their first New Zealand branches about a month ago here in Auckland. But apart from these, most of the other shops here are NZ brands, which is quite cool and unique.
Overall, the people are very friendly, the culture is very westernized, and I found it very easy to adapt!
4. Any final tips?
You will miss home. So much. The fact that you are coming to the other side of the planet is amazing, but it also sucks with having spontaneous Skype or phone calls with your parents and friends back home. You always need to plan a couple of days ahead and make sure you got the correct 17h-hour or so time difference. But, oh well, it is part of the experience, right?
Finally: do not fall in love with someone here. Or at least try not to! They are very charming and kind and all good things, but remember that New Zealand is very far away from home, so unless you are reaaaallyyyy sure about your lover, do not fall in love!
or do and you might have just found the best person you will ever meet?
These are just some tips and more important things that came to my mind now, but if you have any questions I would love to try to answer them at anytime. That’s all for now! =)