After many weeks of waiting, numerous applications and forms completed, and a nearly 30-hour long journey, I am finally here in Auckland, New Zealand to begin my semester program at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). It’s surreal to realize that I’m actually living in a foreign country thousands of miles away from my home, California, where I have lived for my entire life.
It will certainly be a challenge adjusting to a new culture and university (or “Uni” as many people call it here), but I am confident and excited I’ll have a fun-filled, memorable experience that I can cherish for the rest of my life. With my posts here on Be International, I hope I can provide some valuable insight into the study abroad process, and detail any struggles, tips and other pertinent information that I may confront while living here for the next four months.
Getting to New Zealand is no easy task; a direct flight from California can take about thirteen hours, not including any time dedicated to arriving early at the airport or waiting for checked bags at the baggage claim. However, due to limited options provided by my airline rewards points, I had to fly to Sydney, Australia from San Francisco, endure an eight hour layover, and then fly to the Auckland airport.
My first mistake during this trip (except for forgetting to pack a couple of random things) happened as I was walking out of the airport that night. I had to buy a New Zealand outlet converter and, sometime between purchasing it and getting on the bus to my apartment, I lost my credit card. Luckily, I discovered that it was missing shortly after arriving to my room and I emailed my bank to freeze the account, so no unauthorized charges would occur. I learned very quickly that miscues are much more likely to happen while tired, so hopefully I can avoid similar problems in the future.
Although my journey to New Zealand was long and difficult, I was able to avoid jet lag because the time change is 21 hours forward from Pacific Standard Time, which is effectively the difference between the west coast and east coast of the United States, but one day forward. Well-rested and eager to explore the nearby areas, I spent most of my first full day walking throughout the city, obtaining essentials and meeting others at the student housing complex.
One thing I haven’t yet mentioned is that I don’t currently have an international phone plan, so I can’t really use my phone for anything unless I have a wifi connection. It’s strange not being connected to the internet 24/7; I definitely take for granted how incredibly useful it is for navigating, communicating, and utilizing the near-endless possibilities of the Internet. While I am in the process of acquiring a travel sim card and phone plan, this has definitely been a large adjustment to make in the meantime.
My second day in Auckland was a busy one, as I went to my first day of orientation at AUT from 9 am to 4 pm, after which I would attend a cricket game at 7pm between the New Zealand and South African national teams. Orientation was a great way to meet other international students and it was awesome to interact with people from all parts of the world. In many ways, orientation here reminded me of my freshman orientation at San Diego State; there were plenty of awkward icebreaker activities, lots of small-talk with strangers and free food during breakfast and lunch. After orientation, I went back to my apartment, made some food and got ready for the cricket game.
As you probably know, cricket is not at all popular in the United States. The only thing I knew about the sport is that it is slightly similar to baseball, and that it has a large following in countries such as New Zealand, India, England and many other places. I bought my ticket about a month ago and, despite not really knowing anything about the rules or how the game is played, I made my way to Eden Park, New Zealand’s largest stadium. I arrived right as the game was beginning, and took my seat in the general admission section.
I learned right away the only similar things to baseball were hitting the ball with a bat, and that points scored are referred to as “runs”. Watching a live sport you know nothing about is really interesting; I would look to the crowd and see when people would cheer, and try to connect what I saw on the field to the crowd’s reactions. My favorite part of the game was when the batter hit the ball into the crowd (which scores six runs) or when the ball hit the outer boundaries on a roll or bounce (scoring four runs); The crowd would go insane and two large contraptions at either side of the field would shoot huge fireballs. Leaving the game, I still had plenty of questions about the sport, but I did learn much about the game and, all in all, it was a great time.
Over the next few days, I went to more orientation events, explored the campus to get a feel of where my courses would be held and began to get settled in and comfortable in the city. I went on a cool hike to Mount Eden, a dormant cone-shaped volcano about 45 minutes away from my apartment. Reaching the summit offered panoramic views of the city and nearby suburbs, as well as a few of the other fifty volcanoes upon which Auckland is built.
My first few days in New Zealand have been fun, interesting, and have got me incredibly excited for the rest of the semester. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the country has to offer; it’s been a great time already, and this is only the very beginning.
Jack Barney is a junior studying business management. He is studying at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand for Spring semester 2017.