I’ve been fortunate enough to call Auckland, NZ my home for the past 6 months. Travelling to this side of the world has been a dream of mine and being able to stay here for a whole semester was a great opportunity. Another reason for me to study here was that my sister has been living here for quite some time and from the stories she had to tell I just couldn’t resist. But even if you wouldn’t have a personal tie to the place I can recommend NZ to everyone.
As NZ is in the southern hemisphere and the seasons here are opposite from what they are in Finland, my semester in NZ began in the middle of July. So I had to leave warm Finnish summer for NZ in the middle of local winter. To make things worse, buildings here have no central heating so the first couple mornings were… refreshing. After learning to cope with the absence of heating it wasn’t that bad especially when winter turned to spring and later to summer.
I didn’t have accommodation when I arrived so I decided to stay first week in a hostel trying to find an apartment to live in. I ended up living with two Americans in the city center which turned out to be a good result. The accommodation that university offers for a single bed room are relatively expensive with weekly rent of around 200-300 dollars (140-200 euros) and renting a room from a private market is way cheaper. Also the location of my apartment was excellent as it took no longer than 10 minutes to get to the uni, grocery shops, casino or to other necessities. I found that even without living in a student apartment you can still live a proper student life if you wish to and you’re enough interested in meeting new people. Also living in a privately owned apartment you can save a lot of money to use in other activities.
Auckland as a city has a lot to offer to everyone. Whether you’re interested in chess, Pokemons, kayaking or anything else you can find it here. I also liked that everything was close by and despite the struggles of public transport to stay on time it is quite easy to get from place A to B. It’s also a great spot to start travelling around NZ as you can fly to any major or minor airport there is. After seeing other university cities in NZ I’m pretty happy that I chose Auckland as my destination. The city is also very diverse in its population with around 1/3 of residents are not native New Zealandians which can be seen everywhere in the city. This large ethnic diversification sometimes makes you feel like you’re not in NZ anymore but it has its perks as the diverse cuisine is just delicious.
Studying in the University of Auckland was not as time-consuming as I expected. Typically students pick four courses to complete during a semester but I ended up picking only three as I wanted to spare some time for other activities. What was great about the courses that I picked was that the assignments were done to actual companies. Not only it gave more motivation to do the assignments but it shed light to business world more than just another lecture-based theory course would’ve done. After the semester concluded I realized it wouldn’t have been that bad to pick fourth course as well and still have time to travel but nevertheless I’m still happy with my choice.
University of Auckland has multiple clubs to spark the student life but very few activities are directed specifically to exchange students. Due to that I realized that if you want to get something done or travel around you better do it by yourself. So far I have travelled around the whole NZ, from the northernmost to the southernmost point and pretty much everything there is to see in between. I’ve also been to Fiji and to Australia but since flights there are relatively expensive and take around three hours, most of my trips have been in NZ.
There are a lot of things to do and see in NZ. Naturally anyone who is interested in Lord of the Rings will find the country amazing. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the movies but still I managed to visit The Shire, Mt. Doom, Isengard and Lonely Mountain among other places. Even if you wouldn’t be a fan you would most likely appreciate the landscapes here. Glaciers, snowy mountain ranges and waterfalls mixed with endless green hills and lush forests are just stunning every single time no matter how often I’ve seen them. The landscapes make NZ perfect place for hiking and you can find hikes ranging from 1 hour to multiple days all around the country. Surfing, diving, mountain biking, skydiving, bungee jumping are also some of the activities I’ve been part of during my stay so I could say there’s no shortage of outdoor activities.
The semester here ended in the beginning of November and after that I’ve been just relaxing and travelling around. It was nice for a change to spend October and November in 20+ degrees without endless rains. However, all good comes to an end and so I’ll be coming back to Finland in the beginning of January. In a way it’s exciting to get back to Finland but on the other hand leaving NZ behind after half a year knowing that coming back might not be that soon. I can honestly recommend studying abroad to everyone and studying in NZ in particular.Matti Sahi University of Auckland (Marketing, 07/2014-11/2014)