14 July, 2018
Kia Ora! Welcome to the written record of my semester abroad at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand. Although I arrived only a week ago, it feels like it could have been months.
As classes don’t start until tomorrow, this week has been full of exploration and bonding. I am here as an international exchange student directly between GW and the University of Auckland, rather than through a study abroad provider program. There are benefits and drawbacks to not being in a program. Benefits such as the independence to arrive when I wanted to, the responsibility of dealing directly with the university as I would at GW, and being free to take the trips I want to take when I want to take them. However, as the American friends I've made are primarily students through the IFSA program, it is clear that they are much more guided, with an advisor to ask questions to and pre-arrival activities that educated and bonded them. Fortunately for me, I get their information second-hand so I’m covered on things I would otherwise have a difficult time figuring out.
My first couple of days were spent figuring out how this city runs. First difference: mostly everything is closed on Sundays. Grocery stores are open, as well as some other large shops, but restaurants, campus buildings, and smaller shops take Sunday, or both Saturday and Sunday off. This posed some challenges, as my first day here was a Sunday. I wandered around the city for about an hour as it drizzled in search of food with no luck, and ultimately ended up buying pb&j ingredients as the gas station near my apartment complex. Lessons learned: take care of shopping during the week and mind the rain. Waking around for that time did, however, give me a good lay of the land of downtown Auckland.
Queens street is the main street of downtown, just up and over the hill upon which the university sits. Queens is lined with restaurants, shops, and large corporate buildings alike, all surrounding the iconic Sky Tower. We ventured there to find places for a delicious bite, see movies, and pick up necessities at the shops. The waterfront sits on the edge of downtown and features the large port that cruise ships and ferry boats arrive to and depart from as well as a collection of pubs and eateries with views of the crystal clear water.
As the weekend approached, we moved from exploring campus and downtown to exploring outside of Auckland Central. After acquiring AT Hop cards, a few of us took the bus to Karangahape road in the Newtown neighborhood where some of Auckland’s best thrift stores are located. We walked back from K street, as it’s referred to, by way of downtown, passing scenic views and beautiful pink bike path. At sunset, we took a bus to Mount Eden, a neighborhood in Auckland that features a dormant volcano who's summit is a popular lookout from which you can see the entire city.
So far, Auckland has done nothing but amaze me. The people I’ve met share more in common with me than I could have imagined and I’m excited to see where the rest of these 5 months take me!