Alumni Spotlight: Laura De Wispelaere

Laura is a 23-year-old travel lover from Belgium who has a passion for going as far away as possible from her home, learning about new cultures, and trying different foods and drinks all around the world.

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Why did you choose this program?

I've always wanted to go to New Zealand. I'd heard amazing things about it from friends and family so I couldn't wait to see it myself. I planned to stay in NZ for a while because when I travel, I want to immerse myself completely in the nature and the culture of a country, so I definitely wanted to travel both the North and South Island.

I was super excited when I found out that Ultimate had an UltimateNZ tour, the ideal way to start a gap year in NZ! I've traveled with Ultimate before and their tours have been some of best trips ever.

UltimateNZ sounded perfect and I immediately booked the tour. It started in Auckland, the North Island, which is the ideal location to go from North to South. I was traveling solo anyways, so why not start my first week in NZ with an awesome group of people and fun activities? Perfect!

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The only thing I had to think about was a valid passport, flight tickets and enough clothes to survive for my travels in NZ. The Ultimate NZ tour is well organized so I didn't have to worry about a thing during the whole week. Easy peasy!

I booked directly through Ultimate and they provided me with enough information, tips, and tricks to prepare for my gap year. They respond to you within 24 hours on weekdays or if you send them a message over the weekend, they'll get back to you first thing on Monday. I felt like I could ask them anything and they would help me instantly.

About two weeks before the start of the tour, they even send you an UltimateNZ welcome package by email with all the information you need for the tour, so fun and useful!

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

The only advice I have is to do your research about when and where you're planning on going in NZ. It was pretty cold when I got to Auckland, so a warm sweater and a raincoat will come in handy if you're planning on going in November.

Also, make sure you have enough money to buy some yummy NZ snacks and some drinks when there's a campfire.

If you're traveling solo like me, don't be scared or nervous. You'll meet so many people on the tour and in the hostels you'll be staying at. Just go with the flow, be yourself and your NZ gap year will be the best year of your life.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

We woke up each morning at a decent time, not too early, not too late. This was perfect, because I need my sleep! After breakfast, we met in the lobby for the morning activity such as a city tour or a beach walk.

After morning activities, we had lunch together and got ready for the afternoon activity. This time was spent either digging our own hot pool on the beach, visiting the Cathedral Cove or having a relaxed and cozy afternoon with some games and a hot chocolate.

At night we had dinner together, typically a barbecue or pizza, and then to close off the night we went to a bar in the city or in the Coromandel we sat around the campfire and had a cozy and quiet night in.

Every day is different but just as fun. The longer you spend time together as a group, the more you become a little family. It was just so great to see how everyone got along so well with each other. I've definitely made some lifelong friends!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was going to New Zealand by myself, not knowing how to deal with all the paperwork and having to figure everything out once I got there. I'm so happy I booked the Ultimate NZ tour since they literally help you with everything. I immediately made friends on day one, and I even traveled with some of them after the tour.

Our tour guide Faye gave us so much travel inspiration and made us excited to see all of NZ's beauty. She even helped us to figure out campervans, different hostels, etc. Ultimate also provides you with a SIM card, a meeting at the bank to open up a NZ bank account and much more.

Faye and the entire team at Ultimate made my first week in NZ one of the best weeks of my entire gap year. Thanks, Ultimate!

What was the highlight of your trip?

Definitely the Coromandel. Those three days were unforgettable and my personal highlight of the Ultimate NZ tour. Everything was so unbelievably green, the air was fresh, the water oh so blue. It was the real and pure NZ nature that I was hoping to see and I got to experience with an amazing tour guide and fun group! I miss it already.

I really recommend fpr everyone to start their NZ gap year with the UltimateNZ tour -- it's the best tour ever!