I chose to live in a flat with four other people and learned to love each one of my roommates for their uniqueness and willingness to adventure! My house was located in the hills that looked out around Wellington Harbour. From my back porch I could look down into the city, which was about a 5 minute walk away. The view was absolutely breath taking and I still dream about it to this day! I lived with another student who was from New Zealand, and I found that to be particularly helpful as well. He showed us around the town, and introduced us to other people from New Zealand.
My house was about a 5 minute walk from Victoria University. I attended an international orientation at the beginning of my stay, which was really helpful. We toured the campus and got a feel for where our classes would be. The support that was provided not only through AIFS, but Victoria University was outstanding. I felt comfortable asking for help and being in a different environment.
The course load I found was challenging because the style was not what I am use to. I felt that I completed a lot of essays and research for the majority of my classes. The professors did not really assign busy work at all. I had no problem confronting any of my professors if I needed help. I took a Political course and found it particularly challenging. Being aware of the upper level courses could have benefited me in the long run, however, like I said, the professors were willing to work with me on a regular basis. They found it quite humorous that I ended up in this class without any prior knowledge or understanding of their governing system.
Some issues I encountered were being left in New Zealand and having no means of transportation to the airport when it was time to leave for Sydney. When I arrived in Sydney, no one was there to pick us and no hostel was booked anywhere. We walked around Sydney with our luggage from 5 months. I found this to be quite frustrating and unbecoming of a company whose job is to accommodate and safely guide students in their study abroad experience. In the end, it was all a part of the journey and it is important to know and understand what needs to be done when things like this occur. Students need to be prepared and have the means to provide themselves with food and shelter in situations like this.
I spent some time in Fiji as well. Two of the representatives for AIFS Maina and Lili were absolutely wonderful. They took us and offered advice when we needed it. Being in a country like Fiji can be a little intimidating at times. They did their best to assure us that we would be safe. I still keep in touch with both of these ladies today and consider them to be my really good friends. I stayed with a host family and it was a really interesting and beautiful experience. I was not sure what to expect. My host mother was a professor at the University of South Pacific where I took some crash courses. I felt right at home and Laijipa was so sweet! She provided us with meals and made sure we enjoyed our stay. Some of the other students did not get the luxury of hot water in some of the families that they stayed with.
I had the time of my life and have grown in more ways then I have ever expected. Not in a million years did I think that I would be able to say that I lived and studied in New Zealand. Learning about the Maori culture and way of life was unbelievable.
I would recommend anyone to this program! I would even love to do it again!