CA Student Studying in Aotearoa New Zealand

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Why I chose NMIT:
I attended Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) as an exchange student during the spring semester in Aotearoa New Zealand (fall semester in U.S.). I chose Aotearoa New Zealand because I wanted to learn more about the Māori peoples to add to my knowledge of Indigenous peoples from around the globe. I was the first student from my home university (Humboldt State University, CA) as well as the first U.S. student to attend NMIT in a while.

Overall experience:
I had a blast in Aotearoa New Zealand and at NMIT. I met lifelong friends I continue to stay in touch with. Although I was prepared to experience culture shock, I was amazed by how much I learned about the country and its people, and how they perceived the U.S. I would definitely recommend students to study abroad here as it is a country with very welcoming people and it is easy to travel within the country. Lastly, the U.S. has a heavy influence on the country, so you will not be completely isolated from all things home, if you are from the U.S.

The Nelson campus is walking distance from busy streets where you will find local pubs, banks, shopping centers, supermarkets and more. The campus is small and you can cover it in less than five minutes, which is convenient on busy days when you need to stop by different departments. The student center is located in the middle of the campus and it is near the library.

Student Life:
The student association on campus is constanly feeding students, hosting events and providing trips to local beaches, parks, and to another NMIT campus. These opportunities really helped me meet and bond with other stuents, especially at the beginning of the semester. As the students become busier during the semester, these events and trips became a great way to catch up with friends and meet new people.

The education system at NMIT is different than that of the CA university systems. There is a larger independent study portion the student is expected to complete. Also, breaks from classes fall on different schedules depending on the student's focus area and progress. Further, I wanted to focus on Māori studies as much as possible. I was not able to exclusively take Māori classes as I attended during the spring semester and most of NMIT's Māori studies are held during their fall semester. Even with this challenge, NMIT was super helpful in accommodating classes that covered Māori topics. I was fortunate to take an introduction to Māori language class, Te Reo Māori, participate in a weekend-long cultural ceremony at Onetahua Marae (sacred meeting grounds) through a counseling, and focus on a Māori experience for a photography project. Classes are typically three hours every other day and noon is reserved for all students and staff to have lunch.

Social life:
Nelson is a smaller area, but there is a lot to do. There are numerous beautiful hiking places and beaches, local rugby games and a lively night scene. It is important that you are comfortable with safely exploring your surroundings and making friends with folks who have a car or learning how to use public transportation. NMIT staff and student association do a great job at sharing information about popular places and providing tours and trips. What was extremely helpful for me was that I enrolled in a tour of Nelson at the beginning of the semester. Later on, we went on trips outside of Nelson that allowed students to bond and visit places that would otherwise require transportation. Nelson has a great nightlife that is mostly located on one block. People tend to typically go out on Saturdays and most places close by 3am.

Traveling within Aotearoa New Zealand:
I love to travel and learn about new places and their traditions. While in Aotearoa New Zealand, I was fortunate to visit four cities: New Plymouth, Rotorua, Wellington, and Auckland. I had a blast attending an All Blacks and local Tasman Mako's rugby game, Māori cultural tourism, museums, local music and arts festival, and concerts (e.g. Māori reggae artists and U.S. artists like J Cole). For all of my trips I stayed at hostels becuase it was the cheapest. This was my first experince staying at hostels and I loved it. Hostels are super common in the country, compared to CA. I would recommend you talk to the local kiwis about cheapest airlines to travel with.

Since I was only attending for a semester, I wanted the most convinient housing. I lived at the Nikau Apartments that are located next to campus but are not campus housing. The Nikau Apartments provide housing for many NMIT students as well as tourists visiting the area. These apartments did have strict restrictions that sometimes interfered with the student night life, for example. However, if you are okay with following the rules and being respectful, you will not mind the restrictions. Nikau also pairs students by gender and have set room inspections every month. In my experience, I lived with a local kiwi and two different international studuents, one from Thailand and the other from Japan.

The food is not entirely different than that of the U.S. I ended up eating a lot of Thai and Indian food, and of course, fish and chips. I was also introduced to Māori kai (food) and I loved it! It actually made me become fond of kūmara (sweet potato). Lastly, I come from a Mexican background and I love traditional Mexican spicy food. With this said, I did not consider that I was going to struggle to find authentic and good Mexican food while abroad. There are some Mexican restaurants, but I chose to not eat there as the food was not authentic and I am very strict with what is considered Mexican food. This is just a personal preference. I did discover some Latinx restaurants, mainly from Argentina and Chile, while traveling around the country.

This is more of a general summary of my experience abroad. Feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more about Aotearoa New Zealand or NMIT.

How can this program be improved?
The only comment I have regarding how the program could be improved has to do with the development of the partnership between the home and host universities. There were long wait periods to hear back about official paperwork and I imagine it was because I was the first student from my home university and the U.S. Other than that, I am thankful for the experience and to still connect with NMIT staff.
Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would
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