When I got to New Zealand, we had a day in Auckland and 5 in Waitomo for the Bridging Cultures Program. We were met at the airport in the early morning on arrival day, and had an incredibly busy week - the best way to avoid jet lag! There were around 15 Americans during my semester - July-December is always a small group.
We stayed at Kiwipaka, a great local hostel in Waitomo. There's a bar and small swimming pool and it's a launching pad for all sorts of activities. My group went caving through an underground river, getting to rappel down waterfalls. I used a free day to visit The Shire movie set from Lord of the Rings. We all learned the Haka and visited a Maori village where we ate a hangi, or Maori feast.
Through these activities, I got to know the other Americans and had some friends in NZ. It definitely eased my transition because when I got to Wellington I ran into my new friends around town - it's not a big place. Our group split into a few smaller segments that stayed close throughout the semester.
I didn't use GlobaLinks for much after that first week. However, when the Tongariro volcano erupted, they had great communication with my parents keeping them up to date and telling them that I was safe. I also met with Richard, our on-site director, for some travel advice for my trips to Australia and Fiji afterwards.