I'll start off by saying how difficult it is to fully describe my experience in New Zealand. The scenery, people, nature, and culture were all so different from any other place I've ever been in the world. For over four months, I had the constant feeling that I was living an incredible dream.
Aside from our program orientation in Fiji, I was able to travel all over New Zealand in my free time, whether that meant taking a bus, renting a car, or flying for much cheaper than in the United States. During this travel, I got to meet people from all over the world, experience fresh scenery full of life, and exercise my mind, soul, and body.
I was thrown into a flat with three random American girls and a Kiwi guy, but I absolutely loved it. On our street, we built a great community of people, mostly Americans, but from all over the world. University life was nice because I got to take courses I genuinely wanted to take. They were equivalent to courses I took here, and I got credit for them, but they were from a New Zealand perspective. This was a great learning experience, because so much of what I was doing outside of the classroom was related to this.
I'm a bit of an adventurer, so a lot of my preferences in things I did might be a bit biased, but I'll share them anyways. Some of my favorite hiking experiences outside of school were Mount Aspiring, Arthur's Pass, Milford Track, and the Routeburn Track.
Aside from that, some of my favorite experiences were bungy jumping in Queenstown, kayaking in Abel Tasman and Bay of Islands, parasailing and Bay of Islands, seeing rare wildlife on the Otago Peninsula, participating in the Relay for Life at the University, watching the All Blacks rugby team play in Dunedin, glowworm viewing, abseiling/canyoning down waterfalls with TEAN outside of Auckland, a Stray Travel bus tour of the South Island, and rock climbing in Castle Rock (where I unfortunately broke my ankle. But still, it was awesome.).
Some of my favorite viewing places aside from hiking were the Catlins, Lake Matheson, Murchison, Wanaka, Glenorchy, and Arrowtown.
My typical week looked like this: Monday - Thursday afternoon I would study, do homework, go to all my classes, and experience university life. Thursday late afternoon or early Friday - late Sunday I would travel as much as I could. This consisted of incredible scenery, bungy jumping, parasailing, hiking, meeting new people, and traveling with various friends.
I have personally developed and matured a great deal because of this experience. I learned to travel (flights, bus systems, rental cars) independently, how to better take care of myself, and overall how to live well and adventurously. I even had a scare with a broken ankle near the end of my stay, but fortunately the health care system was incredibly reliable and helpful. Even with that, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. Today I'm still in contact with a handful of friends from my university and program, and would consider them some of my best friends.
I grew so close to so many TEAN friends that I hosted many in Dunedin, as well as visiting them in Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. This was great because I got to stay with them, eat with them, and have them show me around--usually for free. Many of the things I did I previously mentioned I did with these incredible people.