My time in NZ was amazing. You need to remember that whatever program or place you go to that your experience is your experience alone. This sounds like a generic statement, but I felt myself straying from this idea when I first arrived in NZ. One of my best friends had done the same program in the same location (Auckland) a year previously and i realized i was subconsciously holding myself to all these standards, thinking I had to have as good of a time as she did...somehow this was translating into the idea that i had to have the same experience as her and therefore do things the way she did. There was only one problem that I seemed to keep running into with this plan...I wasn't her. I kept felt like I was failing in following her exact footsteps. Luckily it only took me a couple weeks to realize how flawed my expectations were....I finally realized- wait, you aren't her. You don't do things the way she does.... You see...back at our school at home, she's an athlete, runs with a big crew, is a social butterfly and finds comfort and safety in that big group- even if she doesn't know all of them that well. That's what she did in NZ too to some extent, so I heard (from her). But that's not how I do things at all...I usually have singular friends, and i get to know them really well and get really close with them. I feel like I have somewhere around 8 best friends. Most of my friends qualify as best friends...I don't have acquaintances as much. I share my time among them... Sometimes they end up being friends with each other, but i prefer being in small groups or even paired off with a different people each day..bouncing around between friends and getting different experiences from each of them. My friend operates very differently. So why should i expect myself to be like her here? The truth was that I thought that her way of doing things was going to be the only equation for success in NZ, when her equation didn't even fit into my kind of calculator. I threw these non-applicable standards out the window upon reminding myself that I'm my own person and would do things the way i do things, and that it would work out for me because I'm me. Boom. Try to make these kind of big ideas clear in your mind righ rafter you get there. The transition will be hard- moving in somewhere, not knowing where you are, navigating a foreign city, feeling alone, etc. But you will get through it all, I promise. Things won't seem so foreign and you will begin to adjust and feel more like yourself in this seemingly strange new place. If I, The Queen of Dysfunctional Transitions, did it (and succeeded nonetheless) you can too.
This kind of existential pondering aside, it was important for me to make friends with people outside of my culture. It wasn't that i didn't want to be friends with any Americans, but i needed to remember that i was in this melting pot of cultures- NZ brings all kinds of people from all different places to its beautiful shores and I needed to make use of that. I now have friends in Germany, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, France, New Zealand and more. It's so interesting to learn from different cultures and find your similarities and differences and feel united with someone so different from you, only to find out what similarities bring you together.
See as much as you can, but know that even if you can't see it all, what you DO see will be enough, if not more than you expected originally. I did an 11 day trip in the south island by camper van. Some people do 3 months in the South Island...I knew i wouldn't be able to see it all in 11 days, but what i did see was amazing, and something to be grateful for. Everything you miss will probably be amazing, but just as equally as amazing as the things you DO see. Be grateful, it's all good.
Be patient with yourself as well- it's okay to have relaxed lazy days in bed with netflix- even if you ARE in NZ. Sometimes i felt the pressure to always be doing something when I was there- some adventurous activity, or going somewhere new...but the truth is, you would burn yourself out if you met that expectation every day. You're still human, even if you are in NZ. You need to chill sometimes and reset, especially if you plan on soaking in and fully experiencing the places and things you do end up seeing. The best part of my trip was befriending a kiwi who could show me around. It's fun to explore with other foreigners who are fresh off the plane just like you, but having a native show you around to secret spots and immerse you in things is priceless. He has become one of my best friends and I know this trip and experience would not have been the same without him. Likewise, you bring things to them too and it's rewarding. He has expressed that without me he never would have been befriended so many people from other cultures and also expressed how cool it was to learn to truly appreciate his country through my discovery and appreciation of it. So go learn from a Kiwi and help them learn too! He's also the one who I rented a camper van with at the end of my stay for a trip around the South Island. It was his first time there too (even as a Kiwi) and he said he never would've done it without meeting me and says it's the best trip he's ever been on. That being said, the South Island is definitely a must do. A whole other world. Breathtaking. Your friends and family will think your photos from there are fake.
A final word of advice: Yes, the program is through the University of Auckland, but remember it's more about Auckland/NZ than university. I'm a top student at home, but when in NZ (if your grading situation allows) try to ease up on yourself academically. The classes and assignments are probably less challenging then what you are used to, so don't burn yourself out putting more work into things than you have to- you came to NZ to see NZ, not the UoA library. I was fortunate to not make this mistake and tried to beat it into my mind that "grades here don't matter" and "screw studying, I'm going to Coromandel for the weekend," but I saw several friends have trouble easing up on the academic efforts and I think their experience could've been better if they got out of the library a little more!
Have fun. Have an Open Mind. And take Pictures, but don't forget to put the camera down sometimes as well...the eyes are the original camera after all :)