Choosing to study abroad in New Zealand has easily been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I had never travelled outside of the States prior to studying abroad, so New Zealand was my first out-of-country experience. The tall glass buildings, the water and the wharf, the diversity of people, and the iconic Sky Tower all caused me to immediately fall in love with Auckland. People (even complete strangers!) are especially friendly here, and I've never once felt like I wouldn't be able to make any friends. In fact, through the UCEAP Orientation Program, I was not only able to meet people, but I was able to become best friends with about 7 or 8 others who I know I'll stay in contact with when I go back home to California.
As far as traveling around New Zealand goes, I had two weeks before the semester at Auckland Uni began to visit the South Island- BEST decision I could've made. I and 4 other friends spontaneously planned a trip to go to Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, and Milford Sound, and the trip did not disappoint. Dunedin was a very quaint city with lots of shops (and a cool Chocolate Factory that you can tour!) and things to look at, but Queenstown was the tourist-go-to spot for sure. Despite the freezing cold weather (nothing two layers of pants, a long sleeve shirt and two jackets, a beanie, gloves, and a scarf can't protect you from), we enjoyed 5 days together exploring the city (we went on the luge- look this up!). Milford Sound is an absolute MUST. I'm not a huge Lord of the Rings fan, but I LOVED this trip and would even call it a highlight of my time in NZ thus far.
My papers (aka classes) at Auckland Uni haven't been too stressful. I ended up with one engineering paper (I initially was taking two but one was cancelled last minute) and three general education (GE) papers. My advice in terms of which courses to take would be to take what you need so you don't fall behind back at your home University, but if you have the option to, lighten your course work and take a GE or two so you can really enjoy your time abroad.
On weekends, I and about 4-6 others (my good friends that I met from the UCEAP Orientation) always go on day trips around Auckland. We rent a car (driving on the left side of the road is very strange I'll admit, but if you and your friends help each other out, it's very do-able!) and travel as far 3 hours away from the city to explore beaches, waterfalls, or cool hiking trails. Even these little trips have made my time in NZ that much better.
In the end, what I've taken from my time in NZ thus far is that you need to make the most of the time you're given. I've found that it can be easy, and admittedly tempting, to want to lay in your room and watch some Netflix for awhile. BUT, in the time that you spent binge-watching your favorite show, you and your friends could have been half-way to a breathtaking beach or scenic hike outside the city, and this is something you don't want to miss out on. Studying abroad has been a huge privilege, and if you have the chance to do something like this, put yourself out there and don't think twice about it.