2011 - Emma Simpson from Birmingham in Auckland

I have found the whole experience very rewarding and such an amazing adventure - I would definitely recommend it.

I applied to do a year abroad after finding out about the different exchanges on offer at one of the international fairs held at my university.  I didn’t think I would stand a chance of being chosen as there were no designated exchange places for my specific subject, but I thought that it would be a great opportunity and so I applied anyway.  To my surprise, I was offered my first choice university - a year's exchange to the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Both the process of applying for the exchange, as well as actually being on exchange have provided me with numerous valuable skills in many different areas.  These include time and money management, as well as many organisational and general life skills such as arranging and applying for visas and travel insurance, budgeting for plane tickets and the year abroad as a whole, organising my exchange class schedule to satisfy both my home university requirements as well as those of the exchange partner, and so on.  I have found this whole process to be very helpful towards clarifying what I want to do for the rest of my degree.  I have had to select appropriate courses at the University of Auckland to provide me with the relevant requirements for the courses I would like to take in my final year back in Birmingham.  Also, it has helped me to be more independent and have more confidence in myself, as I have none of the usual home securities to rely on.

I am currently half way through my exchange year.  Because of the way the semesters work in New Zealand, I arrived in the second semester and am currently on my Summer Holiday.  I will then finish my year with Auckland’s first semester.  Helpfully the papers at Auckland are arranged and assessed in such a way, with the exams being set at the end of each semester as opposed to all being at the end of the year, therefore, allowing my reversal of the semester order to occur without any adverse consequences.

Compared to back home, my work schedule so far has been relatively light (despite taking the usual 4 courses, all at 300 level  - equivalent to 3rd year courses back home).  This afforded me some free time to travel and investigate both the city of Auckland, and beyond.  Further travelling opportunities were also had in both the mid-semester break (snowboarding in the North Island), as well as in the summer holidays (Samoa – just a 4 hour flight from New Zealand, and some further travel to the South Island over Christmas and New Year).

I have really loved my time here at the University of Auckland so far.  I opted to stay in one of the university residential halls and have found it to be an excellent experience.  My hall was self-catered (my own choice) and was comprised largely of international students, making for a rich and diverse environment.  I am now therefore friends with people from all around the world, many of whom I hope to see again, and several of which I am sure will be life-long friends.

When I first arrived in Auckland it was all quite daunting. It suddenly hit me after the 14-hour flight from LA (26 hours in total) quite how far away from home I was, and quite how long I was going to be away.  My worries quickly dissipated however as I was greeted at the airport by the free airport pick-up service for exchange students and then welcomed to the hall of residence by one of the RA’s who is now a good friend.  Despite knowing no one in New Zealand on my arrival, it was not difficult to make friends in such a welcoming environment.  There was a whole week of orientation, introductory and cultural activities which were very helpful not only for learning my way round the campus and city, but also for making friends.  The hall of residence also ran its own activities so that you could get to know the other residents.

So far, I have found the whole experience very rewarding and such an amazing adventure, I would definitely recommend it!  I hope that the rest of my exchange will be as exciting and amazing as this first semester has been.