Derek Y., New Zealand – University of Auckland (Biological Sciences)

Kia Ora! Welcome to the land of the three kiwis!


  1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB?

I took three upper division Biology classes and Kapa Haka. Each Biology class had a lab as a part of it and they brought in multiple professors to teach different parts of each course. They wanted specialists in a certain field to teach each part which made it difficult having to adjust to different teaching styles and testing styles constantly. They have three levels of classes instead of like UCSB where it’s lower div and upper div. I took the 200 and 300 level classes. The 200 level class was similar in size to upper division classes at UCSB and the two 300 level classes felt smaller because it was more specialized. All three bio classes counted toward my major.

  1. What was your favorite class abroad?

Kapa Haka

My favorite class would definitely be Kapa Haka. A class of over 200 students learned or improved their Haka, the traditional ceremonial dance of the Māori people. We met once a week for three hours and split up into groups where we practiced the pronunciation of the Māori language. I would definitely say Kapa Haka was a great cultural experience. The haka is something that connects much of the Polynesian culture. It was used originally as a ceremonial dance used to welcome people or for war. It has evolved into something that is commonly done in life such as weddings, funerals, or rugby games such as how the All Blacks do it. This is the type of class that can only be taken in New Zealand, so I highly recommend it. You can watch a video of it here

  1. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad? If so, tell us about your experience.

I did not intern or volunteer when I was abroad, but there were definitely opportunities there. I recently learned at a class here at UCSB that one of our professors has a lab at the University of Auckland. I am sure that if anyone going was interested in sort of research, they could find it.


  1. How would you describe your host institution?

The University of Auckland is very hilly and located very close to the city center. The main campus is not spread out too much, but there are satellite campuses that are further away. Most of the major classes are on the main campus, but there are some classes that require a bus ride. The campus is not very large, and it’s similar to UCSB where there is a mix of new and old buildings.

  1. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?

Just like UCSB, they have a club/organization fair where there are numerous opportunities available. I actually think there are a lot more organizations to join there than there are available at UCSB.


  1. Describe your housing situation.

I had a confusing situation with housing. I was not accepted into the school yet when the school’s housing approved me. Since I wasn’t accepted yet, I was not on the lookout for the housing email, and I missed the deadline for accepting it. New Zealand has a website called TradeMe where you can find people looking for roommates or housing. However, it generally requires a New Zealand phone number to get into contact with people. I had to wait until I got to Auckland before I could contact people. I crashed at my friend’s apartment for about a week before finding a place which was two doubles in an apartment about a 10-minute walk from the university. It worked out more in my favor because it was much cheaper than University housing and slightly cheaper than other housing options. However, the only downside was that I was living with people that were a little older and not in university anymore. Some friends of mine that lived in university housing had more social time because they were living with so many more students.


  1. Where did you eat most of your meals?

I cooked most of my meals and ate at home.

  1. How much was an average meal? Do you have any budgeting tips for future students?

An average meal would probably cost about $7-9 USD. However, the portion sizes are much smaller relative to the US. Since I usually eat a lot, it would take about $12 USD to fill me up.

  1. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals?

No, I don’t think it would be a problem at all. There were many places with vegan/vegetarian options.

  1. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

This would definitely be at Fergburger in Queenstown! We had just hiked for about 6 hours that day at the beginning of winter in South Island and allllll of us were looking forward to Fergburger because they’re apparently world famous. We got there and the line was about 100 people long. They were actually really fast and it probably took a total of 40 minutes of waiting to get our food. The burger was huge! About the size of a newborn baby’s head. But the best part was their fries. They were shoestring style and were probably the best I’ve ever had in my life.


  1. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back?

It would probably be L&P. It’s kind of like lemon soda, but you’d really have to try it to understand the taste behind it.


  1. Describe your host city.

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand that’s right on the coast. However, it was more of a harbor and the beaches were about a 20-minute car ride away from the city. I would say it’s more of a slow city. Most shops are closed by about 8 pm and the city slowly dies down. There are people going out to clubs at night, but other than that, it’s quite peaceful. The city is also very hilly so expect to be walking up and down a lot.

  1. Was it easy to get around?

It was relatively easy to walk everywhere except for the hills. Most of them weren’t too bad, but it did get tiring walking uphill so much.

  1. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students?

Yes, it did feel pretty safe. I would just say to make sure you always keep your passport safe! I actually paid $50 NZD for a New Zealand ID card so I wouldn’t have to take my passport to the clubs or to buy some alcohol.

  1. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city?

I generally found it pretty fun to just hang out with friends in their apartments, but we did go out to the clubs every so often. There are numerous volcanoes scattered around the outskirts of the city so it would be fun to visit those too! We could also take the ferry out to the nearby islands and explore there too.



  1. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

I haven’t been to many places in the US, so I would assume that are cultural differences between places like California and New York even though it is all a part of the US. That being said, even though New Zealand is a Western country, there were certain differences in how they were. The one that stood out the most was how much more the culture of the indigenous Māori was integrated into daily life, which is much more than we can say about Native Americans. However, the indigenous population still experiences many problems. People were generally nice, but they would answer questions very vaguely. They would answer in a way that required me to ask another question for them to elaborate only for them to be vague again. Lifestyle is also much slower than I expected, especially for a big city like Auckland.

  1. How did you handle culture shock?

I am a naturally extroverted person. When I experienced culture shock, I just hung out more with my close friends that I came with from UCSB. We would just do our normal things or just chill out at someone’s place.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

My favorite aspect would definitely be how connected it was with Māori culture. I loved learning about it and the shared characteristics there are among the many Polynesian cultures and nations.


  1. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

My favorite travel story would probably span the one week trip that four friends and I took to South Island. It was all five of us crammed in the cheapest car available which ended up being the smallest… The places we wanted to go to all had long drives where I was the one usually driving and three of them were completely squished in the back. Every time we changed sleeping locations, we had to play Tetris with all our belongings in the back. We ended up seeing some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen before. There were so many lakes with a turquoise blue color that was gorgeous. We found some food places along the way that amazed us. The hiking almost froze one of us to death and cause another one of us to quit from exhaustion (still wonderful though). This is all over the place, but if anyone wants to hear about it, just talk to me.

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  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal?

Financial troubles were my biggest fears. It ended up being okay because my financial aid worked out very nicely where I was able to support myself along with extensive traveling through the country and to other Pacific countries.

  1. What was your biggest challenge abroad?

My biggest challenge would be my mental health. I already struggle a lot with it here at a place I’m comfortable in. In New Zealand, lacking many of the resources that I usually get help from, it made it hard to improve upon it. However, part of it was my fault as I tried to push through it instead of confronting it.

  1. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad?

I’ve definitely learned how to move around in a place foreign to me. New Zealand is Western so it was not as difficult to navigate around. I did go to many other countries during my time abroad that were very different in culture and language. Going to all these places helped me gain so many soft skills that I couldn’t have learned staying at UCSB.

  1. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Definitely, go abroad. Studying abroad has one of the best things that has ever happened to me. The growth I experienced through my programs is beyond what could have happened if I stayed. Even if it doesn’t work out the best way possible, there are so many things to learn about life away from home. It will broaden your perspective in life, and you’ll be able to apply that to your own life.


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