Sophie R., New Zealand – Victoria University of Wellington (Psychology & Brain Sciences)


From being a California bumpkin to an experienced kiwi; my adventure from California to Wellington New Zealand.


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

I took three psychology classes and one management class.

What was your favorite class abroad?

I loved the Abnormal Psychology class. There were different professors that taught the class sections, so it felt very specialized, and it was enlightening to get to know the different perspectives and teaching styles about psychological disorders. 

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

No, I did not. I wish I did though. It definitely helps to join something because you get to know different people and fit in more easily at your university.


How would you describe your host institution?

The faculty was very friendly and helpful. It was easy to ask people for directions on where to go to class and have conversations with them.


Describe your housing situation.

I lived in a flat with another person. We shared a kitchen, living room, and a bathroom. I lived on a hill and had to walk up stairs every day to get to my flat. Overall, it was a very nice cozy place.


Where did you eat most of your meals?

I made most of my meals at my flat. Every Friday or on the weekend, I would go out with my friends to eat downtown.

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

The cost of meals would range from 13 New Zealand Dollars to 17 New Zealand Dollars. An alcoholic drink would cost 7 to 9 New Zealand Dollars. I recommend that students should go to a farmers market to buy their food; it’s really cheap and healthy. I would have to say that if future students are looking for a good time drinking, they will need to be wary of how much they spend on alcohol because it is really expensive.

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

Not at all; there were so many options offered on menus for vegans and vegetarians.

Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad.

I really enjoyed going to different Ramen resturants with my friends; especially on cold and rainy days. The Asian food places are good in New Zealand, in particular, Wellington.

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

I will greatly miss the Ramen and the New Zealand beer and ale.

HOST CITYDescribe your host city.

Wellington is usually known as “Windy Wellington.” Almost every day there would be strong winds, but you do get used to it.  Even though it’s the capital of New Zealand, Wellington is a very compact city. I didn’t feel the need to use a bike or get on the buses all the time. Walking from one end of the city to the other would only take me about 30 minutes. Wellington was a very artsy city; there was a lot of street art and festivals going on. There were also street life and food offered once a week. 

Was it easy to get around?

Yes, I walked everywhere and did not use a bike or bus to get around. They do have uber, so it was useful to use to get up hills or be on time somewhere when I was in a rush.

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

Wellington was very safe, I never witnessed or heard of any major crimes that were near me. I do recommend to try not walking back at night up hill; it can be quite a struggle and you do not want to get hurt when you’re alone.

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

I did a lot of hiking around Wellington. There was a museum that I visited with my friends, and there were some parks that were only one or two miles away from me. What was a lot of fun was going to late night cafes with my friends in Wellington.

New Zealand_Rowe,Sophie_Tramping_MountCook_Exploring


Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad.

It was interesting to get to know about the Maori culture in New Zealand and how much the history of New Zealand affects the citizens today. It was heartening to see how serious New Zealand was about protecting their environment; they take good care of their hiking trails and protecting the wildlife.

New Zealand_Rowe,Sophie_Cliffview_Dunedin_Sightseeing


How did you handle culture shock?

I focused on keeping an open heart and an open mind; I was eager to meet new people and I asked questions about themselves.

What is your favorite aspect of your host culture?

I loved the environment of New Zealand, it was so rural and calm. I also loved getting to know new people, especially kiwis. Everyone was very friendly and it was easy to have conversations with them.


Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad.

My Kiwi friend and two Singaporean friends decided to go on this 4-hour hike that was located near Milford Sound. The beginning of the hike was a lot of fun because we went off the track and went into the woods. However, we lost track of one of my Singapore friends and we had to back-track to find her. We eventually found out that she was ahead of us, and it was relieving when she found us after reaching the end of the hike. We all decided to keep going to the end of the hike, even though we were all tired. It was a good decision because once we made it to the end, there was a clearing and a beautiful emerald green lake surrounded by mountains. It took my breath away. Many pictures were taken, and we all enjoyed the grand scenery before us.


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

I was really worried about not finding any friends and being alone on my trip. I am a shy person but I wanted to be friendly every person I met. It did pay off and I met people that made my adventures memorable.

What was your biggest challenge abroad?

I had trouble planning ahead for trips and managing my time. School came first and I had to make sure that I was getting things done before going on a trip.

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

I feel like I became a more open person to others. I do not feel as shy and I also feel more aware of what people do and say.

What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students?

Keep an open heart and an open mind; don’t be afraid to get out there and meet new people and try new things. This is a lifetime experience so take advantage of it and leave no regrets.

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