5 Surprises About Studying Abroad in New Zealand

Nicole Guinn is a student at the University of Mary Washington and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Dunedin, New Zealand.

1. The Hospitality and Culture

Kia Ora! This characteristic New Zealand welcoming greeting can be heard anywhere at any time. The Kiwi people are the most hospitable group of people I have ever encountered. Even strangers will strike up a conversation with you at a K-mart! The incredible friendliness creates such a positive and happy atmosphere. The native Maori people make you a part of their family by performing the hongi, which is an intimate nose to nose greeting. The Maori culture welcomes foreigners which set the stone for the fantastic New Zealand hospitality. My ISA group got to learn the Haka from a Maori which is the chant performed by the All Blacks team before rugby games. We also went to a Maori village where they showed us their traditions, danced, sang, and cooked us a delicious hangi meal from an underground pit. Kia Ora!

Learning the Haka with the ISA group
Learning the Haka with the ISA group

2. The True Beauty

New Zealand is truly Middle Earth. No picture or Lord of the Rings movie does the landscape justice. Every angle in a 360 degrees turn provides a beautiful world to look at. While flying over New Zealand, it was unbelievable to see farmland, massive mountains, the ocean, the beach, snow, the floodplains, and the intricate braiding streams all in one glance out the window. It’s difficult to find words to describe the breathtaking view in every direction. An entire lifetime in New Zealand would not be sufficient enough to appreciate the powerful respect the terrain demands.

I saw my "soul animal" with my flatmates
I saw my “soul animal” with my flatmates

3. The Eco-friendliness

It is actually hard to find paper towels in bathrooms since New Zealand is very environmentally conscious. The outlets have switches to turn the electricity on and off. It’s a good feeling to be in control of how much electricity you use. Also, it is not common to use the dryer after you do a load of laundry. We have clotheslines in the backyard where we hang our clothes up to dry. There are no dishwashers in any houses here. We wash our own dishes and let them air dry as well. It’s pleasing to know that some countries actually prioritize the environment.

4. The Rules and Regulations

America is a very fast-paced country. Comparatively speaking, America is like the fast hare, while New Zealand is like the slow tortoise. Everyone is super laid back and the rules are very lax. For example, we went luging with our ISA group, which is basically like go-carting down a mountain. There were no seat belts and you could go as fast as you wanted. It was a liberating feeling to be able to just have fun and not worry about anything. The rules of the road are also very different. It’s surreal to an American to drive on the left side of the road. You can’t turn left on red and you go clockwise around traffic circles.

We zoomed down a mountain with this in the background.
We zoomed down a mountain with this in the background

5. The Extent of the National Parks

If you look at a map of New Zealand, there are not too many roads spider-webbing across the page. Most of the country is national parks, especially on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. This is very different than America because we are able to get almost anywhere by road. With these parks, New Zealand is able to preserve its pristine landscape. There are so many National Parks that I personally want to visit such as Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Tongariro National Park, Fiordland National Park, Abel Tasman National Park, Mt. Aspiring, Mt. Cook, and Nelson Lakes.

ISA outing in Rotorua featuring these dominating trees
ISA outing in Rotorua featuring these dominating trees

“The people here [Dunedin] are Scots. They stopped here on their way to heaven, thinking they had arrived.”    – Mark Twain

Want to read more posts on New Zealand? Check out “A New Family in New Zealand.”


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