City Discovery: Auckland – New Zealand’s Most Diverse City

Auckland is the largest and most culturally diverse city in New Zealand. First settled by the Maori people around 1,000 years ago, Auckland (“Tamaki Makarua” in Maori) is a bustling metropolis that encompasses a wide range of ethnic, cultural and racial backgrounds.

Auckland’s stunning geographic and cultural variations make it a fantastic place to visit no matter your interests. Explore the city’s islands and volcanic cones on foot or bicycle, wander the city’s many museums and cultural centers, or enjoy find dining and shopping throughout the city. As New Zealand’s transportation hub, traveling to any other part of the country is easy, making this city the ideal base for exploring.



Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

Attend the Auckland International Cultural Festival, guided by ISA staff, as the city celebrates the eclectic and unique intersection of diversity found in New Zealand. With more than 55 cultures represented, this event has something for everyone. Featuring a fantastic mix of color, sights, smells and sounds from around the world. The stages are packed with international music, dance performances and sports zones. Here, visitors can experience a world of culinary delights, with everything from Argentinean empanadas, Ethiopian coffee and Japanese castellan – to name a few. Each year, there are international music and dance performances where spectators can discover the arts of Indonesia, France, Thailand and Africa in the festival’s four ‘cultural zones.’

As part of the ISA Auckland experience, students are introduced to the indigenous culture and traditions of the Maori people. Matariki, the rising of the star constellation, is an important time in the Māori calendar. It heralds in the Māori New Year, which is a time to connect with, and give thanks to the land, sea and sky. It is also a time for the community to come together and acknowledge the year gone by and to celebrate and prepare for the year ahead. This involves the sharing of kai (food), rituals, entertainment, hospitality and knowledge. Matariki celebrations have become a special time of the year in New Zealand to celebrate the unique place in which the students live, and share and grow with each other.



ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

Discover the historic city of Raglan, situated on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, which offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The area has been inhabited for at least 800 years, and was originally known by the Maori people as Whaingaroa, or “the long pursuit.” During the ISA excursion each semester, students have the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Maori tribes who settled the region, experience some of New Zealand’s beautiful coastline, meet and talk with the local ‘Kiwis’ and take in the lovely surftown’s creative culture with wonderful cafes. Following the beginner surfing lesson, a visit to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves is on the agenda, which includes a world famous boat ride under thousands of magical glowworms. Here, visitors will marvel at Mother Nature’s light display as you glide silently through the starry wonderland of the Glowworm Grotto as the Maori first did hundreds of years ago. Meander underground along the Waitomo River and gaze in silence at the myriad of glow worm lights that make up the Glowworm Grotto. As you enter this galaxy of tiny living lights, you’ll immediately experience a serene ambience and be fascinated and intrigued by tiny glowworms that light your way.

Take a day to explore the Auckland War Memorial Museum, set in the middle of the Auckland Domain, a huge park area with winding paths, gorgeous views of the city and a cricket pitch. Constructed in 1929, the museum is dedicated to the remembrance of returned service personnel, their families and fallen comrades. The museum is home to numerous exhibits that show the varied history and culture of the city. Popular exhibits range from Waitangi 175, which commemorates the 175th anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti or Waitangi or the treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of New Zealand, to the First World War Centenary, which aims to honor and remember the commitment shown by New Zealanders at home and abroad during conflict.



Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

Over the last three decades Pacific Island people have become a permanent and significant group within New Zealand society. The Annual Pasifika Festival is a celebration of the music, food, arts and dance of the Pacific Island communities. The Festival came to life through a joint initiative between the Auckland Council and the South Pacific Island Nations Development Association due to their shared commitment to the preservation of all manifestations of cultural and historic heritage that links Pacific Islanders. The festival aims to bring Pacific Island communities closer together and to celebrate the richness and variety of their heritage, culture and lifestyles. Pasifika takes place in Western Springs Park which is a wildlife sanctuary surrounding a natural spring-fed-lake, one of Auckland’s early water supplies.

Discover Auckland Pride, the landmark event on Auckland’s summer calendar. The Big Gay Out Festival, which is held in Ponsonby (Auckland’s hippest neighborhood) is attended by thousands of Kiwi’s and provides visitors the opportunity to witness celebrations centered on the dedication to equality that New Zealand holds so dear – they are the first nation in the world to grant Women’s Suffrage, and one of the few that have legalized marriage equality. The overall mission, to develop the standing of LGBT individuals in society and enhance the cultural richness of Auckland has received support from the media, government officials and community leaders.



Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

Participate in an internship while taking courses at the Auckland University of Technology. AUT’s semester long program provides the opportunity to undertake a part-time, supervised work placement in several professional fields. The internship offers the full benefit of a semester abroad experience, while allowing the student to immerse themselves in the unique New Zealand culture and gain valuable work experience in an international setting. The study-intern option provides opportunities to students to work collaboratively and develop interest, aptitudes and abilities in a business, government or community organization environment.

Volunteer at the Auckland Zoo, home to the largest collection of native and exotic animals in New Zealand with over 138 different species and 875 animals. Auckland Zoo employs over 100 full-time employees and over 200 volunteers. Students majoring in zoology, animal and biological sciences find this volunteer opportunity particularly useful for their professional development. As an ISA volunteer, students provide a vital support system for staff, keepers and animals.



Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

Spend a day discovering Goat Island and Matakana Coast, home to Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve, which is is New Zealand’s first and best known fully protected marine reserve. As an excursion led by ISA staff, this protected environment is known to be an easy place to explore. Students will visit the Matakana Farmers’ Markets where they can enjoy and buy local art and crafts. Then they will adventure to Goat Island for a guided snorkel tour. Here, visitors will learn about the history of Goat Island and the marine life. To end the day, a visit to the Honey Centre and Cheese factory is on the schedule to learn about those respective industries and how New Zealand’s dedication to protecting its environment plays a major role in business operations.

ISA students take part in the famous hot water beaches and sea kayaking adventures at Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel area, which is a dedicated marine conservation mainstay in the North Island. Renowned for its natural beauty – rural farmland, misty rainforests and pristine golden beaches, the Coromandel is blessed with hundreds of natural hideaways. The students visit Hot Water Beach where they can find hot water bubbling through the golden sand; they can create their own spa pool and relax in the natural springs. ISA staff also guide students to the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, which opens up a sea kayaking paradise full of beaches, islands and rock gardens. Students kayak and paddle through sea caves, interact with the local marine life and discover the thrill of kayak sailing.

Learn more about Auckland


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The 2015 City Discovery Series aims to showcase one of ISA’s program locations each week. Facts about each location and several Discovery Compass activity examples are given, however they are not a comprehensive list. These activities highlight the areas of Intercultural, Historical, Sociopolitical, Professional and Environmental discovery. The Discovery Compass aims to help students have the best possible study abroad experience by helping them to gain a better understanding of the local environment, customs and people through a variety of experiences.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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