Christchurch, New Zealand: The Best Decision of Your Life


Josh Golden is a student at North Carolina State University and an ISA Guest Blogger. He studied abroad with ISA in Christchurch, New Zealand.

So you’ve decided to study abroad in New Zealand. Well, do I have some news! You just made one of the greatest decisions of your life. Let me say, first and foremost, New Zealand didn’t get the title of being one of the top 10 happiest countries in the world without being awesome! The reward is straight forward: memories of a lifetime, pictures worth more than a thousand words, colors out of a paint pallet, friends for life, more sheep than you can count, and endless opportunities to live happily as a Kiwi.

A few things you should know before you go:

Get used to saying “Kiwi,” because you will become friends with them, eat them, or view them from a park. What? I know it can be confusing, but they are nuts about all sorts of Kiwi titles here.

Be ready for some amazing indigenous culture. The Māori people will be more than happy to tell their history and show you some of their traditional Hakas. Maybe you could even join their student association; I did.

Make sure you’re prioritizing you’re school work, but also make sure to have fun. Personally, I love the hiking in the Southern Alps. If you like to fish, they have that here, too. Not extreme enough for you? No worries; skydiving, jet boating, and bungy jumping will take care of your adrenaline fix. Maybe you want something a little toned down. Go on down to Lake Takaki or Tekapo and view the turquoise waters and more stars than you could boast about. Still doesn’t sound fun? Why not see the lakes and the stars while sitting in a geothermal pool? I promise if you come here to New Zealand you’ll have a blast.

Don’t be afraid to unplug. The cell signals can be weak, as can the WiFi, but that’s actually a good thing. You don’t need to waste a second on your screen when you can experience the wonders of Middle Earth.

Now that you’re convinced New Zealand is the place for you, you have to decide where to study. I won’t speak against the other New Zealand universities, but I will say–the University of Canterbury is the best. My classes were shorter than those at my home university but always informative and well-planned. The professors are all too happy to help at every step of the way. Just remember put in effort, and you’ll get a lot in return.

Christchurch is wonderful. So many things have been rebuilt since the 2011 earthquake, making a uniquely modern and beautiful city. Christchurch is full of arts, science, gardens, museums, and innovation, all with the comforting touch of a welcoming city. From here, you can easily reach every big town and city in New Zealand and abroad. Christchurch is perfectly located between mountains and the coast. In a single day, I went for a hike in the Southern Alps and went to the beach for the sunset; few places in the world let you do that. The city sits halfway down the South Island, a fantastic spot for checking out the rest of the island. You can go north to wine country, mountains, and thermal springs. Go west into the Alps, glaciers, lakes, and another gorgeous coast. Go south and enjoy skiing, penguins, Dunedin, Queenstown, and Fiordland.

Why choose ISA? During my time in New Zealand, I came to think of ISA not so much as an organization, but as a friend. The on-site staff are the best. ISA is there with real people–real expert locals–to help make your journey awesome. Of course, let’s not forget that before you even get on the plane, ISA helps make courses, visas and paperwork a simple process.

It’s not easy. You will experience culture shock. You will miss things and people back home. You will find yourself lost and challenged and faced with a lifestyle that may not feel normal. Do not let this scare you. Studying abroad helps you mature, points out what is important to you, and  teaches you how to think differently–or, as I’ve heard quite a bit in New Zealand, Think New. It will be an outstanding time. I hope to see you here one day, because you’re going to love living like a Kiwi.

Your discovery. Our People…The World Awaits.

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