I began my higher education studies in 2013, reading philosophy at Leeds University. In my first year I met a girl from America who was on her study abroad year, and she became my best friend – and subsequently convinced me that I should look into studying abroad, too. I’ll admit it: I had some qualms about it. At that stage, I was quite a lover of home and familiarity, and even moving two hours from home had seemed like a very big step. Could I really take the plunge and move to another country, leaving my friends, family and everything I knew, for an entire year? I wasn’t certain, but in November of my second year, I was finding my independence and my confidence, so I took the plunge and applied – to the University of Auckland of all places, which is a whopping 11,000 miles away from England, pretty much the furthest place on earth I could’ve gone. (My parents didn’t take it too personally…)
I am now here currently, nine months into my year abroad, with just two months until I go home; needless to say, I am loving it.
It turns out that Auckland uni (and Southern Hemisphere unis in general) have a number of features which make the study abroad experience here quite unlike any Northern Hemisphere university. For a start, their seasons are opposite to ours – so while we’re having our summer, they’re having their winter – and their semesters are too. This meant that I spent my first semester in Auckland studying from July until November of 2015 – a very quick turnaround from my second year at Leeds, meaning I missed my summer holiday! It didn’t matter at all, in the end – I was having too much fun in a new place with new friends to mind it. I then had the luxury of a very, very long holiday, from November 2015 – February 2016, which was their summer break. I am now in my second semester, running from February – June. This has meant that I have split my studies here across two of Auckland’s academic years.
Before arriving, I was certainly worried that this would give my year abroad a bit of a disjointed feel – but it turned out it wasn’t like that at all. Instead, I have enjoyed a year in three distinct phases. I had my first semester – phase 1 – where I met a load of other people on their study abroad time too, and that evolved into a fantastic group of friends with whom I travelled round New Zealand. We went on trips basically every weekend, visiting everywhere we could within viable travelling distance, as well as a great road trip all around New Zealand during the mid-semester break. Phase 2 was the long summer, which gave me ample opportunity to travel, and I spent it going on a bus tour round even more of New Zealand (and revisiting some places), as well as a wonderful month in Australia. Now I am in phase 3, and it’s different again – I have a part-time job at a coffee shop in Auckland city centre, I’m focusing much more on my uni work, and am generally just really enjoying having a little routine and a well-established life of my own, on the other side of the world.
The university itself is great. It’s academically structured in a very similar way to UK universities, in that people opt to study individual subjects, meaning I’ve grown to know a lot of friendly faces, both teacher- and student-wise, on my philosophy courses. There are the usual midterm papers, and exams, and of course New Zealand is English-speaking, which has done wonders for my academic and social life, and my experience abroad overall. I enjoy the courses, both in terms of the range of choice I had, and their content and structure. I enjoy the teaching – at first, I was surprised at the two-hour lectures instead of the one hour I was used to from school days and Leeds, but I’ve grown to love it, as you can fit in so much more content. The city campus (where philosophy is taught) is beautiful, and conveniently in the city centre. I live in self-catered university accommodation just a ten minute walk from campus, which has added another great dimension to my social life and spared me the stress of house hunting in a different country.
New Zealand itself is a beautiful country – so beautiful that I have spent the majority of my free time travelling. Auckland is a coastal city, meaning there have been many local islands to explore and enjoy, and all around the country there are fantastic locations for multi-day walks – I did one which goes round the base of the mountain they used to film Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. I’ve also seen a ton of Lord of the Rings locations, and some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen in my life.
This year has been one of the best of my life, and quite genuinely the best decision I ever made. I have not been home in nearly a year, but it doesn’t feel like it – because Auckland has become another home to me. I have independence, and a job, and my own life in one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to, as well as a fantastic opportunity to extend my studies and take modules I’d never have had the chance to in Leeds, as well as a few friends who I think may well be life-long. If you or anyone you know is even vaguely considering study abroad, my advice is this: take the opportunity. It could well be the best thing you do. It certainly was for me!
To find out more about studying Philosophy at the University of Auckland, visit: http://www.arts.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/subjects-and-courses/philosophy.html
Emma Scriver, Philosophy Student
University of Auckland