ESS student Elizabeth Donaldson, travelled to New Zealand this semester or an exchange and this is what she had to say about her experience. We at the College are very grateful that Elizabeth was willing to share her thoughts!
Coming to New Zealand has been the biggest adventure of my life. It is overwhelmingly terrifying and exciting at the same time. New Zealand has been on my bucket list for so many years and I never thought I would have the opportunity to spend this much time here, never mind study here and immerse myself into the community. I am very grateful for this experience and for the help I have received, like the Ambury and Victoria Stuart International Internship Bursary, to make this possible.
Being on exchange means you are surrounded by people from all over the world who are eager to explore and meet new people. I have met some incredible friends during my time at Victoria University that I hope will be a part of my life for a long time. While most of them are not from Canada, that means I’ll have to travel around the world to visit them!
One of the things I was told about New Zealand before coming here was it made up of all the landscapes in Canada, just squished into two small islands. It could not be more true. New Zealand is an incredibly diverse and stunning country that boasts all of the best parts of Canada, but with volcanoes, tropical islands, and way more sheep. In about five hours, you can drive from the east coast, (Maritimes), through farmland and rolling hills, (Ontario through Manitoba), and enter the west coast (Rockies). Queenstown is Banff, Auckland is Toronto, and lucky for me, Wellington is Halifax. Rugby is their hockey, and meat pies are their poutine. It is incredible how even though I am on the other side of the planet, I still feel completely at home.
Wellington is a bustling, energetic, cultural hub with amazing scenery and fantastic people. When I first arrived to the city, it felt like Halifax but everything was a little bit bigger. More shops, bigger parks, more beaches, steeper hills, shockingly more restaurants and bars, and (unfortunately) more wind and rain. There are tons of festivals, live music, art performances, and ways to get involved in the community. As it is the capital city, there are often political events, marches, and conferences that you can attend.
Just outside the city are two mountain ranges that boast amazing hiking and camping, and within a short bus ride there are beaches, swim spots and a colony of seals. It can be hard imagining what it will be like living in a city you have never seen, aside from looking at google images. Wellington has absolutely exceeded my expectations and I could not be happier with my decision to choose this city for my exchange!
One of the best parts of my exchange experience so far at Victoria University has been taking advantage of the opportunity to travel around the country. After spending the month of February traveling the south island, and numerous road trips since then, I can confidently say New Zealand is the most beautiful country I have ever been to. Taking advantage of flight sales makes it that much easier to jet off for a weekend to explore a corner of the country. From flying to Queenstown for the weekend to explore the mountains, flying to Dunedin to spontaneously see an Ed Sheeran concert, or road-tripping to Rotorua to see the geothermal pools, I can’t express enough how much there is to see and how easy it is to get around. Just make sure you have all of your homework done first!
Victoria University of Wellington is an exceptional university with leading departments in Maori Studies, Law, Environmental Science, and Business. Similar to Dalhousie, they have over a hundred clubs you can join (my favourite is the VUW Tramping Club). There is a sustainability week, yoga classes, a weekly farmers market, and a student union that will help with anything you need. I was pleasantly surprised by their emphasis on sustainability issues and environmental initiatives. I am enrolled in a fantastic class about Maori Culture, a class about politics about Pacific Islands, and an international relations class about New Zealand. My goal was to take courses based on subjects I would not learn at home and relate to my degree, but there are so many other great classes the university offers. If you are trying to decide if VUW is for you, definitely look at their academic calendar to see if they offer courses you are interested in!
Doing this exchange at VUW is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have learnt a lot about New Zealand, South Pacific culture, and myself. I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and as a result am on the best rollercoaster of my life. While I worked very hard to get here, I reached out to many different resources to assist with the finances. The Ambury and Victoria Stuart International Internship Bursary is a fantastic resource available for sustainability students who are looking to take their studies abroad. I am very thankful for the support from the bursary and encourage anyone who is traveling for their studies to apply!