Travel Report. Auckland University of Technology (AUT) New Zealand. Autumn

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1 Travel Report Auckland University of Technology (AUT) New Zealand Autumn I spent my exchange semester in Auckland University of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand. All in all the exchange semester was a great experience and New Zealand as a destination is outstanding for anyone who enjoys beautiful nature and outdoor activities (or would just like to live five months in the Middle Earth)! Friendly and laid back locals ( kiwis ) and well-functioning society makes everyday life in New Zealand pretty easy, but you still get to look many things from a whole new perspective while living on the other side of the world. In this report I m going to tell about the process of preparing for the exchange and about my time abroad. I hope you find some of the tips helpful!

2 1. Preparing for the exchange Semester dates in New Zealand are rather different from those in Finland, and the spring semester (=our autumn semester) starts already in mid-july. This meant that I had to start all the paperwork immediately after receiving the letter of acceptance from the university. The AUT School of Business sent very clear instructions explaining all the necessary steps I had to take before coming to New Zealand, so my exchange preparations were rather easy. They included 1. applying for a student visa 2. applying for an apartment in the student apartments (if that s where you choose to stay) 3. choosing the courses and 4. getting an insurance 1.1 Student visa Applying for student visa required most paperwork, but the process itself went smooth. At least following things are required: - Filled application form - Offer of place from the university - Passport pictures - Flights away from New Zealand or proof of sufficient funds to purchase one - Proof of sufficient funds to live in New Zealand All the documents were relatively easy to get. Getting the visa is free for Finnish people, and I only had to pay the office fees of about 40. Finland has no New Zealand immigration Office, so I had to send my passport and the application papers to London. The estimated processing time was 4 weeks, but in my case getting the answer took only couple of days. After sending the documents I had to wait only one week to get them back as courier mail, but you should definitely allow one month to make sure you don t run out of time. 1.2 Apartment Another thing was getting an apartment from Auckland. I decided to stay in Wellesley Student Apartments (WSA) because it s located right next to the City Campus, that s where most of the exchange students stay and because I didn t want to start looking for accommodation only after arriving to New Zealand. However, staying at WSA is really expensive (a standard room costs about 3500 Euros or 5400 NZD for one semester, meaning four months) and the rent must be paid in full already before the semester starts. It s therefore possible to save a lot by getting an apartment from private market, and many exchange students also rented these apartments together. 1.3 Selecting courses AUT sent good instructions about how to choose the courses, which in New Zealand are called papers. Papers are selected before the semester starts, but they can still be changed during the first weeks of lectures: I changed one of my papers with no problem. One ECTS is worth two AUT credits, so full time studies mean 60 credits per one semester. One paper is typically worth 15 or 30 credits.

3 I was doing my master s exchange, but as I only got my bachelor s degree one month before going for exchange, AUT didn t allow me to participate in their graduate programs. I was therefore officially studying a program called Graduate Diploma In Business, which includes courses corresponding roughly the level of third year of the bachelor s degree. The range of courses offered was good, and I chose my courses so that I only had lectures from Monday to Wednesday long weekends were handy for travelling. 1.4 Travel insurance New Zealand law requires all exchange students to have a local travel insurance with extensive cover before arriving to the country. Finnish travel insurance is therefore not enough. AUT recommends that you buy the insurance either from Southern Cross or Uni-Care Educational Travel Insurance Service. I chose Southern Cross, and I had no problems with it; however, Uni-Care seemed to work better with AUT s own healthcare services, as AUT Health Services were able to send the bills straight to Uni-Care, but not to Southern Cross. So when I needed the insurance, I had to pay the fees myself first and make the claims afterwards to get the money back. A New Zealand bank account was also required. The insurance for 5 months cost approximately Flights Apart from getting visa, apartment, courses and insurance there was not much else to do than to book the flights to New Zealand. It is a good idea to book the flights as early as possible, as the prices tend to rise the later you wait (and having a return flight makes applying for the visa easier). It would have been possible to get return flights for about 1200 ; however, as I chose to stay a few days in Tokio on my way back, the total price of the flights was around Exchange studies 2.1 Semester dates and holidays The semester officially started at 21 st of July, but exchange students were asked to arrive latest on 14 th to attend to the orientation week. The semester itself was between 21 July 24 October, and exam weeks were 28 October 15 November. Exam timetables are made available rather late during the semester, which makes making travel plans after semester a bit tricky: I hoped to have my exams early and was planning to start travelling after the first exam week, but ended up having one of my exams on the very last day. There are also holidays during the New Zealand spring semester. The most important one is the Mid-Semester Break from 8 September till 19 September, during which most exchange students travel to the Pacific Islands and/or inside New Zealand. On top of that there was the Labour Day Holiday on 25 October, but practically that didn t make so much difference as it was almost exam week anyway. 2.2 Courses and studying AUT is a rather young university established in It has three campuses around Auckland, but for business students the most important one is City Campus where all the business courses are

4 lectured. The City Campus is new and situated in the Auckland Centre, and the facilities are nice and modern: there is plenty of space for both individual and group work, a library, couple of decent priced cafes and restaurants, a book store (which is expensive!) and all kinds of student services, including AUT Health Services. In AUT all courses are naturally lectured in English, and as AUT Business School has various majors from finance to entrepreneurship everyone can surely find something interesting. As I wanted to choose courses that sounded interesting but which I probably wouldn t take back at home, I ended up having a rather interesting schedule. In AUT all courses last the whole semester, so there will be no changing of subjects half way through the spring. I took 4 courses each worth 15 points (7.5 ECT), two of which were level 7 (3 rd year bachelor s studies) and two of which were level 6 (2 nd year bachelor s studies). I don t think that the levels told too much about the actual workload of the course: this depended much more about the lecturer. In general I think that I had to work less during my exchange semester than back at home, but this might also be because I chose courses that are so different from my major in Aalto - I don t know what would the economics or finance courses be like in AUT. I took the following courses: Activating creativity, level 6 This course was probably the least traditional one I had, but rather interesting. It could be included both to design and business studies and was lectured in the design building at the City Campus. It was lectured by Paul Johnston, a nice gentleman who seemed to genuinely be interested in teaching but repeated the same material in the slides week after week. The contents of the course were centered around creative ways of approaching problems, and the first half of the course was mostly individual work and discussed individual creativity, whereas the second half was concentrated around a group work project and observing group creativity. During the first half of the course we had weekly creativity challenges, which could be anything from photography to writing poems. These challenges had to be journalled to observe the repeating patterns in our creative process, and before the semester break we had to hand in an essay of around 2000 words. The second half of the course consisted of a group project with a task of food design. The project included actual testing with different flavors and packaging design. There was no final exam, just a group journal and another individual reflective essay about the group project that had to be handed in. In general the course covered some interesting themes and the articles were interesting to read, but it was not a mind-blowing experience International relations, level 7 This course was definitely among my favorites. It was lectured by Jane Verbintsky, who clearly knew her subject and could keep the students interested even during the 3 hour morning lectures. The course covered central actors, trends and theories in international relations from the World Wars until today, and I think it was relevant for anyone wanting to understand better the current political trends.

5 Lecture slides were rather good and it might be possible to pass the course with just reading them and making good notes during the lectures. However, getting the book in one form or another is a good idea - I got it as an online version from another exchange student. There were two exams: a mid semester test before the Semester Break, and a final exam during the exam weeks. Both consisted of 2-3 essays and some shorter questions, and the lecturer gave us clear instructions about the themes that will be covered Business and Culture, level 6 This course was probably my most boring one, mostly because of the format of the lectures. Lecturer Swati Nagar handed out printed lecture slides in the beginning of lessons so that everyone could add notes to them, and most of the lectures were spent by copying the notes from the whiteboard word by word. I didn t find this form of teaching too motivating, and at least without reading the course book the main thread of the course was hard to find. However, even getting good grades without the book seemed to be possible. Before the semester break we had to hand in an essay analyzing the role of national culture in international companies and comparing market strategies acquired by a certain company in different countries. In the end of the semester we also prepared a 20 minute group presentation of a topic given by the teacher: however, this was not a huge task as the groups consisted of 5-6 students and we had to also have time for discussion. The course had a final exam which was doable by just reading the slides and notes, as the topics coming to the exam were once again given out by the lecturer Occupational stress and resilience, level 7 I found the contents of this course really useful and interesting, but it did also have some of the most bizarre lectures I have ever been in. The head teacher of the course (who was teaching only small part of the lectures) was interested in martial arts and eastern stress management techniques, and so we had workshops of Aikido and Iaido and made different relaxation exercises during the lectures. The course covered different reasons of occupational stress and stress management initiatives, but the most interesting part of the course from my point of view was studying the physiological effects of stress and the effect of having different perception on stress. The course had one reflective essay, a test before semester break and a final exam during the exam week (the very last one I had). There was no course book, but there were plenty of articles to read in AUT online (corresponds to Noppa). Articles were mostly interesting to read, and again the topics covered in exams were announced beforehand, so you could just choose which articles you wanted to study. 3. Free time and other information 3.1 Cost of living When it comes to cost of living, New Zealand was slightly more expensive than Finland of course this depends a lot on the current exchange rate of Euro and New Zealand Dollar. However, some things were cheaper than in Finland: for example clothes were pretty affordable, and eating out

6 was definitely cheaper. The variety of places offering takeaway food is really good in Auckland, and you can get a nice portion for 7 NZD (around 4.5 ) or even cheaper. There are a lot of Asian restaurants, and sushi is cheap and popular takeaway food one roll might cost 1 NZD, which is around 0.63 when I m writing this. However, grocery shopping seemed to always be more expensive than in Finland. Especially vegetables and milk products were pricey. As there are no student restaurants offering cheap food like in Finland, I ended up both cooking and eating out more than back at home. Course books would have been expensive (some of the local students told that their books cost even 150 NZD), but most of the other exchange students managed well without buying them. There are also Facebook groups for selling and buying used course books, so getting them new from a bookstore is probably not be necessary. 3.2 Living in Auckland and student life Auckland is the biggest city of New Zealand with about 1.4 million people in its metropolitan area. However, when living in the city center it actually feels smaller than Helsinki. This is because Auckland doesn t really have just one center in the traditional European sense, but many smaller, cozy areas such as Devonport, Ponsonby and Kingsland: when travelling through Auckland by bus it feels like the city never ends. If you are living in the city center public transportation is almost never needed. However, getting the Auckland Transport Hop Card is easy and cheap and students get a discount, so it s worth getting: Hop Card can also be used to take a ferry to nearby islands of the Hauraki Gulf, most importantly the Waiheke island, or to the nice area Devonport. Auckland is a rather green city all year round, and I enjoyed especially running in the Domain (city s central park) or strolling at the laid back harbor area. However, many people say that Auckland gets boring pretty quickly, which is partly true: the city center is small and practically just consists of one main street, Queen Street, which has all the cafes, restaurants and bars. When it comes to the student life, in new Zealand there was no strong student culture in the Finnish sense of the word, which is the case almost everywhere else in the world. We got to know the student union AuSM mostly through the free feeds they offered on the school plaza few times a week, but apart from that and a few of parties during the semester there were not that many organized student activities. However, this is not a problem as exchange students organized

7 parties themselves, especially at Wellesley Student Apartments, and with so many exchange students it seemed like there was always someone s birthday to celebrate. 3.3 Travelling in New Zealand and around New Zealand nature is amazingly versatile and it s probably never possible to get bored of travelling around the country during one semester! New Zealand consists of two main islands, North Island and South Island, and although many people say that the South Island is more impressive, I think that there were equally beautiful destinations on both islands. During half an hour of driving the landscape can change from lush rainforest to rugged plateau and back again: you really don t get bored when travelling around. There are beaches with high sand dunes, rainforest, hills with endless pastures and rugged mountains, even fjords: you just have to make the hard decision what to see during your limited time in New Zealand! Although Auckland is at the northern part of North Island, it s a pretty good base for travelling around New Zealand and to the Pacific Islands. It has the biggest airport of New Zealand, which means that getting flights anywhere is easy. There are many airports around New Zealand, also in smaller cities, but flights are cheapest when flying between the biggest airports (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown). The easiest way to travel around New Zealand was often to rent a car with other exchange students: there are buses going between cities, but often the places you want to visit are not exactly in the city but somewhere nearby, and getting the transportation there might be harder. Some people did also buy used cars and planned selling them before returning home. I didn t hear about other problems, but one car got stolen from the parking place and was apparently involved in a burglary however, the police found it and owners got it back. I travelled all around both islands during my exchange semester, and also spent six days of the Semester Break in Fiji. When it comes to the Pacific Islands, Fiji is probably the most expensive and touristic one, and after my visit I would actually recommend going to Cook Islands or Tonga instead: they are cheaper and you can get a more authentic experience. When travelling around New Zealand, staying in a hostel is usually convenient if you don t own camping gear or travel with a campervan. Hostel prices range from 20 NZD to 35 NZD per night when staying in a shared room: by reading the user experiences from hostel booking sites you

8 could usually get a rather realistic picture of what to expect. Most of the hostels were clean and nice and a good way to meet fellow travelers! I didn t have time to visit nearly everything I wanted, but a few of my personal favorites in New Zealand were the following: North Island: Coromandel Peninsula with Hot Water Beach and Cathedral cove; Waiheke Island outside Auckland; The Bay of Islands; Rotorua thermal area South Island: Mount Cook national park; Abel Tasman national park; and the adrenaline capital of the world, Queenstown with it s beautiful alpine sceneries 4. Final Comments Going to exchange is a great way to learn more about yourself and really get outside your comfort zone, and I can warmly recommend new Zealand for anyone who enjoys beautiful nature, outdoor activities and wants to get to experience the easy going kiwi lifestyle. For me Auckland was a good destination, even though the city itself started to sometimes feel a bit boring. Auckland is big enough so that there are things to do during the weeks you spend in the city, and travelling around the country was relatively easy. International Office of AUT Business School did really good job and helped exchange students in everything, and all in all I experienced no bigger problems during my exchange. When it comes to academic level of courses, I would recommend Aalto students not to be afraid of the workload of the courses: I would probably try to pick a bit more challenging courses if I did my exchange again, although I wanted to have a lot of time for travelling. And now we get to my most important advice: reserve a lot of time for travelling around the country! There are so many beautiful places to see that you will definitely not have enough time to see all of it in one semester, so don t be afraid of running out of things to do!

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