New Zealand is my favorite country in the world (so far). I find the people open, friendly, and helpful and the countryside beautiful. If I could, I think that I would immigrate.
I participated in five study abroad programs in New Zealand. These programs generally are three weeks long. We travel from the north, starting in Auckland and finishing in Dunedin on the South Island. We visit Rotorua, Wellington, Picton, Nelson, Hokitika, Franz Josef, Queenstown, and then Dunedin. My favorite locations are Rotorua, Franz Josef, Queenstown, and Dunedin.
The experiences all follow the model I describe earlier. Students engage in research projects, using the time abroad as field research. The on-the-ground experiences focus on history, culture, economy, environment, communication, and politics.
While in Auckland, we visited The Domain, Botanical Gardens, the Auckland Museum, Wine country, an olive orchard, Waiheke, Rangitoto (dormant volcano), and went whale and dolphin watching.
On the way to Rotorua, we visit Waitomo Caves, one of the top sites in New Zealand. While in Rotorua, we visit Hobbiton, Te Puia, spend an evening in one of the top spas in the world, take time to walk in the forests, visit a working farm, and students can go Zorbing and luging. One of the highlights of the visit is our Mauri dinner at Mitai Village. The Master of Ceremonies for the dinner greats and talks with guests in their home language. I can recall Mauri, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese, Japanese, German, Russian, and English.
Our next stop is Wellington. We visit multiple Lord of the Rings locations, Peter Jackson’s WETA Digital Studios, Te Papa, The Botanical Gardens, and Zealandia, and enjoy the many walks around the city.
We take the ferry across the Cook Straits from Wellington, moving through Queen Charlotte Sound. We stay in Nelson overnight and then travel down the west coast to Hokitika, known for its Jade. From Hokitika, we travel to Franz Josef to visit the glaciers. Leaving Franz Josef, we visit Queenstown. In the Queenstown area, students can go skiing, jet boating, and jump from the home of bungy jumping and canyon swinging. You can travel Skippers Canyon Road, one of the top 10 dangerous roads globally, and sample a $1,000 bottle of wine.
We finish our trip to Dunedin. Dunedin offers many adventures. You can visit the only mainland nesting site for the Royal Albatross. You can walk the steepest residential street in the world. You can visit the Otago Museum and take an eco-tour to see yellow-eye penguins, the rarest penguins in the world. You can also visit the Speights Brewery (one of my three favorite beers). You can also take a train trip through the Taieri Gorge.
There are some interesting foods to enjoy. Perhaps the most traditional meal is the Hangi, a traditional Mauri meal cooked underground. We also eat corn on the cob cooked in a geothermal pool and burgers at one of the top burger places in the world, Fergburgers. You cannot leave New Zealand without eating Pavlova and hokey-pokey ice cream. There is a cooking technique where the restaurant heats a stone and brings raw lamb, beef, chicken, shrimp, and fish to the table. You then cook the protein at your seat. Finally, I fell in love with the different meat pies available on about every corner.