Natalia - The University of Auckland

B International Studies
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

I studied POLITICS212 (Media, Conflict and Peace), POLITICS244 (Foreign Policy of Europe and America), EUROPEAN100 (Thinking Europe), HUMSERV102 (Lifespan Development for Human Services). The academic system in the University of Auckland is rather similar to the one in the UQ: there are 4 courses (or papers as they call them here) in the semester, which are equivalent to full-time study load. There are some differences in a grading system (with the percentage mark out of a 100%, you also receive C- to A+ mark, instead of 4 to 7). Perhaps, one of the main challenges was to get used to the timetable for lectures, as instead of the normal 2 hour lecture per week, you get (in most of the courses) a 2x 1 hour lectures per week, which are scheduled in two different days and also would normally have 2 different lecture topics. This means that you would get twice as much readings and tasks to do in comparison with 1x2 hour lecture and one topic per week to study. However, you get used to the system, and as I had nothing else to do but study, it wasn’t a big problem for me.

Personal experience

An exchange semester in Auckland certainly was an experience. Despite of the fact that I have not met any new friends here (as I was living away from campus, did not meet many other international students and only communicated with other domestic students for academic purposes such as group presentations), I can say that I have enjoyed living in Auckland. I loved the beautiful nature of New Zealand, despite of the fact that it is only 3 hour flight from Brisbane to Auckland, the weather and the nature is very different here. I was lucky to have a few road trips while on exchange and fully appreciate how different and beautiful New Zealand is. Living away from my family and friends gave me a chance to appreciate them more, and made me realise how lucky I am to have them in my life. Also, I think this experience will be very useful for me in the future, as now, I can adapt to new environments more easily.


I was living off campus and I think it was one of the downfalls of my exchange experience. As the accommodation in the city (as well as offered student accommodation) was very pricy, I decided to rent a room at the family friend’s place. It was good in terms of comfort, home-like conditions of living and price, but was not so great in terms of getting to and from the university (as it would take me about 1.5 hours one way and a few different buses), and also it was not so great in terms of meeting new people and making friends. For the future students, I would definitely recommend to live somewhere closer to the campus or together with other students.


Living in Auckland can be quite costly: food, clothes, renting and transport are rather expensive, especially at the times when Australian dollar is almost equal to New Zealand dollar. As I mentioned before, one of the reasons for me staying at the friend’s place and not on campus was the high cost of accommodation in the city (as it would start from $250 per share room). I also found take-away food (except McDonalds) is very expensive. The cost of buses is very similar to the ones in Brisbane ones you obtain a student hop-card (similar to our go-card). Also, hiring a car is a good way to travel and explore new places (as cost of hiring a car is very reasonable).

Professional development and employability

At this stage it is hard for me to image how my exchange semester has enhanced my employability, but in terms of academic development I can most certainly say that the offered courses were at the very high standards, and the level of teaching was also very high. I have learned a lot and the gained knowledge will stay with me.


As I enjoy watching the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring movies (even though I did not read the actual Tolkien’s novels) - I was really keen on going and visiting the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. It was very exciting when one of my husband’s friends kindly offered us a car for a couple of weeks so that we could travel around and explore New Zealand. As we were driving I couldn’t take my eyes off the road: the nature here in New Zealand is truly beautiful with all of the mountains, green forests, sunsets, cool breezes, farms right next to the highways. Perhaps, the road trip across the North Island is one of the most unforgettable moments of mine while living in New Zealand so far. First we went to Rotorua, the city which is famous for its geothermal activity; spending a night there was a bit of a challenge as the smell coming from those geysers was really strong. But when we arrived to the Hobbitton movie set near Matamata I was as happy as a child – everything looked exactly as in the movie and at one point it felt like we were in a fairy tale, the beautiful sunset only made it more special and magical. Walking around the Hobbit holes, beautiful gardens, over double arched bridge and having a refreshing beer in the Green Dragon Inn while sitting by the fireplace felt so peaceful, comfortable, home-like and real.

Top tips

For the students considering participating in a UQ Abroad Exchange and going to Auckland, I would recommend: 

  • to take some warm clothes and an umbrella with you
  • if possible to live on campus if you would like to make new friends and make your stay in Auckland more fun
  • to explore beautiful places around Auckland (such as Rotorua, Waiwera, Goat Island, visit Snow Planet, Auckland Zoo, etc). Tip: “rent a dent” is the cheapest car-hire place that I found; it is also conveniently located in the city.
  • stay positive and enjoy your once in the lifetime experience :) 
Natalia - The University of Auckland