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Jonathan Oborn

Philosophy at University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand 2006 - 2007

I spent a year studying at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. Hamilton itself is not the most exciting of places, but don't let this put you off, it is still a nice place to live with good people, and it also feels very safe (I can't remember seeing one fight in the town centre on a night out). It is the country's fourth largest city and is in a very good central location on the north island, with mountains, a big city, or beaches all within a couple of hours journey or less.

""The university is located outside the city centre, but there are regular bus services from in and around the campus to the city centre, which like Lancaster buses can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes (approx), or you can walk the journey in about 45 minutes. As for accommodation, there are a few options. You can choose catered halls which are Bryant Hall (the smallest hall) or College Hall, there is both self-catered and catered options in student village, or there is a group of self contained cottages known as Orchard Park. The halls themselves are very nice, all quite modern, however I would recommend against living there personally.

I lived in Bryant Hall for the first semester, and it had many problems. Firstly, the food isn't great (no surprises there), and is served at bad times, approximately, 7.30-9am for breakfast, 11.30-1pm for lunch, and 5-6.30pm for dinner, so if you have lunch-time lectures, or stay up until midnight, you will either go hungry or have to pay for takeaways and junk food, and seeing as food is included in the rent payments, this can seem unfair, unnecessary, and expensive. The price of the halls also seems unreasonable when compared to off-campus rents, Bryant Hall charged 185 dollars which is roughly £60-65 a week, and has almost certainly risen since then, this is fine by English standards. However, off-campus rents can start at as little as $75 a week (that's what I paid), and unlike Lancaster you can live extremely close to the campus, I lived within 2 minutes walk, and was no further away from my lectures than I was in Bryant Hall.

You should also remember that when you arrive it will be half way through the academic year, since the NZ academic year starts in January. Frankly, by that time most domestic students within the hall have no interest in getting to know you, not that they will be rude and treat you badly, but they have made their friends by that point. Most international students ended up sticking together (as they often arrive at the same time, and have similar goals for their time in NZ), which I found great as you get to meet a whole host of different nationalities. I personally met great people ranging from America, to India, Malaysia and the Maldives. Finally the halls have far more rules than those at Lancaster. In Bryant Hall at 10pm, you must be quite, if there is noticeable noise coming from your room past this time you can get warnings and eventually fines, you are not allowed more than five people in your room at any time, no alcohol is permitted past 10pm, or during the exam periods at all. This certainly took getting used to coming from the freedom that Lancaster's halls provide.

""Don't let this put you off New Zealand though, it is definitely possible to meet great people in the halls, and life off-campus is very good too. And if you do have a burning desire to live on campus I would recommend Orchard Park, but off-campus rooms are easy to find, and you also have an instant social network that way, as people living in your house will be more likely to want to get to know you. Also, the international centre is very good and welcoming, and organises many things from concerts to trips for all international students so it is very easy to meet people in similar situations to you.

As for the country itself, this will not let you down. Coming from England it is very easy to integrate as the culture is very similar, just be prepared to replace football with rugby, and forget about train travel which basically doesn't exist. It is inter-city coaches all the way, which are cheaper than English trains, and there are budget companies around (the best of which is the nakedbus.com which offers fares from as little as $1). New Zealand is a bit larger than England, so you couldn't drive the length of the north island in one day. It is an eight hour journey from Hamilton to the capital Wellington which is at the very south of the north island. But don't let this deter you, there is much to see along the way. Must see places include:

North Island - The Coromandel, for some of the best beaches you will ever see (it's like looking at a real life postcard)

Wellington - the capital and very nice, less crowded than Auckland and better looking

Tongariro National Park - skiable mountains including mount doom from Lord of the Rings fame, a simply breathtaking lake, and the wonderful little town of Taupo

Northland - for Cape Reinga, the north tip on NZ where you can see the Pacific and Tasman seas merge, 90 mile beach (actually closer to 90km long) and the bay of islands, a coastal area with dozens and dozens of picturesque islands off the shore

Raglan - a small surfer town with black sandy beaches and world class surfing.

South Island - Marlborough Sounds, a web of forested hills and mountains separated by water for miles and miles, quite breathtaking to view from a height, and if your lucky, at night you may get the chance to see glowing water (very hard to describe, millions of plankton in the water glow luminous green as you move through the water, its like swimming through a CGI effect) sounds crazy, but it's true, although this is no guarantee, it requires quite precise water temperatures.

Fiordland - an entire mountain range dissected by huge rivers (technically known as fiords), some of the worlds best hiking can be found here

Milford Sound - recognised worldwide as one of the most beautiful places you could ever see, truly it has to be seen to be believed.

- Queenstown is party capital of NZ, breathtakingly set in between mountains, Wanaka is on a lake, is beautiful, the best place to relax and do nothing. Both are great for skiing/snowboarding

Southland/The Catlins - sheep as far as the eye can sea, and a very good chance at seeing wild seals and penguins

And there are many many more places to visit on both islands, after one year there I had not seen everything that I wanted to. If there was only one thing I could say about New Zealand, it was worth going, more so than I thought possible beforehand.

If you're thinking about study abroad, feel free to e-mail me with any questions at jonooborn@hotmail.com

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