After graduating from college, I participated in a three-month internship abroad in New Zealand through New Zealand Internships. Prior to embarking on this adventure, I knew very little about the country besides the fact that it’s any outdoor-enthusiast’s paradise. My journey hardly went as I anticipated, but in the best possible ways. I highly encourage any student or aspiring world traveler to make their way to New Zealand, and here’s why:
1. The warm Kiwi welcome.
2. The vast variety of landscapes.
Vast golden beaches, black sand beaches, mountain ranges, volcanoes, fjords, glaciers, geysers, lakes, rivers, goldmines, islands: New Zealand has it all. Literally any scene you want, you’ve got it. I was in New Zealand for three months and going on an adventure to a new place every week, if not more often. I only dipped my toes into the ocean of the scenery the beautiful country has to provide. To name a few:
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Fiordland National Park
3. It's easy to get around.
Bus services such as Stray Travel and Kiwi Experience make it easy to get around and see the beautiful landscapes and tourist destinations. These services are in partnership with local hostels, tours, and activities. Just sign up for your plans while you’re on the bus and pay when you arrive -- it’s that easy! They’ll drop you off and pick you up from whichever activities you choose. There’s plenty to choose from, including whale-watching tours, swimming with dolphins, bush walks, skydiving, piloting your own plane, and helicopter tours (to only name a few). Then, they’ll drop you off at your accommodation. Stay one night (or two, or three, or ten) and book a spot on your next bus to take you to your next destination!
If you are studying or working and can’t commit to two- to three-week long excursions, single-day and weekend options are available, as well. Student Trips, based out of Auckland, plans one- to three-day long trips, including accommodations, sightseeing, activities, and meals. All you have to do is book your seat on the bus!
By far the best part about bus services is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, and most of them are college students. When I traveled with Student Trips and Stray Travel, I met people from Holland, Germany, Norway, Canada, the UK, Malaysia, and many other countries across the globe. I got to know these people fairly well, too, as I ran into them on a lot of the same bus trips.
Base Backpackers, a popular hostel chain in New Zealand and Australia, has locations all over the country. In their hostels, they have travel desks with agents who can help you plan your day, week, or entire vacation as a whole at discounted rates.
If you prefer to travel alone or with a few friends, there are other options for you, as well! Domestic flights run regularly and car rentals are relatively inexpensive. Just remember, they drive on the left side of the road!
4. Sports galore!
It's never too hard to find a friendly game of soccer, golf, basketball or cricket to play in. Kiwis are an athletic bunch and are down to play whatever, whenever! Except maybe not American football. In New Zealand, they play rugby.
Kiwis hold tremendous pride in their rugby team, the All Blacks. And rightfully so, as the All Blacks have held the number one ranking in the World Rugby Rankings longer than all other teams combined. They have a 76 percent winning record in test-match rugby, and are the only team with a winning record against every opponent. These ruggers are known for performing the traditional Māori war dance, the “Haka,” before each match.
The All Blacks are New Zealand’s national team, but there are several teams by city that compete all over the county. This is the case for several other sports, as well. These games are a blast to attend with a group of friends!
5. You can live like Hobbits do.
Lord of the Rings fan? Fun fact: It was filmed in New Zealand.
6. The rich history and culture.
Many students are enthusiastic to travel to European countries due to its extensive history and culture we learned about through our education. New Zealand is also rich in history and culture, but you probably haven’t learned about it in school!
Before the British colonized New Zealand in 1841, the island was already inhabited by the Māori people, originating from Southeast-Asia. The current Kiwi population holds a mix of Māori and British descendants. Tourist locations, such as Rotorua in the North Island, teach travelers about the native Māori culture and traditions. New Zealanders take great pride in their native history. It is not uncommon to see signs, logos, and advertisements translated into the Māori language throughout New Zealand (“Aotearoa”).
Most bus and boat tour guides will have some interesting facts and stories to tell about the Māori people and their history. The most interesting thing I learned about the Māori people is that, traditionally, they did not have a written language. Therefore, all of their history was passed down the generations through storytelling.
7. The diverse population.
Both for travel and business, New Zealand hosts travelers and immigrants from all over the world. There is a beautiful mix of people, cultures, and backgrounds, especially in more populated cities. People from all walks of life call New Zealand home.
8. It's one of the safest countries in the world.
The Global Peace Index ranked New Zealand as the fourth safest country to work and travel in 2015, just after Iceland, Denmark, and Austria. In comparison, the United States ranked 94th. New Zealand is so safe for a few important reasons. First, the people are generally accepting of a majority of lifestyles, as the population is so vastly diverse. Second, the police force is very trustworthy and strives to establish a cooperative and strong relationship with the citizens it protects, while taking every crime seriously. Third, there is little to no international or civil conflict within or around the country. Finally, unlike its close neighbor, Australia, New Zealand holds no natural predators or poisonous wildlife that is threatening to humans. So, campers commence!
9. The happening nightlife.
Many popular NZ destinations, such as Auckland, Queenstown, and Wellington, are dense with club strips, bars, and pubs. Even if you’re outside a major city, local nightlife never seems to be hard to find. Or, if you prefer a quieter evening by yourself or with a couple friends, a relaxing night stargazing on the beach is just as fulfilling.
10. You can easily travel to nearby countries and islands.
New Zealand’s summer takes place between December and March. Most students and workers alike take advantage of their holiday by traveling for weeks at a time, if not longer! As a majority of New Zealand population lives on the North Island, many of them take advantage of their holiday by exploring the South Island. However, surrounding locations including Fiji, Melbourne, Sydney, and Bali are not far away. If you’re already flying to the other side of the world, why not explore around?
11. The rare sights and activities.
Alongside the stunning scenery and sweeping views are the sights and sounds that you may only experience once in your lifetime. New Zealand is home to many natural rarities that will take your breath away. It’s not every day you get to walk along a black sand beach, look over the rock formations that look like stacks of pancakes, or see a rock perfectly split in two that balances on top of another. One of the most amazing sights is the glow worm caves. Are you in a cave, or out in space looking around at the stars?
12. It's the adventure capital of the world.
The bungee jump was invented in New Zealand, and Queenstown is home to one of the longest bungees in the world at a crazy 134 meters above the Nevis River. But, that's only dipping your toe into the ocean of adrenaline and adventure New Zealand has to offer.
Queenstown alone is dense in opportunity for extreme sports. By far the most extreme, in my opinion, is the Canyon Swing, where you bungee down then swing across Canyon Fox. How would you like the go? Ride a tricycle off the cliff, get kicked by the attendant yelling "SPARTA!" or hang by a bundle of strings as they cut them one by one by one... until you plummet 182 meters down a canyon. The choice is yours.
There are other several other options for adventure, as well, such as sky diving, hang gliding, river rafting, cliff jumping, parasailing, etc. Of course, there are less extreme options such as kayaking, jet boat riding, helicopter tours, mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding, and 4-wheeling. There are plenty of sight-seeing opportunities, as well. Taking a ferry tour of the beautiful Milford Sound is definitely a must-do.
My journey to New Zealand was an adventure I will never forget. It is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world, filled with friendly folks, delicious food and drink, and a fascinating culture. I highly recommend New Zealand to any and every student and traveler. It is the experience of a lifetime.