I had an incredible and unforgettable time in New Zealand and I can say it was the best time of my life so far. But let´s start at the beginning.
When my friend told me she was going abroad for half a year, I was impressed. That was the first time I thought about doing the same thing. At the beginning I was a little bit afraid and I didn´t know if that was the right thing for me. But then I talked with some friends who had already gone abroad about it and they recommended the company stepin. So my father and I went there to talk with them about an exchange. That took some of my fears away and, after our talk, I was very certain. I wanted to go abroad and I wanted to go to New Zealand! I can´t really tell you why I wanted to go to New Zealand but it just attracted me. It was so far away; different cultures, different landscapes, different people and a different way of life. I just wanted to try something new, wanted to experience things and grow with the challenge.
A few weeks later, there was a seminar organized by stepin where I met many people at my age that wanted to do the same thing. The people were not only going to New Zealand, but also to the USA, Canada, Ireland and Australia. We had presentations from people who are back in Germany now, had a workshop about different situations and we talked about our fears and hopes. It was really good to know that there were many people who were afraid of the same things I worried about and it took some more fears away.
After filling out my application, including the letter for my future host family and my visa, I had to wait. I was so excited that I checked my emails every day. About one month before I left, I finally got my host family. They seemed very nice and I knew that I was ready to go. It was the perfect timing!
At the airport, we said goodbye to friends and family and after a 22-hours flight we finally arrived in Auckland, the biggest city of New Zealand. The first three days we had orientation days in Auckland organized by stepin where we talked, asked questions and visited sights in Auckland. After these days, a shuttle came to pick everybody going to Tauranga up and after another 3-hours drive I finally arrived. I couldn´t believe it and was very excited. My host family came out of the door and gave me a big hug. Directly, I felt welcomed.
I lived in Papamoa which is a part of Tauranga in the region Bay of Plenty. It´s a beautiful district where you are always close to the beach. My house was one level as most of the houses in New Zealand. I had my own room and shared a bathroom with my 7 year old host sister. We also had a dog and a cat and a big backyard with a pool.
At the first evening we met our neighbours who also had two exchange students. They were going to my school and we got along very well. My first day at school was the Monday after I arrived. I went to school by bike or by bus as it was 6 kilometers away.
The first three days, we had orientation days at school where we talked about rules, wrote a test in English and Maths to see where we´re at and did a trip around the Mount. We also chose our subjects. There were three compulsory subjects (English, Maths and Science) and three other subjects we could choose. I had Outdoor Education where we went rock climbing, mountain biking and surfing, Hospitality where we cooked and did Wood Work.
School in New Zealand is different in many ways compared to our school in Germany. It had many different buildings instead of one big building and we also had two sports fields, a gym and a swimming pool. Every day we had five lessons which are each 60 minutes long. School starts at 8:45am and ends at 3:10pm. We also had an international office at our school which organized many trips for the internationals and which was always there for you if you had any questions. There were three trips per term. I visited the Hobbiton Movie Set and went to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
I also went on a south island trip with some friends for two weeks. We had an incredible time and I was so glad that I could see all these wonderful landscapes. Moreover, I went to a rugby game from the All Blacks vs. Tonga which was very impressive. The All Blacks are the national rugby team from New Zealand and rugby is the national sport.
My host family took me on some trips too. We went skiing twice, went to Rotorua a few times and the last weekend before I had to leave we went camping in Whangamata. We also visited the Cathedral Cove in Coromandel.
It was very impressive and I´m very thankful for every single thing my family and host family did for me. It was the best time of my life so far and I can´t believe how much I experienced in only five months. I´m so happy to say New Zealand became my second home and my host family became my second family. I am grateful for everybody I met, especially my kiwi friends who were very open-minded and interested in meeting new people. We had a lot of fun together and I`m glad we`re still in contact.
If you have the chance to do such a year abroad, then go for it. You will get more self-confident, independent and it will help you in your future life. I can´t say how glad I am for all of this.
Thank you for the happiest year of my life!
Julia Freytag (10b)