Tell us about your New Zealand experience!
I went to New Zealand through BUNAC on the Essentials programme. I left in January 2014 and was there for 15 months – I came back in April 2015.
What did you do while you were over there?
I did two jobs which were both really cool. I first worked in a kiwi pack house in Te Puke (in the North Island – southeast from Auckland). The fruit was automatically boxed and I just sealed the box [laughs] and supervised all the operations in the factory to make sure nothing went wrong! I also did WWOOF’ing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) in Kaikoura where I worked on a llama farm for a month. I killed my first turkey there. You’re paid in accommodation and food, so while we were there a lot of the food we ate was from the farm.
What did you get up to on your time-off?
I went to the beach and drove around a lot… NZ is incredibly vast so we would drive around for days to see where we would end up. Those sort of spontaneous adventures are what travelling is all about. I’m also a huge Lord of the Rings nerd so I visited all the places where they filmed the movies. Hobbiton was beautiful. I saw where they filmed Edoras and I saw the studios in Wellington.
Was the experience better than you expected?
It was definitely better than I expected! It was actually really different than what I expected. I was surprised by how eye-opening it was. I flew over thinking that I would travel around by myself and meet people as I go but I made friends really easily and – deeply I guess. Everyone is in the same boat. When you’re thrown into that position, you bond with people like you’ve known them for years. I met lots of friends in Te Puke especially and we travelled around together, and I ended up living with them later on. My friends were from South America so I even learnt a bit of Spanish. I also didn’t expect the people I met to be from the countries they were from; they were from Malaysia, Argentina and Germany, and we were in New Zealand! I’m still in touch with the friends I travelled with; in a few weeks I’m going to Germany to see the people I met in NZ.
Did you learn any valuable life lessons?
I learnt independence. I mean, of course you learn to be independent at uni but this was on another level. You also learn to be open to any kind of avenue when you’re travelling. You might have a bucket list but don’t think that you have to do something. It’s good to be open to new ideas because plans often fall through. I didn’t expect to learn Spanish whilst in New Zealand either, so that’s definitely a valuable life lesson too!
What would you say to someone who was unsure about doing the programme?
Just do it! I would 100% recommend BUNAC’s programme to anyone. The thing I loved the most about BUNAC’s programme was that you’re not obliged to do anything. You have your own freedom, but you also know that if anything goes wrong or you’re not sure what to do in a certain situation they’re always there.
Can you summarise your New Zealand adventure in a few words?
Without sounding to cheesy, it honestly feels like a dream now. It was a hugely eye opening experience that was more fun than I could’ve hoped for.
What are your future travelling plans?
I’m heading over to Canada next on a working holiday visa and I’ll be visiting the SWAP offices to see how they help our participants over there. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my time in New Zealand with BUNAC.