Picture this: You’ve just arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, where you’ll be studying at Auckland University of Technology your home on the other side of the world for the next four months. You meet one of your new roommates at the airport, a young woman from Spain, and you hit it off right away. After countless hours of travel, you somehow manage to make it to Wellesley Student Apartments (a.k.a. WSA), unpack, and spend thirty dollars on food from the convenience store across the street. But just when you think you’ll have a day to catch your breath and settle in, your roommate asks you to go to Auckland’s Pride Parade. Oh, and it starts in five minutes!
This was how I spent the first thirty-six hours of my study abroad experience. With my two roommates of WSA apartment 3E, Claudia from Spain and Nicole from Maine, I sped walked the thirty minutes to Ponsonby Road, which, I swear, is the longest street I’ve ever been on. Once we got to ‘the beginning’ of the road, we thought we made it. But we just kept walking, and walking, and walking, and walking. We eventually made it to the end of the parade where marchers were lining up, but big surprise, Ponsonby Road kept going!
Once we actually got to the beginning of the lineup, our next step was finding the group from the university where we are doing our exchange, Auckland University of Technology (AUT for short). All we were going off of was a brief Facebook post on the WSA page, so we honestly had no idea who or what to look for. Soon enough, we found a guy wearing an AUT shirt and he gave us the name of the church where students and staff were meeting. And after a couple of dead ends and awkwardly walking into the wrong entrance, we found our AUT group.
Things moved pretty quickly once we arrived. Color-coordinated in our free t-shirts, students and staff lined up under organza banners of matching colors— blue, pink, and white to represent the transgender pride flag. Dancing behind a decked-out pick-up truck blasting a playlist of Fergie to Icona Pop, we made our way down Ponsonby Road. The crowds lining the streets were insane, five rows deep of Kiwi’s (that’s what the locals are called) cheering us on and joining our mobile party. Auckland Pride was fast-paced, loud, and full of so much hype and joy, that after only a day and a half, I was already head over heels infatuated with the city.
So far, every day in Auckland has mirrored those first thirty-six hours. Living with over two hundred other international students and three hundred Kiwis makes for a lot of last-minute adventures but also, as cheesy as it sounds, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Everyone is in the exact same position as I am: eager, nervous, excited, and ready to make the most of these four months. It isn’t weird to introduce yourself to strangers on a hike or make conversation while waiting for the elevator. And best of all, no one judges you when you can’t figure out how something works!
Charlotte Williams studies professional writing and psychology. She is a tutor at the Writing Center, a writer and editor for the Center for Publishing, and an editor for Champlain’s literary magazine Willard & Maple.
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