Amelia-Jayne Banks - 2017 Program Participant

What inspired you to do an internship in New Zealand?

In 2016, after finishing my second year of university, I booked a working holiday in New Zealand through an organisation that helped me sort out my visa, group flights, accommodation, and insurance, etc. I thought this was great because I had always dreamt of visiting Australia or New Zealand since I was a young child, and now having this chance where everything would be sorted out for me seemed perfect.

Girl walking across Pelorus River in New Zealand
Pelorus River (The Hobbit), used in the barrel fighting scene

I chose to visit New Zealand over Australia because I wasn't such a big fan of hot weather, although I was a big fan of nature. I was originally going to be visiting New Zealand in their winter, which was like my ultimate dream come true. I spent three months traveling in New Zealand before I had to return home to go to my "study abroad" university in Helsinki, Finland. I thought that by going to New Zealand for a short amount of time beforehand, it would give me that opportunity to get used to living in another country alone and without my family being in direct contact. It was definitely the big step that I needed to prepare me for what was to come, and the first time around it taught me a lot of the skills I needed in order to live alone in another country.

After I returned from my first ever New Zealand trip, I spent six months in Finland. In Finland they didn't speak a lot of English, so that was quite a challenge for me; however, by then I was pretty independent. I also needed to find an Internship for after my six months study in Finland, so I remembered back that I still had my year visa for New Zealand and thought, WHY NOT? Why not go back to New Zealand and discover that Kiwi vibe further? I wanted to understand the Kiwi perspective on their effective advertising, so much so that I could take it home and introduce it to any future advertising that I did.

Why did you choose New Zealand Internships?

I was having a tough time finding an internship in New Zealand and when I contacted my previous contacts from New Zealand they told me that Internships here "weren't really a thing." The deadline for my internship application at my university was fast approaching and I had even decided to apply for internships in Australia (although this would mean taking a whole new visa). I wanted to maximize my travel time, so ideally I wanted an internship in New Zealand to finish off my current working holiday visa.

I was advised to check out New Zealand Internships as they were the leading provider of internships in New Zealand. I thought that I was way too late to be able to apply for an internship as I was only giving them a month’s notice. I sent my application and they found me an internship opportunity in a matter of days. I was truly shocked, because I had kind of lost most hope in returning back to New Zealand, especially because I heard there weren't many job opportunities in my sector, but I was so thankful and amazed when they found me an internship. The process was also a lot easier for me, as I had already got my visa and insurance. I only needed to book my flights as everything else (including accommodation) was sorted.

What was your favorite part about New Zealand?

I strongly believe that all of New Zealand is absolutely beautiful. I had the chance to travel New Zealand last year at the end of summer through the winter, and then this year I had the chance to work there throughout the whole summer; it is an amazing country in both seasons

During my internship, I was living in Albany, a place I had never been before. This made me even more excited because even though I had visited all the big cities previously, I was still keen to find them little spots and towns I hadn't been too. I was working in Takapuna, which was also a place I hadn't been to before. I had easy access to Auckland, which was ideal for me; I had the city on my doorstep and the opportunity to visit if I wanted, however, my accommodation was further out in the countryside.

This meant I had a beautiful view of the trees from my bedroom window and every morning I would wake up to the sound of crickets outside. It was quite funny because even if I rang home to speak to my family, they would ask me what the noise was and I'd say casually "Oh, it's just the crickets." They would chirp all day until dark. I even saw a gecko/lizard once! There was such a beautiful range of birds too as there was a local creek nearby, this meant I got all the colourful birds, which was also just amazing.

Although I had travelled most of New Zealand already in the winter, a few of my trips weren't very nice because it would rain, which meant the pictures I would get would make the place look a little dull. My host organization scheduled weekly trips to different locations in New Zealand though, which meant that if I wanted I could go back to the places I previously went and get some better photographs. It was summer by then, so the chance of it being colder and rainy were slim. Alongside this, I also got to visit places I had never been before, like certain beaches and Takapuna, etc.

University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory in New Zealand
We saw Saturn's rings through a telescope, endless shooting stars and constellations.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Interning in New Zealand was a completely different experience to backpacking New Zealand. While backpacking, you're constantly on the move, especially for me as I only had a limited amount of time so I was constantly on the move after a few days, and you spend a lot of time drinking and mixing with a range of different people, so you kind of feel like a tourist at times. 

However, when interning in New Zealand, you're based in one location and you feel more like a resident. You do your weekly shopping at the supermarket and you begin to recognize familiar faces in your area. You recognize who gets on your bus and who works in the local store. It becomes more familiar and you begin to settle in with the culture; it kind of becomes your home. You can watch the local news and you can visit local events and truly immerse yourself in Kiwi culture, but not from a tourist perspective. It is great!

I loved both my trips to New Zealand because I met two different types of people each time. I had two totally different experiences of New Zealand.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The staff at New Zealand Internships were great. They asked me how my last trip to New Zealand was and we shared our experiences. I asked them if I would be able to travel during my work because there was still parts of New Zealand I hadn't seen, and they said that I could and that it was fine. This made me so happy because, although I knew that I could go off for weeks at a time, I could still discover new places whilst working my internship.

They also supported me with my accommodation when I told them that I didn't really want to live in the city because I'd already been there and I wanted something new, but with the city still in close radius. The accommodation was also given based on the location to your internship organisation, so I was really lucky that my organisation wasn't based in Auckland's Central Business District, which is why I got my accommodation in Albany.

They were really helpful and allowed me to maximize my time in New Zealand as much as possible. I also had friends who were visiting New Zealand for the first time and the staff sorted out central accommodation for them and were always getting them involved in events in the city so that they could really experience Auckland and feel the vibe of the "City of Sails." The staff could also arrange discounts for Bungy jumps from the Auckland bridge or the skytower for all the interns, which was really nice of them.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

One thing I wish I had done differently was probably finish my internship a little earlier so that I could take one last final trip around the South Island. It is quite obvious that in the summer all the tourist attractions, like Cathedral Cove, Piha Surf Beach and Cape Reinga, are all super busy with people. This was something that made me glad I did see those places in the winter.

The hot water beach was extremely busy when the weather was good too. When I went to hot water beach in the winter, low tide was late at night around 12 a.m. to 1 a.m. and we all ran from our accommodation to the beach in our swimwear. We dug our holes, sat in the hot pools, and watched the stars on the beach. There was just us, a group of about 15 and maybe one or two locals, and it was perfect.

If I had taken a shorter internship, then I could have visited the South Island again. It is ok though, because it's not the end of the world for me since I only took a year-long working visa. I am still eligible for another, so I can just come back some time again in the future! I would have also liked to have visited Fiji and some of the islands of the coast of New Zealand too.

Canyon Swing in Queenstown, New Zealand
Worst time to ask for a High Five! The Canyon Swing in Queenstown 109 meters height with a 60-meter freefall!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program. 

My accommodation was roughly one hour away from my work, which was only due to road work happening on the bus route so my internship allowed me to start at 9:30 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. as this would save me waking up at 5 a.m. I would wake up around 7 a.m. and get ready for work, and then I would leave my accommodation at about 8:30 a.m. and walk to the bus stop. I would spend about 45 minutes on the bus until I arrived in Takapuna at my work.

I would work on either my digital marketing projects or my media. For media, it was my role to go and take photographs of interns in their workplaces and conduct a small interview testimonial with them. I would do about two of these a week, and then I would also edit them for release. I would also wave to my flatmate who coincidentally was working at a New Zealand Loans office opposite mine.

We would have lunch at about 12:30 p.m. until 1:30 p.m. There was a range of food shops in Takapuna, including pizza places, Subway, Burger Fuel, Kebab shops, vegan sandwich stores, and Starbucks, just to name a few. We'd pick what we wanted for lunch and often go to sit on Takapuna beach and watch the stand-up paddle boarders or the dogs chasing their sticks into the water. Sometimes we'd even take a swim to refresh ourselves for the evening shift. We could see Mt Rangitoto from the beach.

Once we returned to work, I would work again until about 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays, because of orientation days; we would all be expected to meet and greet the new arrivals so often work after 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. didn't happen. We would also sometimes leave a little later than 5 p.m., depending on how long the orientation took with answering questions and so on. On other days, we would work until 5 p.m., and on Friday's we usually closed the office between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., giving us a nice early break.

On a standard day, I would get on the bus to go home at 5:15 p.m. and arrive at around 6 p.m. I would greet my flatmates, discuss work a little, cook some food, and then watch Netflix and talk to my friends and family until it was time for bed.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I would often participate in the bar crawl every Thursday based in Auckland's CBD. Sometimes I would go the cinema after work just to break my week up a little, or I would just go for a walk around Albany mall and get a coffee. I love the stores that are in New Zealand, but my favourite store is probably "Typo" or "Cosmic." If my suitcase had been big enough, I would have bought most things from these stores and taken them home to the UK. I loved the vibe of the stuff in those stores. 

I would also attend the weekly activities scheduled by my internship, such as basketball games and beer rugby in the park. It was all very social and I got to mix a lot with the other interns based in the city.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I loved my accommodation, as I mentioned before. The sound of the crickets outside my window every morning was perfect. It was close to Massey University, which often meant we got a lot of students. It had its own little town with a shopping mall, cinema, costume shop, banks, and everything you'd need really. A downside was it was about one hour from the city centre, however you could often Uber share if a group of people were going somewhere.

It was in the perfect student village, as it was a series of large houses split into two floors. There were eight rooms and a kitchen upstairs with bathrooms, and then on the lower floor another flat of eight rooms and bathrooms. There was space for parking, which was great, and a nice creek running past which attracted a lot of the birds. The rooms were big and spacious, and we each got a double wardrobe, a desk and chair, and a single bed. Our kitchen was joint with the living room, but we had a big spacious kitchen with a double fridge and freezer with lots of storage space. We also had a six-seater dining room table and three sofas with a large TV, which was ideal for when we hosted a flat party or needed a lot of people over at our places for films or whatever.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

There is a lot of dutch! This is something which I probably didn't realise before, but New Zealand Internships is a dutch company in New Zealand. Although they take interns from all over the main channels are French, Dutch, and UK or America. The biggest channel of them all is the Dutch channel. I met so many Dutch students that I thought I might as well have just chosen to work in the Netherlands. I also did meet a few French, a few English, and a few German, but the majority were Dutch. They also celebrate the Dutch occasions as well, so it is very interesting as it is like you're getting to experience two cultures in one, the New Zealand culture and the Dutch, to a degree. But, your workplace is often occupied with many Kiwi (New Zealand) people, so it's a nice balance of both cultures.

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

Going abroad really taught me how to deal with a lot of the things you face when you travel. I lost endless amounts of bank cards and my driving license, and I had to deal with that from New Zealand. It was difficult as there were many barriers because I could not open a new English bank account from overseas, resulting in me having to open a New Zealand bank account; this also restricted my funds for a while. It was very difficult, but the people I met taught me great skills and kept me calm during my times of crisis.

When I visited Finland and I struggled with the language barrier, that also taught me that other countries function in their owns ways. I think that sometimes it can become quite a habit to walk around and be able to communicate easily with people, so visiting a country where there's a language barrier makes you think and makes YOU change to them rather than having them change to your ways of communicating. I can look back at certain times and laugh now, whereas at the time I was borderline crying. It teaches you that there are some extremely great and kind people in the world who will help you at your times of struggle, but it also reminds you that you shouldn't expect things from people. You can't expect people to be nice to you just because things haven't gone your way. It can be tough at times, but I really loved it and I know it has been a crucial part to me growing up between the ages of 19 and 21.

I next plan to visit Africa, specifically Zanzibar and Kenya, to do some conservation work at a safari park and also work on a dolphin marine reserve. Visiting New Zealand has made me realise how beautiful the world is and that we should be doing more to protect it. Seeing how much the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand has melted and how they saved the Kiwi from being endangered is something we should all inspire to make a change.

Would you recommend New Zealand Internships to others? Why?

I would recommend my program because it is really simple and easy. You have everything sorted out for you and even if you struggle, they will guide you with putting the right things in place. It is very easy for those struggling at last minute or those who are a little scared to do it all themselves. I think you should just believe in yourself and go for it. That is what I thought the first time I did a bungy jump here in New Zealand. You just have to go for it because once the plans in place you can't turn around and go back.

Once you arrive here you will be doubting why you were every afraid. The New Zealand people are so nice, you can easily contact your home as they give you a cheap overseas international phone calls card, and Wifi is available. It is just New Zealand, you're not going into outer space or living on Mars. It's really not that scary, and once you've been, you will make some amazing lifelong friends who you can meet up with again if you ever return. You can even plan to go traveling with them after your internship. New Zealand really teaches you to live in the moment, let everything just flow, and to just go with it. I really adore New Zealand, I'm sad to have left!