Old-world English charm meets raw natural beauty in Christchurch. The largest town in the South Island of New Zealand, a distinct European touch lingers around the stone architecture of Christchurch. Even so, the wilderness surrounding the city creeps in through the river that winds through town and the many trees that sprout up in every direction you look. When you’re not in class you could be rafting through canyons, hiking through the surrounding Canterbury plains, or simply soaking up Christchurch’s relaxed vibe in one of the many bars and restaurants the town has to offer. Don’t delay — it’s time to study abroad in Christchurch!
Studying Abroad in Christchurch
The two main education providers in Christchurch are the University of Canterbury and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. These two great choices, combined with a few smaller institutions, mean you will be able to find courses to suit a diverse range of interests.
Christchurch has strong rural roots (you will notice a strong sheep theme during your stay) so this is the ideal location for studying agriculture and agribusiness. Because New Zealand's also investing a lot into the study of agricultural practices, and how to make them more sustainable and eco-friendly, studying in Christchurch can easily focus on science, biology, and conservation. For these nature-related courses, you will have ample opportunities for field trips to nearby farms and wilderness locations. If you are more inclined towards marine biology, Christchurch can cater for that as well, with a convenient coastal location. All along the coast you can find critters like seals, penguins, and even whales.
The semesters as you study in Christchurch do not match those in the northern hemisphere: the first semester starts in March and finishes in June, while the second semester starts in July and finishes in early November. If these times make it difficult to coordinate a semester abroad, there is also the option of studying abroad in Christchurch over summer, from December to February - yes, this means you will have a summery Christmas! Summer is the most agreeable time to be traveling New Zealand thanks to warmer and drier weather, but the New Year’s period is also the best time to catch dozens of festivals and other seasonal celebrations.
Life in Christchurch
Known as the Garden City, Christchurch is spilling over with the natural beauty that New Zealand is famous for. Green is everywhere, in the vast Hagley Park at the heart of the town, along the picturesque Avon river where Oxford-style boats punt leisurely, and in the glorious Botanical Gardens. In this scenic setting, you will easily slip into the laid-back lifestyle the city has to offer as you study abroad in Christchurch.
A gateway to the exploring the South Island, international students will certainly enjoy the access to the great outdoors. But just because New Zealand is in the Pacific Ocean, don’t make the mistake of thinking that Christchurch is hot. It can be chilly all year round, with temperature in summer rarely exceeding 72 degrees. Pack accordingly, or alternatively, make sure to buy some good merino clothing once you arrive!
The cultural heritage of Christchurch was shaken to the ground in a series of earthquakes that shook the city in 2010 and 2011. The cathedral that has pride of place in the center of the town was all but destroyed, and huge sections of the city were rendered unlivable. The scars from the devastating series of earthquakes are still evident. Despite these hard knocks though, Christchurch is experiencing a boom in growth, with much of the central city being rebuilt. Sharp, new buildings now stand alongside the old, and more bars, restaurants, and parks are popping up all the time. They say there’s no time like the present and that certainly rings true when it comes to studying abroad in Christchurch.
Accommodation & Visas
Program providers typically provide accommodation for study abroad students in Christchurch. This will usually be in student halls of residence, where you will find dozens of other international and local students to share your study abroad experience with. These halls can be rowdy and booze-soaked, so if you would prefer something a little quieter, homestays are also a great option. If you want even more independence, you can look for a room in a house (what Kiwis call a flat) with other students. Flatting is a fun way to see how Kiwi students live (spoiler alert: usually in cold houses because they can’t afford heating. You’ve been warned!).
In order to study abroad in Christchurch, international students will need to apply for a visa online. The process is straightforward, providing you have already been accepted into a course of study with an approved institution or exchange program. There are slight variations in the types of student visas available, sp to find out exactly which type of visa you are eligible for, and how to apply for it, visit GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
To study in Christchurch is to live in a prime location in the South Island of New Zealand. From here, you can travel all over, taking in the hiking, skiing, climbing, and extreme sport opportunities that New Zealand is famous for. The landscapes of the South Island are legendary, and studying abroad in Christchurch is your chance to discover them for yourself.
Despite being New Zealand’s third largest city, studying abroad in Christchurch means adopting a small town vibe. On the bright side, you’ll feel like you become part of a tight-knit and welcoming community. The earthquakes may have broken the city in some ways, but in many others they made the Christchurch community stronger. People have a deep affection and pride for their town, and they will be thrilled that you have chosen Christchurch as your study abroad destination. It won’t be long before you are being invited to backyard barbeques, and sipping L&P (the famous Kiwi soft drink) with locals.
If you secretly dream of becoming an honorary Kiwi (as in a person who lives in New Zealand, not the bird), studying in Christchurch might just be your chance. Head down to the crazy, colorful, cheerful Christchurch for a sweet as study abroad experience you’ll never forget.