June 2005 issue

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Impressive Auckland

A dynamic city with historic, cultural and natural charms, Auckland offers a new take on urban living. Amy Baker reports.

"The education system [in New Zealand] is of a British standard and similar to Australian, Canadian and UK systems," relates Anatole Bogatski, Director of Student Services at AIS St Helens. "So the real added value received by studying in Auckland – or New Zealand generally – is the fact that students are in a beautiful location, with friendly people and a lifestyle equal to the best in the world."

Other Auckland residents are just as enthusiastic about their city. "It is believed that God lives in Auckland in the month of February," says John Langdon at Dominion English School. "You can go swimming in pollution-free beaches until 9pm at night" orca whales swim happily in Auckland's harbour."

At Languages International - which was a forerunner of the industry in New Zealand and claims to have been the first English language school to have conducted promoted Auckland as a study destination to the outside world - Darren Conway relates that Auckland, in particular, is chosen by students because they "like the idea of studying in a big city". Auckland is without doubt the biggest city in New Zealand, yet, while offering typical city attractions such as "shops, cinemas, restaurants and bars", it also has nearby beaches and spectacular countryside just 30 minutes away.

Cleve Brown of Worldwide School of English in the city, relates, "Long-term students buy cars, which are quite cheap in New Zealand, and from Auckland you are never far from isolated beaches, mountains covered in native bush or other natural attractions."

Auckland itself is situated on New Zealand's North Island, on a narrow isthmus between two harbours. It has earned the nickname 'City of Sails' because of the keen yachting community; many yachts pepper the seascape, sailing in the harbours and under the harbour bridge that links the north shore to the south shore.

Many of the tourist attractions are in the central area of the city on the south shore, such as the famous Auckland Museum, which has many interesting Maori artefacts, and the Hobson Wharf Maritime Museum, which is dedicated to sailing.

Langdon mentions Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter and Underwater World, which is built underground and includes sharks and penguins among the visitor attractions. He elaborates, "Auckland has the world's greatest aquarium with its own penguin breeding programme", adding, "The Auckland Zoo provides an opportunity to see the kiwi and the tuatara – the only living species remaining from the dinosaur age."

Auckland is keen to promote its links to the natural world. Bogatski observes, "The great outdoors is always an attraction with 20 beaches on Auckland's north shore and more in other parts of Auckland. Paragliding, board sailing, yachting, fishing and other sea-based activities are popular." Brown adds that other sports attract a lot of attention in the city, such as kite-surfing at Mission Bay, playing rugby and cricket in the park, and Sky Jumping off the Sky Tower.

Cultural activities are also popular with visiting students, and Auckland's culture is inherently intertwined with local Maori and Polynesian traditions. The city has the highest concentration of Polynesians in the world, with, according to Langdon, more Samoans living in Auckland than in Samoa! As a result, there are many festivals and events reflecting this heritage. Bogatski says, "Auckland Museum is New Zealand's most visited tourist attraction and the Maori concert party there has a large fan club."

Maoris are Polynesian by descent, and are thought to have arrived in New Zealand by canoe in a great fleet in 1350, although historians continue to debate the facts. The word Maori originally meant "local people" or "original people", as opposed to "pakeha" which was used to describe European settlers. The first European who tried to land in New Zealand was Dutchman, Abel Tasman, who thought better of it after several of his crew were killed and eaten in 1642. Briton James Cook later arrived in 1769 and despite initial violent confrontations, Cook claimed the islands as British and gradual colonisation, as well as war with the Maoris, ensued.

As a result of its history, the city has many historic ties to Great Britain. The oldest building in the city is called Acacia Cottage, built by early settler Sir John Logan Campbell, at the foot of One Tree Hill. The 183-metre high hill is so-called because it originally had a single totara tree at its peak. It is topped by a 20-metre tall granite obelisk, which bears inscriptions testifying to Maori-English friendship.

Mount Eden is another Auckland attraction that offers good views of the city. Named after George Eden, the first Earl of Auckland, it is the highest volcanic cone in the city. The urban alternative for exhilarating views is Sky Tower, which, at 328 metres high, is the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere. For those looking for a more active experience of the Sky Tower, there is a choice of the equally scary Sky Jump or Vertigo Climb.

Aside from the many attractions that Auckland itself offers – sailing on the harbour and visiting some of the many seafood restaurants are highlights, according to Bogatski – the language schools in the city also organise plenty of activities. At AIS St Helens, activities include horse trekking, four-wheel motorbiking and sports tournaments "with cricket, basketball, badminton and soccer clubs all taking part in the Auckland league", relates Bogatski.

Conway at Languages International adds, "We aim to introduce students to New Zealand culture and our way of life, as well as to encourage them to get out and about and have fun with other students. Our activities range from basketball, volleyball, rugby and golf to flax weaving, bone carving, theatre and ballet, and bungy jumping, sky diving, windsurfing and sailing."

Agent viewpoint

"There is a working holiday system in New Zealand. Students think they would like to enjoy the relaxing lifestyle in New Zealand. Around 90 per cent of our customers intend to study in Auckland. In their spare time, they spend time with friends, go shopping, go to the zoo, visit museums, etc. Auckland best suits a mature person, who does not expect too much entertainment."
Yasuyo Mori, Last Resort, New Zealand

"Students want to study in Auckland because there are quality schools and normally they want to get to know the countryside of New Zealand after their studies. New Zealand has a good reputation in Switzerland as clean and safe with friendly people and a relaxed lifestyle. Students enjoy the cities and villages but also the countryside and nature. Two-thirds of our clients who have chosen New Zealand study in Auckland."
Annette Willi, Lingua Net, Switzerland

"Students choose Auckland because of the immersion programme [we offer in a high school]. The people in Auckland are extremely friendly, hospitable and warm. Also, it is a very safe city and students can carry on a very sporty lifestyle."
Cristina Aguilera, She Herencia, Spain

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