Departure Gate 16: How This Kiwi Flew The Nest And Ended Up Halfway Around The World

Author: Michaella//University of Auckland//New Zealand

Hello lovely readers! My name is Michaella and I am a second year BA student studying English and Drama (usually at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, but for one semester I’ll be commencing my studies here at the University of Manchester!) A few short things about myself before I launch into this post is:
-I’m a dog person
-My favourite food is pretty much anything involving chicken
-If Shakespeare was still alive today I would probably die for him if need be (fave play is Othello if any of you were wondering)
-And I chose to study in Manchester because A) It’s in the United Kingdom, and I’ve been dying to come here since I was 14, and B) My friends visited once and they said that out of all of Europe, Manchester was their favourite place (And I’m beginning to see why!)

So now that we’re acquainted, I’ll get started with my first blog post here covering my journey from New Zealand to Manchester, with all the highs and lows and in-betweens.


First view of the University of Manchester

Every adventure should have a soundtrack, or in this case every blog post should have a song that accompanies and inspires it. For this one, that song would be The Lumineers’ Angela, with the key lyrics being:

“When you left this town with your windows down//And the wilderness inside.” 

Coming from an incredibly small town in a very small country, the trip from Auckland to Manchester would be my biggest one ever. At 19 years old, the furthest I had ever been from New Zealand was the island of Rarotonga (Bet some of you were thinking I’d say Australia, but nope! Still haven’t visited NZ’s big brother yet, but I’ll put it on the list!) And that had been with family. This would be completely different: a solo journey halfway around the world. Although I had known for months now that my exchange would be going ahead, it didn’t feel real until the night before me and my family made the trip to Auckland city. Sitting in your bed and knowing that this is the last time you’ll be sleeping in it until 2018 is a daunting thought. You are literally leaving the nest that is your bed and your home and all the things that are familiar to you. But my bags were packed, my passport was ready, and there was nothing stopping me now. So, when I drove away from my hometown I kept myself together. I had the window down and my eyes facing forward, looking towards what would become the biggest step I have taken in my life – so far at least!

Certain things go through one’s head when they’re about to do something that will alter their lives. For me, it was “How much will I change while I’m overseas? Will it be a good change? Do I really want to go? Am I adult enough for this? What if the homesickness gets really, really bad? Who will admire the posters in my bedroom while I’m gone?” Some of these thoughts are going to be more intrusive than others and may even give you cold feet. My suggestion: just chill. Just breathe. Just think about all those months – years for some people! – of planning that has all come together, and what you had once only dreamed of is now becoming a reality. Nerves can make one doubt themselves, but that’s only natural. Just don’t fall for them. Put on a brave front and teach yourself how to adapt in a new country (because that will be one of the hardest parts – learning how to adapt). Also, it helps if you’re stubborn. I found that my stubbornness at how hard I had worked to get to this stage of my life very much outweighed the fear of the unknown.

Fast-forward to Auckland International Airport. My parents are there, my mother openly crying, my father looking pretty damn excited on my behalf. Even though I knew the farewells would be emotional, I didn’t plan on it being this hard. I was prepared for the homesickness I would feel while away, and I knew that it would be hard for my parents too, but I forgot about the actual “hugging, crying, you-be-safe-call-me-when-you-arrive-I-love-you” farewell scene. It was fine with my mates, we’re social media pros so keeping in touch is easier than breathing. My parents? My mum? Not so much (although I had spent my time teaching mum how to use Facebook’s video call, which we have been relentlessly abusing almost every day). So, just a little word of advice: steel yourself for an extremely emotional farewell, especially if you’re traveling somewhere that makes it difficult to go back to during Christmas holidays. Also make sure everyone has Skype or Facebook or something that makes it easy (and free!) to video call one another. God bless technology!

And with that, I was on board a plane and headed off to Dubai! I was lucky enough to be flying with Emirates and was treated to some pretty decent plane food and complimentary drinks, tv screens in the seats, and even a little pouch containing an eye mask, earplugs, a toothbrush, and some toothpaste (which I thought was awesome). I wish I could say that the flight went quickly, but honestly? Not the case. By the fifth hour I was wondering why it wasn’t illegal for people to be stuck on planes for so long. By the seventh I was thinking about getting into politics just so I could make up a new law saying it was illegal for flights longer than four hours to occur. I blame these thoughts on the altitude and the fact that for 17 hours I didn’t see the sun (Sooo unnerving! If it wasn’t for the lights below in cities I don’t even know the name of, I would’ve thought the whole world had disappeared and we were now just flying through space and time with no end in sight!).


Dubai Airport just as the sun was rising

But an end finally came and we landed in Dubai! Then, about an hour later, I saw the sun once more and my sanity was restored (Until the next seven hour flight where all I could see was bright clouds and whiteness, a stark contrast compared to my previous view). During this flight though I began to feel it. My heart, which had been heavy with sadness at leaving my family and home country, was now fluttering at the thought of stepping onto UK soil. The closer we got to arriving the more excited I became. Suddenly, there was a break in the clouds and I could see. The very first thing I noticed about the UK was how green it is, automatically making me think of New Zealand. The second thing I noticed was how every town we flew over was made up of brick everything. It felt like I was flying over the set of Coronation Street, if Coro was replicated over and over again in certain clusters between green farmlands and hills.


My new and very lovely Faculty of Arts

Fast-forward to Manchester International Airport. Despite the jetlag that was hitting hard, my happiness at finally being in the UK was immense. When I stepped outside I had to take a moment to just pause and take in all the sights and sounds (and also revel in the feeling of a breeze against my skin after a full 24 hours of not feeling anything like that at all). When I saw my first black cab, I let out a very audible squeal (not as loud as when I saw my first squirrel, though!) It’s total bliss, being able to mentally tick a life goal off the list. Arrive in Manchester, UK safely, Tick!

Since arriving I’ve slowly been learning my way around the city, have started student life at the University of Manchester, made great friends, gone to a concert, joined the International Society, and have even done little day trips around England. However, all that can wait for the next post which will be up in the near future, so stay tuned lovelies!





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