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Working and Learning in New Zealand

Exploring and Working in New Zealand as a Teaching Assistant

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Helen Winter

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Written by: Eleanor Clark

My gap year placement took me about as far as you can go. I travelled across the world to New Zealand to work as a hostel supervisor and teaching assistant in a small town called Gore, located in the south of South Island.

The work

Working on a gap year can be completely unpredictable. Some jobs you just clock in a few hours and go exploring, but my job required a lot of hard work, which I think made it more exciting and memorable. At the hostel, my mornings would start at about 7am to help set up breakfast – mostly burning the toast – and I would usually finish at around 9pm. Like I said, it was hard work, but I was never counting the hours.

Evening duties were a lot more active. I would check the children in from school, drive the hostel van around the town, supervise homework club, help with the dinner dishes and supervise prep and locking up. On other nights I would watch over the dormitory, which involved putting the children to bed at the appropriate times (not necessarily getting them to sleep at this time) and making sure they were quiet and in their own rooms.
I had an amazing time working at the hostel. I loved spending my time interacting with the kids and supervising the same dormitory gave me the chance to get to know the children quite well. You wouldn’t believe the excuses they came up with for one more bedtime story! Driving the van was probably the most stressful part of the job, keeping your cool with a van full of backseat drivers, none of whom have a license, can be pretty tough! But hey, it made for great bedtime stories!

The exploring

It wasn’t all work and no play, though. In the first term of the year some new friends and I spent our weekends off driving around the South Island. We also fitted in a bungee jump, a boat trip, tours of a chocolate factory and a brewery, a kayaking trip in Abel Tasman, a rugby game and a cricket match between Australia and New Zealand. Some of these trips with the other travellers were my favourite times in New Zealand because we all had something in common – wanting to see a new country and try out new things.

As a member of staff I was also given lots of awesome opportunities. I attended a play in Invercargill, visit two camps in the beautiful Fiordland National Park, helped out on biology field trips, and stayed overnight in a wooden house on Marae grounds (the meeting place for Maori communities). It honestly couldn’t have worked out better, I was given the chance to see some of the country that I might not have seen otherwise, including Deep Cove, which is very remote and difficult to get to!
By the time leaving New Zealand came round, I really didn’t want to go. The hostel had become my home and the people there my family. New Zealand taught me so much about dealing with people and getting on with them no matter what. Mostly I learnt a lot about myself and would definitely say the experience has changed me for the better. I used to be quite shy around new people, now I have no problem with walking up to a new person and saying, ‘Hi! I’m Eleanor’.

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