Tips for future US/NZ Fulbright DAT’s

Congratulations on your Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. You are no doubt extremely excited to begin your journey, and I hope it is filled with amazing adventures.  There are many things you will discover and experience during your time here in the land of the long white cloud, but below is a personal list of things that I think might be helpful:

Have tea with Pip and the gang at Fulbright NZ –  There is an open invitation to join the staff for tea weekdays at 10:15 am.  I waited much too long, and wish I had been visiting at least once a month. They are so lovely and knowledgeable, and truly want to get to know about you and your project. They can help with contacts, and other resources. Of course you can just email them, but sitting face to face having treats is SO much better.  I would recommend emailing them a few days before, just to make sure – but DO IT!

Look for housing early – Wellington is having a serious housing crisis, so even though it might cost you some money upfront, it will be worth it. Fulbright information lists sabbaticalhomes.com and trademe.com. Some teachers from our cohort found places via Fulbright people from last year, so email people from our cohort – it could get you a nice place. Personally, I used AirBnB and actually stayed in 3 different places around the city, on purpose. It may not be for everyone but it worked for me. My first three weeks I rented a room from a retired Secondary teacher I found on AirBnB. It was great because she showed me around, answered a bunch of questions, and basically made my initial adjustment so much easier. Then I got a two bedroom flat in the middle of the CBD, while I had company visiting. My last was a studio atop Mount Victoria (I did it for the view!). If you take some time and look on the AirBnB site, many places will give you a discount for staying more than a month. Last bits of advice: have a budget and check where you will be in relation to public transport.

Using public transportation – The bus and train system in the city is fantastic and can save you money over using an Uber (Taxi’s are a bit more) if you know a few simple things: 

  • For the bus, get a Snapper Card – use this little red card and tag on/off the bus. It calculates your zones, and gives you a 25% discount over cash fares. You buy it for $10 at almost any dairy (convenience store), and then add money to it as needed. You can top-up your account at a kiosk, or if you have a smartphone, just get the free app and make a mobile payment via NFC. Make sure you register your card – if you lose it (like I did), you still have to pay $10 for another card, but you don’t lose the money that was on your account (they send you a credit link once you register your new card).  Snapper
  • For the train, know where you are going – Train fares can add up quick, but it also depends on where and when you are travelling. For example:  I visited schools in Lower Hutt two to three times a week and the round trip fare was $13/day peak times. Off peak saves you $1.50 one way, but it is between 9:30 am and 2:00 pm. THEN, during tea at Fulbright NZ, Sarita told me about the 10 day pass. It costs $49.80 to Lower Hutt, can be used at any time, and doesn’t expire. There are also 10 day passes for other locations and monthly passes for unlimited travel between specified locations. A monthly pass is only good for the calendar month in which you purchase it. You can buy tickets/passes at the window (or on the train with cash). MetLink 
  • Check the routes and schedules – The buses and trains are consistent with exceptions for holidays, community events, early morning and late night travel, and weekends. I stayed in a cute flat at the top of Mount Victoria, which was great – except I didn’t think about getting around to or from there. The bus closest to my place only ran on weekdays from 7:50 am to 6:40 pm. There were other buses, but getting home consisted of a 20 minute walk up a very – steep – hill! Also, they alter and even cancel schedules for every holiday, festival, parade, etc. 

Embrace walking – It is the best way to see this beautiful city. I walked a lot, and always felt safe (although I didn’t walk very late at night in unfamiliar areas). Just remember, that if you walk down, you might need to walk back up – so be prepared and get a Snapper Card. If you really want to get some exercise and see amazing scenery, join a walking group (meetup.com) or pick up a book – I really liked Walking Wellington by Kathy Ombler.  There is a very good website, Wellington Walks , and an app called Welly Walks. *Note – bring good walking shoes (shoes are very expensive here). 

Talk to everyone about being a Fulbright Teacher – Kiwi’s are very friendly and there are surprisingly few degrees of separation. You will be amazed at the connections you can make by telling someone you are here doing educational research with Fulbright NZ and the University of Victoria (VUW). I received school invites, Ministry of Education interviews, and lots of good information and advice. 

Look for professional development opportunities before you get here – Fulbright US will give you information on PD Grant Funding. I highly recommend applying, but start looking for events, seminars, schools, etc before you arrive. I missed an opportunity to see John Hattie at the beginning of my trip! Be specific in your search. If you google PD in New Zealand, you will get very broad results. NZ public schools are in charge of their own professional development, so that can be hit or miss. My advice is to check out researchers who are connected to your inquiry project, and see if they will be in New Zealand. In our cohort, teachers received funding for everything from visiting schools around the country, attending lectures and conferences at other Universities and in Australia. 

Understand the passive voice of Kiwi’s – Eric Yates, organizer of Fulbright/VUW advisers, sent us this link to some very funny, but useful, “Lifeswap” videos. They are a series of short animations that illustrate the adventures and misadventures of two young men, Jörg, from Germany and Duncan, from New Zealand.  Episodes 2 and 10 are pretty accurate!  NZ Lifeswap

Miscellaneous – Here are some additional things you might find useful:

  • Wear layers! The MetService weather app even advises how many layers you will possibly need. The layers are necessary because one minute it will be windy and chilly, and the next minute sunny and warm.
  • Things to do for free in Wellington:
    • Museums, including Te Papa, which is a must see more than once.
    • Government House Tour (home to the Governor-General of NZ)
    • Parliament Building Tour;  and when Parliament is in session you can watch the debate process from the Public Gallery, which is very interesting!
    • Botanic Gardens
    • Wellington Library – provide evidence of where you are staying, and you can get a library card to use while you are here.
  • Other things to do:
    • Zealandia  – I bought a membership and got a lot of use out of it, as it is open on holidays and gives you discounts. I highly recommend the night tour (half price with membership) in February, March, or early April, while the weather is nice. 
    • Wellington Zoo – is very nice, with lots of spacious habitats. Check the website for open weekends. There is usually one at the beginning of May for $2 entry (usually $25). 
    • Gym membership at the University – I signed up for group classes with my VUW staff badge and it was $90 for 3 months. 
    • Want to find even more fun stuff to do in Windy Welly? Then check out this site:  Wellington Events Calendar

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions – jteffray@wavecable.com 

Cheers!