“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

I still remember the excitement and fear I had for my flight to New Zealand. The night before, I stayed curled up in Maa’s arms just like a baby.

“You are an adult now, Akku. Look, I’m so excited my little baby girl is going to explore a new country, meet new friends – you desire the freedom, don’t you? Stop worrying, we will always be there with you… in your heart.”

I remember those words as if Maa just said them to me awhile ago.

I was filled with curiosity about Auckland. How diverse will its culture be? What will be the social norms? What will Unitec campus be like in real life? Will I befriend new people from different cultures? and the questions go on. I even prepared a huge list of things I want to participate in! However, things aren’t easy for an international student like me. The first hurdle I faced was finding an accommodation. It was one of the hardest challenges I had to overcome. After travelling almost half of the Auckland region, I finally found an ideal house where a family of four took me in not as some stranger but as a part of their own.

When it was getting harder for me to handle everything at once, when I couldn’t control my tears from falling because I was so tired and I was missing my parents so much, that is when Mrs Stern helped me clear my sadness. She treated me just like her little daughter. Ms Stern, her daughter, shared her experiences at Unitec and how good her course is. We started sharing a sisterly bond and soon she became the first friend I made here in New Zealand. Mr Stern invited Indians over their house just to make sure I was not feeling homesick. It made me realise that this is what home is supposed to be like; even though there isn’t any blood relation, but with a bond that is beyond blood that comes from the heart, a family away from home.

Shortly, my course began. Things started falling into place. I always wanted to become a writer so I started an internship with Unitec Student Media, which helped me achieve my dream to write. Unitec hosted an amazing international orientation where I met more Indians like me – teenage adults struggling to fit in. Apart from my fellow Indians, I also met many students from different nationalities and from there made a group of friends – Dara, Dirk, Olga, Sameer, and Manish. Navigating Unitec’s Mt Albert campus for the first time was very confusing. I was so scared of getting late to my class because I got lost and couldn’t find my way to my class. One of my professors saw me really stressed out one time so she handed me a Unitec campus map, held my hand, and just like a guide, brought me to my next classroom. Discovering I have a very culturally diverse class made it easier for me to befriend people of different age groups and nationalities. It was fun and interesting to discuss our different origins.

I met friends not only in Unitec, but even outside it. I go to a poetry showcase called Poetry Live. The Kiwi audience welcomed me with warmth and smiling faces. They appreciated my talent and kept my ideas in consideration. There is a struggle sometimes, though. During conversations, I talk in such a manner that some people get offended and use it in a bad reference. Nowadays, I’m learning from a friend of mine and I refrain from using some words.

The best part about Auckland is having no worries. Certainly, it’s one of the happiest places in the world! It is a home to people from different cultural backgrounds, religions, and origins with no disregard to any, which makes it even more like home. It is a place you feel accepted and appreciated! Whenever I miss home, I think about all the positivity I’m gathering in my heart from my surroundings. The satisfaction. Or I visit the sea shore and just like the waves, my head gets calmer and I’m at peace!

Although, I’m still adjusting and making corrections occasionally, I’m learning from this new freedom I have received and this carefree environment.

Words and Photo by Akula Sharma.