New Zealand, which lies in the southern Pacific Ocean, is made up of the North and South Island, Stewart Island and a number of smaller islands. Comparable in size to the state of Colorado, New Zealand offers a unique and dynamic physical environment, which contains vast mountain chains, volcanoes, coastlines, fiords, glaciers, lakes and rainforests. Since New Zealand has been isolated from other major land masses for over 100 million years, it contains a high proportion of flora and fauna found only in this country, all of which makes New Zealand an interesting country to study.
While New Zealand is a relatively young country, it has a fascinating history, reflecting both Maori and European heritage. New Zealand is a bicultural nation with an ethnically diverse population. Its earliest inhabitants are Maori, New Zealand's indigenous people followed by Europeans, Asians and Pacific Island peoples. In contemporary New Zealand life, Maori has had a distinct influence on many aspects of its culture including literature, New Zealand television, entertainment, the arts, sports, governmental affairs and language with Maori words being introduced and used within the mainstream culture.
As a former colony of the United Kingdom, New Zealand has maintained close political and economic ties with the UK. This serviced New Zealand well as an emerging economy since it was able to export much of its products and services to the UK. However, since the mid-1980s, New Zealand has emerged as a global trading presence in it own right, exporting mainly agricultural products. Through membership in the World Trade Organization and a close trading relationship with Australia, Japan and the United States, New Zealand has been able to grow its export sector into one that is becoming increasingly globally competitive.
Politically and academically, New Zealand offers a safe and stimulating environment for study abroad students. New Zealand has eight universities and a range of other tertiary institutions which all differ in size and location. These institutions offer a wide range of general and specialist courses as well as offering a range of recreational and cultural opportunities. Many institutions offer comprehensive services to international students including housing placement services, international student orientations and specialized student welfare and support services.