What's it like to take a degree in New Zealand?

Rachael is studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in political studies and criminology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She explains why she chose to take an entire degree so far from home.

Why did you choose to study in New Zealand?

I wanted to combine study and travelling, and didn’t really want to stay close to my home in the UK. I had heard great things about New Zealand from everyone who had visited and lots of good feedback about the University of Auckland, so decided to come out and see for myself.

What was the application process like?

The application process was really easy, but I was helped out a lot by Study Options. They were extremely helpful throughout the entire process. They helped me decide which university to both apply to and go to, helped all the way through the application process and the piles of paperwork necessary with the visa, and even checked up on me when I got to NZ to make sure I was doing OK. I don’t think that I would have come here if it weren’t for their help.

How did your family and friends react to the news?

Both my family and friends were very supportive, and a little jealous, of my decision to come out here. My parents were a little apprehensive when I was first thinking about coming to NZ but once they knew that Study Options could help me with the process, and saw that the qualification would be the equivalent of getting a degree in the UK, they were very happy to support my decision.

Were you comparing New Zealand with another country when you were considering your study options?

I had been looking at studying in Canada, but couldn’t find enough information on their website about what the entry requirements were and when I emailed them they were vague. I decided that it would just be easier to apply for universities where the entry requirements were clear so I could at least plan whether it was likely that I would get in or not.

How did the fees in New Zealand compare to what you would have paid in the UK?

They are slightly more than the Channel Island fees I would have to pay if I went to a university in the UK.

What about the cost of living?

Some things, such as rent, are quite cheap compared with the UK, but other things are more expensive like fresh vegetables in the supermarket, especially the ones they import. On the whole though, the cost of living isn’t too expensive, provided you are smart with where you shop.

How are you finding the experience of living and studying in New Zealand?

Living in NZ has been great — the people I have met have been lovely and the atmosphere of the country is quite chilled out, which is nice. I came here hoping that I would be able to combine studying and travelling, and have been able to do just that. In the three years I have lived here, I have done a road trip around most of the North Island, backpacked around the South Island and been to Thailand and Australia because flights are a lot cheaper to places in the Asia-Pacific region. Also, NZ isn’t too different to the UK in many aspects so it hasn’t been too much of a culture shock and I have found it quite easy to fit in and adapt to NZ culture.

What do you plan to do after your course is finished?

I finish my degree Nov 2012 and have got a contract for a job at home for a year in order to save some money so I can come back to NZ and pursue a master’s degree.

Are there any things you are finding difficult about living in New Zealand?

Sometimes I find it difficult being so far away from home. Popping back home for a weekend is not a viable option considering the flight takes about 25 hours and costs a lot. Being around great people and keeping myself busy has meant that I’m not homesick too often, and using Skype to video-call my friends and family has helped me in overcoming this difficulty.

How do you think your experience of studying abroad will be viewed by employers and was this something that was a factor in your decision?

This was not something that factored into my decision originally, because the main reason I looked at universities outside the UK was because I thought if I didn’t like the place I was living it would be harder to enjoy and work hard for my degree. However, thinking about it now, it is a something that makes you stand out to an employer and shows that you were able to be independent and adapt to living without family close by at the age of 18.

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