Yvonne Sabina Malewski

What’s it like to study in New Zealand?

Yvonne tells us about her experience as an exchange student. She is studying the third year of her University of Birmingham MSci chemistry degree at the University of Auckland.

Why did you choose to study in New Zealand?

I knew about the study abroad programmes available at my university and I initially wanted to go to Australia. Unfortunately there were no places available so I decided to go to New Zealand instead. I had heard many positive things about it and thought it was a once in a lifetime chance.

How did your family and friends react to the news?

They all encouraged it and said it would be a brilliant opportunity.

What was the application process like?

Quite stressful — though the university study abroad team sorted out most of the paperwork I had several applications to fill in. When I arrived I did have to pick my own modules (papers as they’re called here) and create my own timetable. It was stressful as one of my lectures clashed with a lab and because the other lab ‘stream’ for the same class was full, I had to stay in that lab and miss my lecture every week.

How did the fees in New Zealand compare to what you would have paid in the UK?
Because it was organised by the university, I only paid the university back home and it was only half that of the usual tuition fee (so around £1,700).

What about the cost of living?

It’s expensive — rent alone in the city is approximately NZ$170 (£88) a week at a minimum and food is quite expensive too. I decided to live in a catered hall as this was easier and I could just concentrate on settling in. It cost a lot more ($334 a week) and it was rather restricting. It was difficult coming in halfway through the year, as everyone had already made friends and trying to organise where to stay for the next semester was stressful.

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

  • It has its ups and downs. The quality of lecturers is similar, however the way the university is organised isn’t something I’m used to and they don’t seem to provide the same amount of support. They also didn’t seem to cover the same things as they did back home in the same level of detail. For example, they taught new topics in the 3rd year lectures, but only took two lectures to cover them. Back at my home university, the same topic would be covered for about six lectures and six hours of workshops.

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

I’ll be returning to my home university to complete my degree, after which I’ll possibly find a job, though I have also been considering doing a PhD.

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

  • It’s so far away — I can’t just hop on a train and go home for a weekend and I don’t have any family over here like other exchange students I know. Also, the public transport isn’t that great, which isn’t ideal as not everyone can afford to buy or rent a car whenever they need to. This makes it difficult when planning trips or simply going from one side of Auckland to another — one time it took me three hours and $15 to get to an area of the city that would’ve taken me 20 minutes by car.

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?

Hopefully they will be able to see I can cope under pressure and get on well with people who maybe aren’t quite like-minded. The main reason I came here was to gain experience, see the world and have fun. I ended up learning more about myself and learning a lot in terms of how to study more effectively. I noticed a lot of people in my halls would stay up really late and go to the library even in the first or second week of semester. To me this was alien as most people in England cram their revision in before exams, whereas people here revise the whole time. I decided to adopt their way of working and I have found that everything is so much easier; I understand the topics better and revising before exams is a lot easier and it’s less about memorising and more about understanding. Hopefully that will be something employers will be excited to hear.

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