Studying abroad was not a surprise for me, but it was a surprise that I ended up doing it in New Zealand. I first came here from China in 2014 when I was 17, and I am currently studying at the University of Auckland as a third-year student.
I had thought about studying abroad since I was in the eighth grade. But it took work to achieve it. China is a vast nation with the world’s largest population. This means that there is intense competition when it comes to education opportunities. I remember getting up at 6am and arriving at school at 6.30am only to find all my classmates already there, studying.
Within that competitive environment, exams were considered the fastest way to test students’ abilities. At the time, I was not used to such an intense environment and started to miss a more relaxed style of teaching. During my primary education at a private school, I performed well and my teachers believed that quality-oriented education was more suitable than exam-oriented education. I found myself to be incompatible with the emphasis on exams. As I struggled to keep up with the pace, I started questioning whether this was the way I wanted to learn.
After a long talk with my parents, I was transferred to a prestigious private school targeting overseas education institutes, and there I began to explore overseas education opportunities. Like most Chinese students, I first looked at schools in the US and the UK, but my parents were too worried about the safety issues because I was only a teenager. Then I heard about New Zealand from a friend who had just graduated from the University of Auckland. I did some more research and decided to study in Auckland.
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I struggled a bit when I first arrived in New Zealand. I couldn’t sleep for a week because of the time difference, and the language barrier was also a struggle. Luckily, I was with the friendliest home-stay family, who treated me like family, taught me how to cook Kiwi-style dinners, explained the country’s culture and social norms and were always so patient with my English-speaking skills. My classmates and teachers were also great in helping me to quickly grasp the cultural differences between New Zealand and China and blend in with the local society.
After graduating high school, I started at the University of Auckland and found that university here is diverse, dynamic and flexible.
As a commerce student majoring in marketing and international business, I experienced different teaching styles and lessons. Classes involved lectures, experiments, guest speaker series, online courses, project-based team work sessions and more. Online lecture recordings, workshops and office hours allow me to ask questions and discuss my work whenever I have needed to.
But study is not the only thing to do at university. All kinds of clubs and events are available here including career-related events and volunteer opportunities. I joined the New Zealand Chinese Student Association (NZCSA) to enable and help other students from China to better blend in with local social life and fully enjoy their study experience in New Zealand. I am part of the marketing department working to promote our events and activities to our members.
In this role, I have made friends from all over the world who I came to know as we had to coordinate with different organisations and other clubs. I also feel fulfilled through the little changes that I can help make in the international student groups. I help them connect with each other through activities, catch up with their studies with tutorials and workshops and inform them about career information by inviting them to attend career events.
My study experience in New Zealand completely changed my view of how to set educational and personal goals. The country’s pure blue sky and the crystal-clear seas still amaze me. I love getting involved in the relaxed and cozy lifestyle here, and the unique culture and the people are easy to fall in love with.
In the end, I am really glad that I came to New Zealand instead of staying in my comfort zone surrounded by people who were the same as me. It is important to embrace the world’s differences and to get to know different people. After all, this is the most important experience you will get in life, especially when studying abroad.