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I love my experience as an international student in New Zealand

By Arina Aizal

Choosing to study overseas after high school was not an easy decision to make. I was 17. Was I ready? Can I survive on my own in a different country? All relevant questions in my head but the wonderful memory I had of being a primary school student in New Zealand was the one I focused on. Fast forward a few years, I am now a student at the University of Otago.

A primary school student in New Zealand

In 2009 when my dad decided to further his Postgraduate Degree in International Studies, my whole family moved to Dunedin. That was the beginning of our new life in New Zealand.

I enrolled in Year 6 at North East Valley Normal School and completed Year 7 at Dunedin North Intermediate. These two schools changed the way I felt about education. I had a different feeling when I got up for school in the morning - school excited me, it was never a bore. Primary schools in New Zealand centered their efforts in developing a child’s skills and promoting inquisitive and project-based learning for students. Teachers and staff members try their best to make school fun for children.

I remember Mrs. Kewene-Edwards - a lovely teacher who saw my talent for story-writing. She supported me to share my personal writings, comics and journals for her and the class to read. She was a mentor throughout my time at North East Valley Normal School. Kiwi teachers really engage with their students and encourage them to reach their true potential. They believe we are all different individuals with different ‘gifts’ to share with the world.

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Bad Hair Day at North East Valley Normal School in 2009

Settling down as a university student

After my Malaysian Education Certificate (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia), I started my Foundation Year studies in Otago. Having to find a flat, make new friends, work part-time, learn survival skills like cooking and balance my studies on my own was not easy. I got the hang of it after months when I found a whole group of new friends.

I remember feeling homesick but my drive to succeed kept me going. I told myself that I wanted to be independent, brave and the best version of myself while I’m here. I used social media to express my ability to use different studying methods and became a part of the Studyblr community. It was then where I started my own study blog, shared my notes and found support from other International students from around the world.

Finding my passion for studies

When I was 6, I wanted to be a fashion designer. When I was 12, I wanted to be a journalist. When I was 16, I wanted to be a dentist. Today, I’m passionate about Sexual Violence Prevention and I study Psychology and Gender Studies at the University of Otago. I wouldn’t have found my path if it wasn’t for the support I got from the university.

I can choose my subjects and structure my programme of studies. Although I study Psychology, I can minor in Gender Studies and take an extra paper in sociology and sexual health. In the end, they all contribute to my degree in Bachelor of Arts. This flexibility allows students to explore different options of study, give us ideas on how we want to contribute to ourselves and society.

University support for International students

At my university, I received a lot of support and guidance about life as an international student in New Zealand. From visa issues to finding accommodation, we got all the help we needed.

Group of friends in Dunedin

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International student advocate

I’ve found a sense of purpose – I share my experiences on social media to inspire students who plan to study overseas, especially in New Zealand. I looked for inspiration from others before making the first step to studying in New Zealand and want to return the favour. I also want to share with the world how my education in New Zealand has made me who I am today. I wouldn’t change a single thing.

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