Semester abroad in New Zealand: How is studying at the other end of the world?

New Zealand attracts with endless expanses, breathtaking nature, hot springs, rare animals and exciting culture. The island state is also convincing when it comes to education: All New Zealand universities are ranked in the top 3% of universities worldwide (QS Uni Rankings 2018-2020). Of all the English-speaking countries in the world, New Zealand prepares its students best for the future (ranked #1 in The Worldwide Educating for the Future Index 2017-1019, Economist Intelligence Unit). In October last year, a total of five scholarships totaling €20,000 were awarded as part of Education New Zealand’s Welcome to New Zealand Scholarships. At the beginning of this year, the winner of the full scholarship, Ronja Härdtner, arrived in New Zealand. The student of the master’s program “International Nature Conservation” applied after the call and was surprised by winning the scholarship and the opportunity to spend a semester in New Zealand. Read about Ronja’s first weeks on the South Island of New Zealand and her first experiences at Lincoln University in Christchurch.

Education New Zealand (ENZ): Tell us a bit more about your course.

Ronja: I’ve been studying at the University of Göttingen since 2017 and am currently doing my master’s degree in “International Nature Conservation”. A semester abroad in Lincoln is mandatory for us. When I found out about the possibility of a scholarship, I was immediately enthusiastic. So I am now officially enrolled at Lincoln University in Christchurch.

How were your first weeks in New Zealand?

Ronja: I traveled with a camper van from Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand to Christchurch on the South Island for 3 weeks. So I was able to get a great first impression of the country. I was able to arrive in peace: After all, I left the German winter and arrived here in the summer with 24°. The semester started in mid-February.

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How can you imagine the start of the semester?

Ronja: It is unbelievable how students are cared for here. All students, local and international, were welcomed. The international community is huge. I live with three other students from the US, UK and New Zealand. Our shared apartment is in a small house right on campus. The dormitory is like a village of its own made up of many small houses. The support is also extensive: There is a large, free range of sports, medical care and supermarkets.

How is everyday university life?

Ronja: In the first week we had many introductory sessions on course and lecture planning, but also on traffic regulations in New Zealand. The left-hand traffic took a little getting used to at the beginning. But I really feel that I am in very good hands here. Especially at the university, because all lecturers contribute to the learning success of the students. Thanks to the “Open Door Policy” we can talk to them at any time. The lesson planning is also practical, well structured and easy to understand.

And how are the courses organized?

Ronja: I can choose any course freely, and you don’t have to register. If a course is fuller than expected, then the course – but also a multi-day excursion – will be reorganized so that all students can participate. This teaching mentality is something special. In my department in particular, there are an incredible number of freely selectable offers. Impressive is the role of lived Māori culture in the country and how it creates a connection between tradition and its sustainable transmission into the present day as well as the supporting role of indigenous communities and their influence, knowledge and achievements in conservation.

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Living right on the Lincoln University campus, how is life near Christchurch?

Ronja: I really love the openness and warmth of everyone here. It’s summer in New Zealand right now, so a lot of people are walking barefoot here – and nobody cares. You often see the combination of rubber boots and shorts. Christchurch itself is really exciting: you can see the British influence from the colonial era on many of the houses. In the center of Christchurch lies the Botanic Gardens, which has been the heart of the city for more than 150 years. Hence the name “The Garden City”.

What would you recommend to other students?

Ronja: I never thought I would win a scholarship. I’ve always believed that only other people are so lucky, but not me. And now? Now I’m here. In any case, it’s always worth checking out the opportunities for studying in New Zealand and just relying on luck – maybe it’ll work out, just like it did for me.

Current information about studying in New Zealand or scholarships can be found here.

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