Why did I choose this university?
‘My original motivation was to learn about environmental planning and to learn in New Zealand about how they manage their environment. I found Waikato University was offering an Environmental Planning degree which was a multidisciplinary degree. I thought “this is what I want”. I searched more about how the city looked and found that Hamilton has established very good protection towards the biggest river in North Island, Waikato River, and that the University of Waikato is a part of this success story by working closely with Hamilton City Council. I applied for Master of Environmental Planning at the University of Waikato. However, I was accepted in Master of Social Science with a major Geography, at the end. As soon as I arrived to New Zealand, I met the Chairman of Geography, Tourism and Environmental Planning Chairman to discuss this. He explained that this major is very locally-contextualised to New Zealand, so they were afraid that this would not be applicable to my home country. But the chairman was very flexible in letting me to get enrolled in papers that are more internationally-contextualised in planning for environments.’
My first week
‘I remember I cried the first night. As soon as I arrived I felt so lonely that I missed my family and my boyfriend so much. But everything changed soon as I got to know my new flatmates and friends from Malaysia, New Zealand, and some other pacific countries. Together we adjusted to this new city. I think what shocked me was that the shops that closed at 5 pm. This kind of thing never happened in Indonesia. But I learned that people in New Zealand appreciate their time and that they want to spend more quality time with their family after 5 pm. I think this is cool to do less work but gaining more quality time!’
‘I can proudly say that my campus is the most beautiful campus in New Zealand, without a doubt. My campus features three beautiful lakes surrounded with trees and flowers that are situated near the chapel and cafes, and restaurants inside of the university. This area is very pretty during the fall and the spring season. Otherwise, it is good to hang around all year for sunbathing and relaxing, or to feed ducks on the lakes. My campus provides a big jogging track for you to stay fit while enjoying the beauty of the campus. This is what I do, if I get stuck with my studying; I usually go out for a walk in the afternoon and get back to my office feeling fresher. Moreover, there is a gym and some choices for sports like a tennis court, a squash court, a swimming pool, a wide field for playing rugby or football with your mates. One iconic building on my campus is the student centre building. This building is a five storey building with sustainable concepts, powered by a solar panel, with artificial waterfalls for humidity and an integrated student service offices and library. Inside the building you can study, book a room for a study group, or just have a nap while waiting for your next class. Lastly, for Muslim students, my campus has LeZaat café which is owned by an Indonesia couple who are very nice and friendly, and they serve yummy Halal foods.’
‘Hamilton is the fourth biggest city in New Zealand, with a population of approximately 200,000 people. Compared to cities in Indonesia, this is a very small town. It is very convenient. No traffic. Fresh air. Free water. You can drink water directly from a tap and it is hygienic. People are very relaxed and casual. Kiwis usually go to the supermarket barefoot in warmer seasons.
Although Hamilton is a small city, it offers a good life style with a bunch of choices for entertainment and adventurous activities. For instance, the Hamilton Gardens offers nice views of flowers and architectural gardens such as Tudor Garden, Chinese Garden, and Japanese Garden.
Hamilton garden is very pretty on spring and fall. It is a good place for family to have a picnic, as well. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, the Waikato River is a landmark in Hamilton. The river is clean, and there are riverside walks so that people can go jogging, take afternoon walks, or even go biking while enjoying the beauty of the river. In September, there is an annual national university rowing competition on the river which is a big event in Hamilton. In the central business district areas, there are a bunch of choices of restaurants, coffee shops, cafes, and bars at reasonable prices but still with a decent service. Some restaurants give discounts on the weekend. Hamilton does have a night market every Saturday night, where you can enjoy a wide variety of international foods at a very reasonable price too.
For those of you who are a bit more adventurous, on the outskirts of Hamilton, you can drive for 50 minutes to Raglan or 90 minutes to Tauranga for superb surfing experiences; or you can just do a bushwalk or go hiking around the Waikato.’
My study space
‘During my first year, when I was doing a graduate diploma degree, most of my classes were in either a big lecture hall which can accommodate up to 300 students, a medium lecture room, a GIS lab, or science labs. In my second year, when I was doing my postgraduate diploma, my class become smaller, so pretty much I was in a small lecture room or either in a GIS lab. In my third year, since I’m doing my 120 points master thesis, I didn’t have any more classes to attend; so most of the time I was studying and working on my thesis in my office room. My department provides an office room for postgraduate diploma and master student. These kinds of facilities are very convenient because I can focus on doing my studying and having my own space.
There are so many services provided by the university to support students in doing their assignments. The services I use most of the time are FASS International Tutors and Student Learning. These two services help students to discuss, brainstorm ideas, create presentation simulations, and even get a final check on their writing before submitting essays and assignments. With the help of the services, I got a grade A average in my first year, and A- average in my second year. Moreover, the library provides a lot of workshops to support students’ studies. Lastly, the campus has office of career development to help students preparing themselves to apply for jobs before they graduate. I have been working closely with this service since I’m finishing my study in one year. The service was helpful in preparing for my CV and cover letter for application for jobs and internship.’
My social life
‘I joined a student club called the Waikato University Board Gaming Club. The main activity is playing board games every Tuesday night. I love this activity. It is fun and relaxing while also a good way to socialise with students across majors at the university. Every Monday night, I attend a Yoga Pilates class that is organised near my flat for free. I socialise with students in my department. For instance, we have dinner together at my house, go for a picnic or just go grocery shopping.’
‘In my first year, I lived on campus at Orchard Park Residence of Hall. The experience was awesome. I stayed with totally international flatmates from Malaysia, Sweden, Mexico, Tonga, and Afghanistan. I think this is the best part of living on campus is that you get to know more people and friends from so many different countries. Moreover, Halls usually organise many interesting activities, such as volleyball competitions, dance balls, picnics, pizza parties, potluck dinners and so on.
From the second year up until now, I have lived off campus. I live in a house with an old couple and a PhD student. This is I would say is more quiet life than my stay in Orchard park. But this is good. Since my second year was quite tough with a bunch of assignments, having a quiet home and highly motivated PhD candidate as a flatmate really helps me stand on my toes during assignment deadlines.
Both of my accommodations were fully furnished. I chose the fully furnished one since I don’t want to bother buying stuffs and kitchen utensils. Therefore, the kitchen was fully equipped with an oven and stoves, cutleries, white wares, pots, and frying pan. It is very convenient. However, if you’re thinking of bringing your family to study in Hamilton, you can buy bedding, kitchen utensils and home furniture at a low price at second hand stores like the Salvation Army store or Waikato hospices. Moreover, at my current flat there is a living room with a big screen TV, study spaces and a piano (although unfortunately I can’t play piano). There is also a garage for two cars, and large backyard where my landlord plant veggies and lemon trees. I would say my current house is very nice since my landlord is very nice and also it has everything I need. Plus it is just a 7 minutes walk from the University of Waikato.’