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The basics
New Zealand: Before you leave

Founder of Luxuria Cosmetics on studying in New Zealand

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Harveen Dhaliwal is an alumni of University of Otaga, but also an entrepreneur who founded the ethical cosmetic company Luxuria Cosmetics along with actress Diana Danielle. Here she talks about her experience in studying in New Zealand, her entrepreneurial venture, and how it all came together.


Hi Harveen, please tell us a bit about yourself from your own words. :)

"Hi Wazir! Well let’s keep it short and sweet. I’m now 23 and kind of a nomad. I’m about to bark on my next step in life and do my Masters in International Relations in Amsterdam. I also have a startup with my best friend that is based in Malaysia."


Why that specific course and that university?

"I chose to study Anthropology, Political Science and Spanish at the University of Otago in New Zealand. I was a little bit confused during my last year of high school as to which direction to go into but I have always had this inherit need to be in the humanitarian field. So it just smacked me in the face when I went to a uni tour and sat into a lecture that just happened to be an Anthropology lecture. I was taken aback and just knew I had to study this! I chose Otago because it has one of the best research stats in the country and Dunedin is the ultimate student city!"

UK and Australia, have usually been the most popular choice as study destinations for Malaysians, so why did you choose to study in New Zealand?

"I guess it would have been a lot easier going to the UK where I have many of my high school friends scattered in the many different universities but I don’t know, Otago just had it all for me. It gave me a much-needed independence and I managed to finally to be able to rely on myself. It was the biggest bonus that my parents migrated to NZ as well as I didn’t have them too far away just a 4 hour bus ride away."

So what was your experience like in University of Otago?

"I had such a great learning experience at Otago. They have such amazing, down to earth lecturers that share real life experiences when they teach. You can’t help but absorb all the knowledge you can. The support system at this uni is amazing. The only time I felt like I could not really interact with my lecturer was with one person and I had only one class with her. She just had a different teaching style but she was an expert in her field. I had a great tutor for this class so all my concerns were always taken care of. Everyone is so approachable and many of my assignments were very hands on where I had to interview many people and collect lots of my own research. I am so grateful for this experience as it has helped me become more outgoing too."

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What did you enjoy about student life besides the academic side of it?

"Otago really shaped me to who I am today, it also thought me that I had an entrepreneurial side of me. I met some really amazing friends all from different fields of study. It is the perfect place to spend 3 years of your life. A few things I had to get to used to was, being cold all the time, living on such a budget and literally creating your own fun. Dunedin isn’t a big city, it’s a town really in my opinion especially when you compare it to KL but you always have things to do. Your friends live so close by and we go out in the nature a lot more, create festivals just for us like our iconic street party that goes on every year, Hyde Street. It’s a pretty town too, it has a big Scottish influence, kind of like the sister city of Edinburgh. I wouldn’t trade my 3 years there for anything."

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What have you learned so far from living and studying abroad?

"I’ve learnt that I had to rely on myself and I learned to cook on my own too. I was surprised with the outcome too. I turned out to be quite good at the domesticated tasks. Having pretty amazing friends that are still very close to me today was also a huge plus and helped made my transition a lot easier. I think I had a little bit of a hard time in the beginning when I had to be alone but after like a week, being alone was far from scary, it was actually quite nice. I think I really grew as a person and I’m grateful for everything that I have learnt through my experience."

Was it hard for you to adapt to the culture in New Zealand?

"Actually at first it was quite tricky because of the Kiwi accent. They tend to mumble some words but they thought I sound American and speak too fast. They still do. In KL though, I sounded like my friends. I soon become accustomed to the accent. Kiwis are super friendly and strangers will strike up a conversation with you almost anywhere. At first I found this strange because I thought I stood out and looked out of the ordinary but later found out that it was just how the Kiwis are. The culture is very laid back here and everything is quite stress free, it was unusual at first but I adjusted quickly. I do love the culture in New Zealand."

harveen and friends

How do you think your experience abroad has helped you in getting closer to your dream career?

"Well besides inspiring me to start my own ethical cosmetic company, I’m also looking into working for the Foreign Affairs office or maybe even for the United Nations. The course has helped shaped this path for me but I do think that I still have a little bit to go to end up where I want to be. This is why I am now about to embark on my Masters and hopefully then I end up in the field best suited for me."

How has studying abroad developed you personally?

"It has definitely made me more independent. I think I have started relying on myself more and I have a new time management skill set that's more efficient. Whenever I’m on my own, I do manage to keep myself organised and busy but still manage to hang out with my friends. I have learnt to have a well balanced life and started keeping up with a workout regiment too. I think keeping fit and healthy was not really a big concern for me until I moved abroad."


What is the biggest difference you notice from studying in Malaysia and studying in New Zealand?

"Well I can’t really answer this because I never studied in Malaysia post high school. I finished my last year of high school (Form 5) in NZ and that also qualified as my college year. High school was very different though, I felt very overwhelmed in Malaysia whereas I had enough time and in depth knowledge per subject in NZ. I went from doing 10 subjects in Form 4 to 5 subjects in Form 5 (Year 13). That was a full year in NZ and it was very in depth and it worked a lot better for me, personally. NZ has a more hands on system and requires a lot of participation and effort from you even though the subjects were reduced in half."

Would you recommend other Malaysians to study in New Zealand?

"Oh yes! I think it’s a beautiful country, and so different from Malaysia and much colder too obviously. You might realize you actually love nature and decide to bungee jump, you never know!"

So let's get back to the startup you mentioned, how did it all happen?

"My startup is called Luxuria Cosmetics, we sell cosmetic products that are luxurious, affordable, but also ethical. Our products are all natural and skin-friendly formulated foundations, mascara, lipsticks and much more. There is also 100% cruelty free in all of our development and manufacturing processes.

It has been a baby of mine since I was in my 2nd year of uni which was back in 2011. I started my research into it back then, it took longer than expected. It officially launched in 2013 with my best friend, Diana Danielle, getting on board. She loved the idea and concept and wanted to be a part of it. Luxuria Cosmetics started because one day I watched a Youtube video about animal testing on cosmetics and realised that many of my favorite brands were not animal friendly and others that are presumed animal friendly are under parent companies that aren’t. I got very upset and decided to create a line that I am looking for. This is line is animal friendly, free from animal ingredients except for organic beeswax in the lipstick, all natural and paraben free. It is suited for women of all ages and walks of life."

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Why do you think it’s important for people to only buy "ethical products?"

"It is really important because we as consumers are reassuring the market of what we want by what we spend money on. We need to understand where our money is going. It may get you some cheap mascara but at what cost? Are you okay with bunnies and cats being tortured and blinded for your beauty products? It is not just evil in that sense; it does no benefit to your skin. It contains so many chemicals that are actually harmful to your health. We need to better educate ourselves as consumers so we know actually what we are buying and what we are putting our stamp of approval towards. As long as there is a demand, these products will still be made at the expense of innocent animals and our environment."

harveen and d luxuria 2

Want to get inspired like Harveen and find out what you're truly meant to do? Then check out the links below to help you get one step closer to your dreams! :)

Study in New Zealand

Study Anthropology in New Zealand

Scholarships to study in New Zealand

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