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New Zealand: Before you leave

University of Auckland Alumni on studying in New Zealand [INTERVIEW]

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Angeline Lee is an alumni of University of Auckland. She also used to study in HELP University back in Malaysia.

Here she shares some insight on what it's like to study in New Zealand from a Malaysian perspective. She also talks about the difference between studying in Malaysia and New Zealand, and how the two universities she studied at differed from each other.


Hi Angeline, please tell us a bit about yourself.

angeline graduation
Photo credits:Tall Trees Photography

"I studied at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts double major in Psychology & Employment Relations and Organizational Studies. I arrived here in February of 2010, and finished by November 2012. I then graduated in May 2013. Currently, I am working in the Auckland Chamber of Commerce as Events and Training Co-ordinator."

Why that specific course and that university?

"I chose University of Auckland because it’s the only New Zealand university with Universitas 21 status and I was deciding between this and Victoria University in Wellington. Decided on New Zealand before deciding on the University - Didn’t want to go to Australia because every other Malaysian is going there and I wanted a fresh start and go somewhere where I know nobody and do it all on my own. I’ve decided on Psychology since I was 15 years old and I did Psychology in HELP University in Malaysia. I worked as temp in HSBC HR department before college and I always wanted to do HR, but Malaysia’s college didn't have any HR degree with a minor in Psychology at that time."

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?

"As per my answer in the previous question, that’s the reason I didn’t want to go to Australia and I feel UK will be too big a change with all the language and history and geography. I want to keep UK as a holiday destination instead of a place of work & home. UK has too many choices as well and a lot of people go there - I just really wanted to be on my own."

What is the difference between studying in HELP and in the University of Auckland?

"The main difference I experienced is the study environment - the libraries here are more extensive and we had a lot of resources to do our assignments and experiments. I feel that we are given the resources to excel on a level playing field when compared to HELP. "

Photo credits:Tall Trees Photography

Tell us about your experience in HELP.

"I really enjoyed the friends I met in HELP, the foundation classes were small and we all had the opportunity to get really close and go through life together. Everybody takes roughly the same papers and we get to hang around a lot working on projects and hanging out. "

"I hated that the buildings are separated and we had to travel from one building to another just to get to certain classes. Also, I did not like the constant search for car parks, and parking tickets we get from parking illegally due to lack of parking spaces."

Tell us about your experience in University of Auckland.

"In UOA, each lecture classes have 300 - 600 students so it’s really hard to make new friends and get close to anybody. Everybody takes very different papers because they do not really have any compulsory classes where we get to meet or discuss about studies. They do have lots of social clubs which provides an alternative to making friends. They also provide a lot of information for International students, and there’s a lot of support for Malaysians here as well. As mentioned earlier, I like the study environment and resources they provide to their students. However, I do miss the collective socialization style of Malaysians."

Photo credits:Tall Trees Photography

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

"I enjoy the freedom and the people you meet along the way. Everybody want to get somewhere, everyone is there with the same goal but with so many possibilities of how it might pan out."

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

"Living independently - paying rent, utilities, grocery & furniture shopping. Working - paying taxes and getting visa. It makes me appreciate the automatic citizenship I had in Malaysia where it is not as important if I don’t get a job within a specific timeframe or how people might not hire me because I’m not Kiwi. That being said, I absolutely disagree when people say they can't get a job because they're not PR/Citizen. It is true that it may be a factor that they won't bother considering your application if you say you're International graduate but if you don't mention anything about your citizenship and if you ever get a chance to do a phone interview, learn up on the jobs you applied for and speak well to impress. If you can get an interview, do not take it for granted and take it seriously."

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

"Not hard for me actually. I think students going abroad need to be more open-minded and learn not to take things too personally - some stereotypes against you may not be completely biased and you just need to be more patient and work harder to show them how you’re different. I see a lot of Malaysians who come here but do not speak fluent English or stick to their own group - you may be comfortable and you will blame other people for being racist if they don’t talk to you but maybe when all of you are so tight and travel in packs, people find you intimidating and won’t associate with you. You should not come into a country with your own biases and judge everybody’s behavior and distant yourself immediately. Some people could have more depth than you give them credit for. Soak in the culture and don’t be such a pampered princess. People here love the outdoors - I absolutely hate Malaysian sun because of the heat but over here it’s not hot so I started doing some outdoor activities and made more friends that way. "

Photo credits:Tall Trees Photography

Tell us a bit on how your course has helped you in getting to your career path.

"My course had nothing to do with my current job - HR is not an easy field to get into in NZ. It’s not a very high demand job and the entry-level HR position requires 2 years of Admin experience which no fresh graduate will have so I went into Events. I volunteered for nearly a year at a charity organization doing Admin work because they won’t really hire International students and we’re limited to the number of hours we can work according to our visa. It was free volunteer work but it’s not demanding at all and I got a really good reference which led me to my current job. My course helped me to speak more confidently and definitely increased my knowledge and skills in the job market. What really helped me get this job is my personality and willingness to learn which was displayed during my interview."

What were your living conditions like when you were a student?

"I didn’t manage to stay in a student dorm because I applied too late so I shared a flat with 2 other working adults. One guy is Malaysian, a doctor and the other tenant is a Chinese Fijian. They were friendly and have been living in NZ for many years. One tip is you shouldn’t buy too many things in your first year. I lived without a full-length mirror for a year but I didn’t find it that difficult anyway. I didn’t know where I’m going to end up the next year and I didn’t want to be stuck with a bunch of luggage when I move so I lived out of my luggage because my room was pretty small. During that year, I go to some flat viewings and always look out for flats nearer to Uni so in my second year, I knew where to go and what price range to aim for. Just be organized and think long-term. "

Has studying abroad made you independent?

"There are too many specifics but I have always been an independent person. We have an apartment here and I was the head tenant so I interviewed tenants, settled all the bills and collect rent. All that helped me plan my future property-wise and those experiences have been really helpful. I learnt about income taxes, body corporate fees, council requirements, building consents, and I know none of those things in Malaysia. Don’t be afraid to assume responsibility because the only person you can depend on is yourself."

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

"Walking. Lots of walking and students here are health and gym freaks. People are more independent and individualistic here which is a good and a bad thing. It forces you to grow up and take responsibility for yourself as a foreign student. "

Would you recommend other Malaysians to study in New Zealand?

"Yes I would. It's a great way to expand your knowledge of what you thought you knew. Different countries have a different education system, different culture, their way of living could be influenced by many factors that we never knew existed and it's just a great eye-opening experience. After you finish, you can decide to stay on or go back to Malaysia but you'll always have those memories. You might discover a passion you never thought you had but being in a different environment can open your mind to experience different things. You should try it at least once. If you didn't like it, at least you'll appreciate HOME a little more."


What wonderful insight from Angeline.

Are you inspired and motivated to study abroad as I am thanks to her story?


Then check out the links below to follow her footsteps:

Study in New Zealand

Study Human Resources in New Zealand

Study Psychology in New Zealand

Study in Australasia

Scholarships for Malaysians to study in New Zealand

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