The Great Global Challenge was a great opportunity to showcase the skills I have developed throughout my university life and to also learn new skills that will help me in the future. We got to attend workshops that helped me to complete the project. The main goal of the week-long project was to ‘Protect Human Rights in the Post-Truth World’. We had to work with an international team to brainstorm solutions to an identified problem, make a prototype and pitch the idea to experienced founders.
The programme helped me learn how to navigate time zones as I had team members in the USA, UK and Australia, build my network by providing opportunities to meet students and mentors from around the world and use technology like Miro, Wix, Slack and Mural. It was a great way to learn about market research and product validation which helped me in developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset. We had two checkpoints due everyday but due to the global team, we were able to submit everything on time.
One of the most important skills that I developed was how to work in a team. I have learned that there are times when not all the people in a team are as dedicated as you are or their goals and motivation levels are completely different to yours. There can be different issues that might arise when the team is not working properly, for example, missing checkpoints. This is where I learned that sometimes you need to step up, take the role of a leader, discuss the issues with your teammates and see how you can fix them. These experiences will surely help me in my professional life as the field I aspire to work in is very team oriented. There were times when I would have to stay up for a 1am workshop or wake up at 4am to make sure that everything was completed and submitted but I know that every experience during those 6 days was a lesson.
I would definitely encourage students from all faculties and stages to take part in various virtual activities as they might end up learning a new skill, make a connection that might help them land their next job or simply make a new friend on the other side of the world. I am very grateful for this opportunity and would like to see more programmes like the Great Global Challenge offered to aspiring students.
This is my final blog post for this exchange! Unfortunately, this entire exchange has been online, and I won’t get to share my post-lockdown life on here. But you can follow me on Instagram @gywchen for future updates! I will share some thoughts I’ve had about this exchange and life and some advice to future exchange students.
Robert Frost said
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”.
Ever since starting university, I always wanted to go on exchange. I had planned meticulously two years in advance what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. But those plans were all cancelled when COVID hit the beginning of last year. When I got notice from the university this year that a possible exchange for Australia was on the cards, I got a little excited as going somewhere is better than not going anywhere at all.
However, as soon as I arrived in Australia, lockdown was imposed for both Sydney and Melbourne. Life always throws surprises at us, and the most important skills one can have during this unprecedented time are adaptation and resilience. We cannot change things external to us, but we can make the most of what we have. Although I am unlucky, I am still grateful that I’m here and able to experience everything that I have experienced and going to experience. Life is short and unpredictable. COVID has taken the lives of some but changed the direction of many.
My only advice to future exchange students going to Australia or anywhere in the world is to be grateful that you get to go on exchange and make the most of what you can. Do everything you can because lockdown could be just around the corner. Although it seems the world is finally transitioning out of lockdowns, you never know what the future holds. Just like COVID in 2020 and Delta in 2021 was unexpected, we don’t know what 2022 holds.
So go out, explore, be silly and take the road less travelled!
The last month has been anti-climatic, to say the least. Before the exchange, I had grand expectations of travelling to a different city every week, tramping the great world-renowned parks, and even experiencing the bustling food and city life. But now I leave my room twice a day for a drink and experience the great food wonders in a takeaway container. Even though things haven’t gone the way I’d imagined, I still don’t regret this experience. During this last month, we have visited the amazing Port Melbourne and St Kilda beaches as well as experiencing some great food, like the infamous Lune croissants. It could be a lot worse, we could be in level 4 lockdown.
I never realised that keeping myself healthy and alive would be so hard. There are many things that I took for granted. I now have a newfound appreciation for the things my mum does that has kept me alive all these years. Here are some things that may help you when going on an exchange or just when living by yourself, so you don’t have to learn it the hard way like I did.
Preparation : Try to do as much research before arriving. Doing admin at the beginning of the exchange is a pain when you want to maximise your time exploring and doing Uni work. Prior research about things like phone plans and banking would be especially helpful and make your first couple of days go smoother. For example, it was a struggle going places without google maps. I don’t know how people did anything before phone data. On the first few days, we got stuck in a random suburb while shopping. Without free wifi or data, we were lost and had to ask strangers about how to get home. As a shy introvert, this was my worst nightmare and I considered just living homeless there.
Clubs : Joining clubs are a great way to meet new people. I joined the University’s Ultimate Frisbee Club and was going to join the mountaineering club before lockdown started. Everyone was friendly and it was great meeting different people, even if I only saw them once.
Food : I didn’t realise food goes off so fast. At home, my mum has mastered the timing of best before and expiry dates. Now I’m eating expired mushrooms and bread, hoping not to die of food poisoning each night. Just keep an eye on expiry dates and learn to use the freezer.
Priorities : Only being here for a couple of months, you won’t be able to accomplish everything – whether it’s travelling around to every city, getting A+ in every assignment and tests, or meeting many lifelong friends. So you need to prioritise a couple aspects that you want to achieve. All in all, make the most of your time here. Choose how you’re spending your time wisely because it will fly.
I think my last blog post was definitely too optimistic, no we did not get to go back to university but on the plus side, I still can’t say going on exchange was a bad idea since Auckland is also in lockdown and the University of Auckland is going to be online for the rest of the semester anyway. Is it awful to take comfort in that? I’d argue it’s only human 😉
However regardless of only having had an online relationship with the University, I have still learnt a lot so let’s dedicate this blog post to the academic side of things while I work behind the scenes to make my life more exciting, just for my 3 readers xo
The courses I’m taking this semester consists of a tissue engineering & stem cells paper, numerical algorithms, a biosystems project paper and a pysch/neuroscience paper. Some of the content is really interesting and the tissue engineering paper I was especially excited to take as it was so relevant to my degree and what I potentially want to do. The content is varied and we have quite a few guest lecturers coming in to talk about their respective fields (ie orthodontics, orthopaedics) where they are doing really amazing things – kind of ground-breaking actually, which is a privilege to learn about. It’s also a post-graduate paper but you are allowed to do one as part of your exchange program so I highly recommend taking it for anyone coming to University of Melbourne interested in medical engineering – it’s one of the few papers I’ve taken that actually feels really relevant to the field and one that you wouldn’t have the opportunity of taking back in Auckland. It’s still been great to learn a lot of interesting things without that GPA pressure which is a huge weight off. I’m still about 2 weeks behind though- old habits die hard.
Note that I’m speaking from my own experience but one of the first things I noticed when I was putting together my timetable is that there are far less lectures per paper (which is referred to as a ‘subject’ here) mostly only 1 a week!! However, there’s a catch in that each lecture is two hours long…
Still, the workload is definitely a lot less than my previous papers in BME ( nod to ENGSCI 314 which had 4 lectures a week). There are also less assessment/deliverables, only 3-4, including the exam for all of my papers except one. I’m infinitely grateful I got to escape the hell that is Part III second semester that is BME especially as I struggle massively with engaging in online learning when there are no physical places to go to.
The student association here is also bigger and better and there is a lot of support for students – I think we’re due to get a care package soon which is really cute and they give out free meals and fruit and vege boxes for students along with online events that are actually kinda fun- like virtual escape rooms
Also lockdown here is pretty much level 3 so you still get to experience Melbourne through your stomach – and the food here is to die for
I actually love Melbourne. It’s such a great city and I’m definitely open to coming back and living here and either working or doing post-grad study here.
University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at 21 partner universities in the United States of America:
California State University San Marcos*
Case Western Reserve University
George Washington University
Indiana University (Law only)
Pennsylvania State University
Rutgers, State University of New Jersey
Stony Brook, State University of New York
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Arizona (incl Law)
University of California (9 campuses)
University of Connecticut
University of Georgia
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
University of Maryland
University of Texas at Arlington
University of Virginia (incl Law and Nursing)
University of Washington
William and Mary (Law only)
Let’s hear what our students have to say…
Abroad at AU was incredibly welcoming and hosts various events at the start of the semester to help seamlessly integrate you into campus life. Through Abroad at AU I was able to take part in a DC photo challenge, attend a Washington Nationals Baseball game, visit the News Museum (an unexpectedly inspiring and moving visit), and tour the famous Arlington Cemetery. Through these events I met many very cool international students who became my closest friends. After only a few weeks on campus I felt at home.
– Joshua, American University
Georgetown is beautiful and has an old English vibe there are great restaurants, clothes stores, movie theatre and the Georgetown University Campus. Additionally, living in DC is guaranteed to provide you with a series of once in a lifetime experiences. For me: – I completed the dissertation for my LLB in the United States Library of Congress, – I saw an oral argument with all nine Justices of the Supreme Court – I sat in on multiple congressional hearings where senators were discussing Russian cyber-hacking and immigration crisis.
– Gemma, George Washington University
My time at IU is now something I view as truly unique and will always consider to be extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to go on exchange and would strongly encourage any student thinking about it to consider going to IU.
– Cameron, Indiana University
My advice for someone thinking about doing an exchange is to just get on and do it. I was at a point where I thought I had run out of time and was thinking an exchange was going to be inconvenient for my degree. However, spending a semester abroad at PSU was, as my cousin described his, life-changing.
– Sam, Pennsylvania State University
Studying aboard at UVA was the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, while immersing myself in an entirely new culture and city, along with a completely different way of learning at the University of Auckland. I can say with sincere honesty that I could’ve never imagined loving UVA as much as I did. To say that time flew would be an understatement; in one moment I felt as if I had just arrived, and in the next I was already preparing to say difficult goodbyes to my newfound friends.
– Cengyue, University of Virginia
Without a doubt the highlight of my exchange was the amazing group of friends I made. I loved being able to play sports I had never tried before at the gym with my friends. I also loved coming together at the end of the day over the dining hall meals to talk to everybody; although it sounds insignificant, these were the moments that made the exchange so incredible.
University of Auckland law students have the opportunity to study at one partner university in Taiwan: National Taiwan University.
Let’s hear what our law students have to say…
When I first arrived in Taiwan, it took me a short period to adjust to my new environment. Although in general, there are more similarities than differences it takes time to get accustomed to these differences in culture, lifestyle and expectations of such a different country. My advice is to be as prepared as you can and to also not have to also have an open mind to learning new ways of doing things.
– Min-Hung, National Taiwan University
The host city of Taipei was very much how I expected it as a major hub in Asia. It had all the characteristics of a big city but also had a slight traditional charm to it with all the various temples and shrines scattered throughout the city.
– Ian, National Taiwan University
Everything is cheaper than Auckland, especially living. I guess people don’t get paid as much but still it’s a lot cheaper. I met a few friends from my first soccer class and joined their soccer team. We trained together, played together and I even took part in the competition. Sadly under some circumstances we only had two games in the first semester and I played entire matches for both games. We drew the first and won the second. Hope they can win the title, and mail me a gold medal. I spent a week traveling around Taiwan after my exams. It was a great experience. Food in Taiwan was very good, and a bit cheaper. There are many kinds of food–rice, noodles, meat pie… I am very glad to be able to live in Taiwan for a semester. I made local friends and hang out with them a lot. I got to live like them, and I think this is the most important thing.
– Peter, National Taiwan University
When I first arrived, I knew absolutely no one. I was admittedly a little nervous about making friends, but once I arrived at orientation, there was hundreds of other students with the same problem, so things sorted out quickly. What’s more, Taiwan has a plethora of apps to meet new friends and it is quite common place to use them. Orientation was extremely extensive and every new exchange student is paired with a local student who will help with anything, not just campus or academic related issues, so by the end of orientation, I felt completely at ease.
– Hugh, National Taiwan University
National Taiwan University’s campus is incredibly big. It was a welcomed change to live so close to the university compared to my one hour commute by bus back at home. I recommend buy a bicycle because the campus is so big, it cuts the travel time across the campus from 25 minutes to about ten minutes.
– Min-Hung, National Taiwan University
During my exchange, I involved myself in various extracurricular activities such as joining clubs as well as volunteering under various organisations. One of my most memorable moments in Taiwan was actually through my volunteering work under an organisation called ICL (International Companions for Learning). Through ICL, I got to volunteer to go to schools throughout Taiwan and undergo a cultural exchange, introducing myself as well as my home country of New Zealand.
– Ian, National Taiwan University
As for the greater Taipei, I found the grassroots art and music scene incredibly vibrant and unique. This was certainly one of the highlights of my time here and kept my free time very much occupied as there is an abundance of it to see. The food is exceptional and incredibly cheap, eating out is about a quarter of the price of Auckland. Infact, buying groceries and eating out works out to be about the same price. I cooked literally three times in a year. Exploring the cuisine is an endless journey full of discovery. Also, the sheer range of different food means that no one could possibly not like Taiwanese food as a whole.
– Hugh, National Taiwan Unviersity
There were exchange students who got by without a bike as well. There are plenty of cheap food options within and nearby campus. The campus is in quite a busy/good location where a lot of young people like to spend time. There is a decent night market nearby the dormitory and a convenience store so you will never be hungry.
University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at two partner universities in Norway: The University of Bergen (Law only) and The University of Oslo.
Let’s hear what our students have to say…
The exchange program was definitely the highlight of my University experience. Moving to Norway has been an eye opener as I learned it is ranked the world’s most progressive and prosperous country, with the highest gender and wealth equality in the world. Oslo is also currently Europe’s fastest growing city so it was great being amongst so much change.
– Jean, The University of Oslo
Bergen is a beautiful city surrounded by 7 mountains and situated on a fjord. After settling in, we had a full orientation programme organized by the university. It involved orienteering round the city and ten pin bowling, among other things. On top of this, Norwegians are some of the nicest people I have met. All in all, I had the best semester of my life in Norway. The hardest thing about my exchange was dealing with the culture shock and homesickness when I first arrived. However, if you can push through this and give the exchange a chance, then you will have an amazing experience and make new friends from all over the world. I would absolutely recommend and Auckland Abroad exchange to anyone.
– Sarah, University of Bergen (law)
Oslo is a very beautiful city surrounded by spectacular scenery. As the capital of Norway it is their largest city but is by no means a ‘super city’. The University has its main campus just outside the main city centre, while the law school is situated right next to the Norwegian Palace and boasts the University’s oldest buildings. The University also provided regular trips to cabins, museums and historic buildings for exchange students. Travelling with other students around Norway was one of the absolute highlights of the exchange.
– Meredith, The University of Oslo
Bergen is surrounded by 7 mountains and the greater Western/Southern Norway region has some really famous hikes. So I took trips with friends to do these hikes. Because Norway is pretty expensive, we took buses and camped in tents. This kind of thing is really encouraged in Norway – they want people to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. A highlight of my time in Bergen was joining a sports teams affiliated with the University. This meant that I actually got to spend some time with real-life Norwegian students, as opposed to just meeting other international students. My team mates were super welcoming, even if they did have to adjust their trainings so that they spoke in English. They were also really good about lending me things for hikes and recommending places to visit. One of the best things was that they played tournaments in other cities – and I got to travel with them and stay with their friends and family.
– Eleanor, University of Bergen (Law)
The law courses and lecturers were great. The most noticeable difference from law school at home was switching to textbook based learning, as opposed to statute and case based. All of the courses were taught in English. The buildings were very beautiful in the centre of the city, walking distance from the harbour and most of Oslo’s tourist attractions. The university facilities including the gym and sports teams were fantastic. The public transport was extensive and affordable.
– Alina, The University of Oslo
The University of Oslo is split up by faculty and the law campus was right on Karl Johans Gata, right next to the Royal Palace, so the atmosphere was very regal and historic. I had a lot of exchange students in my classes and I loved hearing the different accents ask and answer questions throughout the lecture.
– Elizabeth, The University of Oslo
Norway is a beautiful country making it fantastic place to travel around and do many incredible hikes. I recommend any visitors to take their hiking boots and plan a trip further north to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights. This was one of the highlights of my exchange, as well as visiting Lapland for dog sledding, feeding reindeer and snowmobiling.
– Alina, The University of Oslo
My first impressions of Bergen far surpassed any reports and recommendations I’d previously been exposed to: it was a stunner. The city itself rests on a harbour surrounded by Fjords and Islands, while 7 mountains surround the city from the landward sides. It makes for a stunning backdrop from the water and likewise from each of the peaks for those adventurous enough to hike to the tops.
– Edward, University of Bergen (Law)
I arrived just before Christmas and was surprised at how similar Oslo was to Auckland. It is a beautiful city on a fjord and surrounded by hills and forest. At times I struggled with the cold and dark in winter, but the spring and summer were exceptional. Norway has a beautiful soft light that is quite different from New Zealand and it doesn’t get dark until midnight. Everyone spends the evenings in the parks with friends or swimming in the fjord and there is a real sense of community. I was also lucky enough to go skiing in Norway on quite a few occasions. Norwegians are mad cross-country skiers and everyone from two year olds to eighty-two year olds are out on Sunday skiing in the forest. In summer I had a very Scandinavian experience of staying in a little cabin on an island in Southern Norway, swimming in the fjord and diving for oysters and mussels. Most weekends I went for a big walk around a natural reserve near our apartment where you can swim off the rocks in summer and BBQ on the beaches.
– Sylvie, University of Oslo
When I arrived in Oslo it was mid-winter the day before Christmas. Most of the city was closed, as it was a public holiday. Oslo is a beautiful city and coming in mid-winter with the snow was definitely a huge change from what I was used to and I was wearing an extra thermal layer than everyone else for a while until I adjusted to the cold.
– Janey, The University of Oslo
The lifestyle in Norway is very active – people like to hike. It was ideal to be so close to the lake (where we swam in the summer and walked across in the winter) and to the surrounding hills.
– Meredith, The University of Oslo
Bergen likes to think of itself as the cultural capital of Norway, a fair assessment of a quaint city with a village feel, never feeling overwhelming or at all like a concrete jungle. The live music and art scenes are thriving. Quintessentially ‘Bergen’ architecture is as prevalent throughout the small shops, cafes and bars lining the narrow cobble stone pedestrian friendly lanes as it is in the homely abodes dotted along the foot of the closest and most famous mountain, Floyen.
University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at one partner university in Mexico: Tecnológico de Monterrey
Let’s hear what our students have to say…
Tec is set up incredibly well for exchange students. There are a number of clubs (sporting and cultural), which take part during class hours, meaning that you can take part in activities inside ‘school’ hours. I found this fantastic, as I was able to play football to an incredibly high level during my downtime in the day.
– Andrew, Ciudad de Mexico Campus
At the time of writing, I still video call with friends who were also international students and local Mexican students from the University. It’s a beautiful and wholesome experience because we come from such different backgrounds and were raised so differently, but for five months, we were friends who became a tight-knit family; navigating the challenges of a foreign land and celebrating our triumphs with a taco, gordita, torta or quesadilla in hand.
– Lupesina, Campus Queretaro
The decision that I took to come to Mexico was one of the best ones of my life. My parents and friends were surprised that I had chosen such a ‘dangerous’ country, but until you come here, you cannot experience all of the unparalleled warmth, flavour and diversity of Mexican culture.
– Amy, Monterrey Campus
Of course it was challenging moving away from home, alone, but through it all, I made sure I pushed myself out of my comfort zone in order to make the most of my experience, and create beautiful memories.
– Arantxa, Monterrey Campus
Before living in México, I had no idea what it would look like but every new place I visited, showed me another side. Those were my highlights. Being around people just like me, experiencing the magic of México together. Cloud-tipped mountain villages, multi-coloured cobble-stone towns, perfect beaches; some of the most beautiful things my eyes have seen in my whole 20 years on this earth. If I have any advice for students considering exchange, it would be to go to México. The cost of living is nothing, the scenery is unreal, the food is unbeatable and the memories you make with the best kind of people are priceless.
University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at one partner university in Vietnam: Vietnam National University. This is a new partner with the university, we will update you with students experiences when they come back from exchange!
University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at one partner university in Uruguay: Universidad Católica del Uruguay. This is a new partner with the university, we will update you with students experiences when they come back from exchange!