From February to July 2018, I completed a trimester abroad at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. At the time, I was in the 6th semester of my bachelor’s degree in English and American studies and attended courses in English in Wellington. In this report I would like to briefly introduce how the organizational process worked, how the study program in Wellington is structured and what personal experiences I made during my stay abroad.
As a student of English and American studies, it was important to me to improve my English skills during a semester abroad and to familiarize myself with the culture of an English-speaking country. I chose New Zealand because the country is clearly British and American, but still offers a very unique culture and nature that I wasn’t very familiar with. I have not regretted this choice because I had very positive experiences in New Zealand and especially have quickly learned to love New Zealand’s capital Wellington. So I would like to give those of you who are considering a stay abroad in New Zealand some tips and tell you about the many positive and a few negative aspects of studying at Victoria University of Wellington which is abbreviated as VUW by abbreviationfinder.
Since my home university, the University of Hamburg, has no cooperation programs with New Zealand universities, I organized the study abroad myself. At times this was quite nerve-wracking because I started organizing it at short notice (six months beforehand) and then had a lot of paperwork to do. Nevertheless, everything went smoothly.
The first thing I did was to apply to New Zealand universities. In order to increase my chances, I applied to both the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington. The organization MicroEDU supported me with the application Universities. MicroEDU staff answered all of my questions on the application process and checked my documents before sending them to New Zealand for me. In order to apply to the University of Wellington, you have to send proof of your own English skills and fill out the so-called “Study Abroad and Exchange Application Form”, in which you have to specify your desired courses. A letter of motivation is not necessary, so the application is relatively simple.
After my successful application, I received an offer of study from both universities. I decided to take up the offer from Victoria University of Wellington and paid my tuition fees, which were funded by a foundation. With the approval of the university, I was then able to apply for my student visa. For the visa you have to prove that you have a place to study and can finance your stay. I received my visa quickly, so that I could then complete the final planning steps. Important info: I was not allowed to work in New Zealand with my visa because I only studied in New Zealand for one trimester. This should be taken into account when financing your stay abroad.
The property and the city of Wellington
At the end of February 2018 we could start. With stops in Dubai and Sydney, I made my way to Wellington. After the long flights, I was glad that the university had a shuttle service that picks up the newcomers from the airport and takes them to their accommodation. I lived in a University of Wellington dorm during my stay abroad. Although I only applied for a place there after the deadline had expired, I was given a room in my dream accommodation, the University Hall, and was also very happy. I shared a small house with six other international students in close proximity to the Kelburn campus. The equipment was not really up to date and the cleanliness of the accommodation left something to be desired, but the University Hall had the advantage that we could live independently in shared apartments and were only rarely controlled by our hall. In many other halls, all guests needed a visitor ID, so spontaneous visits were more difficult. The disadvantage of our house, however, was that we lived on a hill and therefore had to climb a little hill every time we wanted to go to the city center or go shopping.
Wellington is generally quite a hilly city with steep streets, so you should be prepared for the fact that walking is sometimes more like an endurance program. But of course you get used to it over time. The uncomfortable autumn weather in Wellington, which is not called Windy Welly for nothing, took some getting used to. The winds in Wellington can be very strong and it rains a lot in the fall and winter. But, as the locals say: Nothing beats Wellington on a good day! So my tip would be to travel to Wellington in the summer (December to February) if possible. From the summer in Wellington I only saw February and March, but enjoyed it all the more. While there was still snow in Germany, I was swimming at the city beach Oriental Bay, ate ice cream at the harbor in Wellington and climbed Mount Victoria in the best weather.
Wellington is a beautiful city with a fantastic location, from which you can easily take the ferry to the South Island (approx. 3 ½ hours drive) which is highly recommended. The city is also the country’s political and cultural center. Although Wellington is much smaller than the megacity of Auckland, I would always prefer Wellington to Auckland.
Overall, I was also satisfied with the University of Wellington. The service in advance was very good and the support of the teachers was more intensive than I know from Germany. The courses at the University of Wellington, however, were a little less demanding than in Germany. Nevertheless, the course was quite time-consuming, as a large proportion of the work is already completed in the current semester. In addition to the midterms and finals, there are usually shorter assignments or tests during the semester. In my field of study, the exams consisted of essays instead of written exams, so that I was able to hand in all of my essays before the exam phase and then had a little time to travel.
Unfortunately, I had the misfortune that two of my courses only consisted of lectures and did not, as is usual in Wellington, include a tutorial. This meant that there was less discussion in the courses and it was more difficult to get in touch with the local students. Academically, studying in Wellington brought me a lot, however, because for the first time I studied English only with native speakers, gained new perspectives on my subject and learned to write essays in the Anglo-American style.
However, I learned a lot more in normal everyday life than I did during my studies. I have made very good friends with the other international students, especially those from my shared apartment. It was great fun to exchange ideas with the others and in this way to learn a lot about the culture and politics of their respective countries and regions of origin. I found it incredibly exciting to learn more about the world, to familiarize myself with cultural peculiarities and to discuss internationally relevant topics. Living and studying in an international environment was an extremely positive experience for me. I not only learned a lot about New Zealand and the rest of the world, but also got to know myself anew. I am now even more open to others and overall I am a little more spontaneous and relaxed. I would therefore not want to miss out on the experiences I made in New Zealand. The decision to go abroad, which was very difficult for me at the time, turned out to be one of the best of my life. I can therefore wholeheartedly recommend doing a semester abroad!
For me personally, Wellington was the right place to study. I loved living in Wellington and was able to use my study breaks and the time before my departure to travel to the North and South Islands and to Australia. If you are still hesitating whether to go to Wellington or to another city, you can consider the following points:
- The high cost of living, especially the food, is very expensive
- Very small for a capital city, so that after a while you have the feeling that you have seen everything
- In winter it is quite cold, rainy and windy
- University courses could be more challenging
- Good service from the university, easy application process
- Excellent location with great short trip and travel opportunities (the South Island can be reached in three and a half hours by ferry; Sydney is about a four-hour flight away)
- Wellington is the political, cultural and culinary hub of New Zealand
- Lively international city with many cultural influences from Europe, America and Asia
I hope this report encourages you to do a semester abroad and makes it easier for you to decide where to go!