Living Abroad Series: Dunedin

Words and images by Kat Mallett

Going to university comes with a multitude of challenges, decisions and opportunities. It is drilled into students from the outset to make the most of their time at university, and seize every experience offered to them. With this in mind, when I attended a first-year lecture in which we told about the possibility to study abroad, I was at once intrigued, excited and slightly scared. It wasn’t until I researched further into the study abroad scheme that I decided it was something I really wanted to do, and now would explicitly recommend to anyone considering the prospect. 

As one of the Travel Section Editors of Quench Magazine, it comes as no surprise that I am obsessed with travelling and love to explore new cities, countries and even continents. When nominating your top three choices for study abroad, there are many aspects that I would recommend considering before making your decision. Firstly, it is important to choose the right location. The available destinations often differ for each course, but it is important to research the locations and consider elements such as the travel time and the language spoken in the country. Secondly, it is vital to look at the modules available to you at the various universities to ensure that they are relevant, beneficial and appealing to you. Lastly, I suggest considering what there is to explore at the different universities and what you would you gain from the experience, academically and otherwise. 

Having taken all of the above into account I completed my application and was lucky enough to get a placement at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. Dunedin is the second-largest city on the South Island of New Zealand and is New Zealand’s oldest University city. 

The process before jetting off to the other side of the world was slightly challenging and daunting at times. The preparation involved booking numerous flights (as I happened to pick the city furthest away from London), applying for a student visa, researching accommodation and everything in between. Although the groundwork for study abroad felt somewhat tedious at times, there’s no doubt that it was worth it. 

It took 42 hours of travelling, till Lilly (a fellow JOMEC student and fab friend) and I landed in Dunedin. The drive from the airport was tense as I looked out the window to endless green fields and a tedious grey sky, wondering why I bothered leaving the UK. When I had finally wrestled my suitcases up to my room in my new student accomodation, reality hit, and a few tears were shed over the thought of being so far from home, pretty much alone. I don’t tell you this to dampen the study abroad hype, but so as to highlight that there will always be ups and downs, and to feel like this at uni (abroad or otherwise) is totally normal. 

Fast forward to the next day, and I was already feeling better. I had met my flat-mates who were amazing and realised that my family and friends were just a Facetime away, despite the time difference. I spent my first few weeks exploring all that Dunedin had to offer. The numerous beautiful beaches, the local caves that are home to glow worms and the incredible historic architecture. The city is a student-hub so is heaving with cool restaurants, bars and cafes, that it would be rude not to try. 

The term time in New Zealand runs from February to December, so I arrived during their freshers week, aka ‘O- week’. It was the most insanely incredible and intense week, with each day having a different fancy dress theme, including traffic lights, a white party and gender reversal. The drink of choice was a ‘scrumpy’ aka the worst cider ever but it was cheap and fun to get in the spirit of the week. 

Despite all the freshers festivities, university did eventually roll around. University itself wasn’t too dissimilar from Cardiff, with the only significant difference being 50-minute lectures, as opposed to the 2-hour lectures I had grown accustomed to. The modules I had elected were interesting and a lot more vocational than any I had taken before. The University of Otago was super helpful with any queries or problems, and the best part (maybe not) was that the gym was free! 

Despite the slightly troublesome matter of a global pandemic, I had some of my best weeks ever studying abroad in New Zealand. I explored a part of the world I had never seen before and am eager to go back to see more of the places I missed out on due to the travel restrictions. I have made friends from all over the globe and have memories that will last a lifetime (cringey but true!). 

The uncertainty of global travel still looms and with it the anxieties of studying abroad grow. However, if you have the chance to learn and live abroad, (with fear of sounding like a university lecturer) I encourage you to grab the opportunity with both hands.