Study Abroad in Wellington

Rosie Willoughby – BSc (Hons) Media and Communications

Kia ora – hi everyone! I’m Rosie, and I study Media and Communications BSc. I was lucky enough to spend this year going on a work placement and a study abroad semester. It’s definitely more work to get everything put in place, but it has been so worth it! I’m studying at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand.  

Wellington is the most southern-most capital city in the world and pretty much the furthest you can get from Guildford! The city center is full of coffee shops, museums, thrift shops and bars, while the suburbs and countryside are a short bus journey away, where you can hike mountains, walk along the beach to see penguins and seals and mountain bike through the hills. Here we have the best of both worlds: Wellington Harbour (Te-Whanganui-a-Tara) has stunning views to the towns and mountains of the North Island, while the coastline looks onto the South Island and Cook Strait.  

I have lived in Helen Lowry Hall, which is a smaller hall of residence in the suburb of Karori. It is mostly catered, though you can move into self-catered houses on the property. The community is wonderful and I’ve made friends for life with the other residents here. It’s mostly made up of first-year NZ students, study exchange students like me and international students. Because of that, I’ve met friends from all over the world, which is amazing! We have many hall events including a decades-themed disco night, hall Olympics, watch parties and city tours. I couldn’t recommend living here more, and it’s about a 40 minute downhill walk to the main university campus in Kelburn (but there is a free hall shuttle and public buses!).  

The university is made up of three main campuses. Kelburn is where most people have lectures. The library has views over the entire city and is similar to Surrey’s layout. Te Aro is down in town, near Cuba Street (for clubs, restaurants and shops!) and is where architecture and design courses are based. Pipitea is next to the Beehive (New Zealand Parliament buildings) and focuses on law and politics classes. 

The amazing thing about uni in New Zealand is the huge variety of classes you can take, no matter your major. Even though I study Media at Surrey, here I chose to take a class in US History (which was brilliant!) and a course about disaster and crisis policy. It’s been so exciting to branch out into new subjects and the lecturers are so passionate and willing to involve you in their classes, even if you have no experience. The lecturers, assistants and support staff are so dedicated to making life more accessible and your transition to the exchange as smooth as possible.   

When I arrived in February it was coming up to the end of the summer but the great weather stuck around for much longer than it ever would in the UK! I definitely recommend coming for the British second semester / NZ first semester, as the weather is great and all students are in the same boat as it’s the beginning of their academic year. I was very nervous before I arrived that I wouldn’t be able to make friends but from day one it became clear how friendly everyone is. The study abroad team host events where you can meet other exchange students and it pays to be brave and start chatting to someone in your lesson. Most of my friends were made in my halls, which was great as we have all our meals together and play games and watch films every evening. It’s completely life-changing to have met so many new friends in such a short space of time. 

Outside of uni, I’ve been here for the two-week mid-term break (Easter break), where I travelled the country. I was lucky enough that some of my family were able to fly over and visit, so I hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (famous for being an active volcano, portraying Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings and known as the best day-hike in the world!), took a boat tour through the Waitomo glowworm caves (which light up like the milky way) and had a day wandering Auckland. With a short flight, you make it to the South Island; where you can bungy, skydive, parasail and luge in Queenstown and hike and ski in Wanaka. There’s so much more that I didn’t have time to do but I’ve enjoyed my time here so much that I know I’ll be back. On the way back to the UK, you could also stop off in Australia or Asia: the flights are long, so maybe you’d want to break up that journey!  

This entire experience has been genuinely unbelievable. Wellington should be on the top of your list for study abroad; it’s the furthest you can go, which I think has really taught me a lot about not being afraid of the distance. It’s a wonderful city with friendly people and nature that you couldn’t imagine at home. It takes resilience to make it to this point; the application, visa and planning process is long, and there will be roadblocks where you have to learn to stand up for yourself (and learn how to phone people!) but once you’re through that you will look back and realise what you’ve achieved. The Santander grant has enabled me to participate in activities that I’d never have been able to do without it and really helped to take away any anxiety I had about money while I was here.  

There is nothing in this world I would recommend more than taking advantage of the study abroad opportunity – I wish I could do it all over again.

*Disclaimer: The Santander grants are no longer available for students to apply for beyond the 2023/24 academic year. Please see our MySurrey website for further information about funding available through the Turing Scheme and other grants and scholarships.