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Category Archives: Outdoor Pursuits

Study Abroad at Otago – if you love what you do, you can do it here.

Fox Meyer came to the University of Otago from Washington DC, originally for one semester, but one semester proved not long enough, and he extended his stay for a year.  We caught up with Fox, as he is a bit of an international student super-star, and asked him why he came to Otago?  What he experienced when he was here – the good and the bad, and the combination of factors that make the University of Otago, in Dunedin, New Zealand, located at the very bottom of the world, such a special place.

“Plenty of schools have good geology programmes, and plenty of schools are in wonderful locations, I chose Otago, because it has both.”

The style of learning was different to what Meyer was used to back home, more independent and ultimately down to personal motivation.  If you’re passionate, the academics will do everything they can to help you.

“Academically, the kiwi attitude towards failure was very healthy.  Professors won’t hesitate to fail you if you aren’t making the grade, but that’s not the end of the world.  They don’t sugar-coat anything.  You’re there to learn, and you need to be wrong in order to learn.  I’m glad the staff felt the same way.”

The majority of geology coursework involved fieldwork, plenty of time in tents and streams, resulting in a final product as opposed to an exam, which was perfect for Meyer’s learning style.

Otago has encouraged me to do any sort of project I could conceive of, and point me in the right direction when I’ve needed help.” 

This independence and interest for his subject led to assisting a professor looking at the thermal properties of the Otago harbour.  The data obtained from this is useful in tracking climate change, as well as prospecting potential geothermal taps.  On a whim, Meyer applied for the inaugural ‘Think New Grant,’ from Education New Zealand, and won it!

“I think that part of the reason I won was because I had so much fun applying; enthusiasm for one’s study can often be contagious, so big ups to Otago for fostering that curiosity.”

When asked what a stand out feature of studying at Otago was, Meyer refers to the social lifestyle at Otago as an international student:

“Living in the international community is a wonderful bubble. There’s something going on every night of the week, you’ll meet folks from all over the world, and if you don’t know how to cook, now’s the time to learn!”

And once again, the learning and teaching environment are top of mind:

“I was given a lot of creative freedom and deadline flexibility to produce an end product that I was happy with.  That being said, expectations are very high.  You had to ask for help, you had to explore, and you really had to get your feet wet.  That’s a good way of describing Otago:  it’s very easy to get your feet wet, and if you’d like, you can dive a whole lot deeper.”

Best memory?

“I have a year of best memories.  The most humbling was during field camp when I’d just submitted my first map sheet, and I thought I was really hot stuff.  I felt really big for my boots, was very confident with my lab experience back in the States.  Boy, was I mistaken.  Way off!  My map sheet made no sense at all and the lecturers tore it to shreds.  I asked for advice, listened to their advice, went back out, and got a 98% on my next map.  Otago taught me not to think I know too much.  There’s always room for improvement.”

Worst experience?

“Leaving Otago.  It’s that good.  If you’re someone who likes their independence, who can work hard and play hard, there’s really nowhere else to go.  Definitely not Auckland.” 

Future plans?

“I’ll be back to New Zealand as soon as I can, I’d like to explore jobs in the geothermal sector.  I really believe New Zealand has both the natural potential and the social support to become a geothermal powerhouse.”

Great to catch up with you Fox, congratulations on graduating with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Geology, we wish you all the very best with your future endeavours.

Our favourite takeaway quote from chatting:

“If you love what you do, you can do it here.”

To find out more about studying at the University of Otago, click the big yellow button below and start your journey!

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, both from Otago, she is passionate about education, and the places it can take you.

Why is Dunedin the wildlife capital of NZ?

The topic of our native and particularly endemic wildlife in New Zealand, and Dunedin is a passion close to my heart.  I think you will find that many local Dunedin people feel the same way that I do, we recognise the precious taonga that we are surrounded by, and increasingly we are feeling a need to protect, care for and nurture these remarkable animals that made their lives here long before humans walked on our shores.  This blog is also timed to promote the upcoming ‘Wild Dunedin – New Zealand Festival of Nature‘, that runs from 22 – 28 April 2019.  

Let’s find out some of the reasons that two of the most well known and passionate naturalists in the world used these words to describe our environment – ” Otago Peninsula and Taiaroa Head is a unique and very special place. It is a place that every visitor to Dunedin should see” – Sir David Attenborough. ” In my opinion the Otago Peninsula is the finest example of eco-tourism in the world” Professor David Bellamy.

The Northern Royal Albatross/Toroa

We have so many taonga to choose from, it really is a question of where to start?  But I think starting with this magnificent sea bird is the place – the Northern Royal Albatross or Toroa.  This largest of all sea birds spends it’s entire life at sea, only returning to land to breed.  And the Otago Peninsula, and specifically Taiaroa Head is the only mainland breeding colony in the world.

Yes, you can visit, observe and learn more about this at risk species by visiting the Royal Albatross Centre.  Birds mate for life and return to raise one chick every year between them.  Due to various challenges human intervention has proved to be necessary.   Chicks are carefully monitored and assisted with the least amount of stress as possible to enable them to continue spreading their enormous wing span of over three metres around the world.  Follow the drama, often hilarity and sometimes tragedy of the albatross breeding season on the Department of Conservations Royal Cam.

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin/Hoiho (photo credit: Shaun Templeton).

Yellow Eyed Penguin/Hoiho and Little Blue Penguin/Kororā

I haven’t met many people that don’t find these quirky birds endearing.  Perhaps it is the comical way in which they waddle to and from the ocean on a daily basis, or the soap opera style lives they lead when it comes to finding, securing and keeping a mate!  Either way, I have no doubt that you will fall in love with either the Yellow Eyed Penguin/Hoiho and the world’s smallest penguin the Little Blue Penguin/Kororā, both of which can be found and observed on the Otago Peninsula.  Sadly, both species are threatened and at risk but the people of Dunedin don’t just sit idly by.  Initiatives like Penguin Place, a private conservation area rely solely on their tours to fund the conservation of the Yellow Eyed – including restoration of habitat, predator control and a rehabilitation centre for sick and injured birds.

An adult male and two juvenile male NZ Sealions, previously known as the Hooker’s Sea Lion.

 

New Zealand Fur Seal/Kekeno & New Zealand sea lion / rāpoka / whakahao

The New Zealand Fur Seal is sometimes mistaken for its larger neighbour the New Zealand Sea Lion, but there are some distinct differences that will help you identify which is which:

1. The fur seal is found in abundance all around the Otago peninsula, the sea lion is endangered with an albeit increasing, but much smaller population.

2.  The fur seal is distinctly smaller than the sea lion.

3.  Both male and female fur seals have a pointy nose unlike the sea lion.

4.  Seals prefer rocky outcrops to sunbathe, whereas sealions will often be seen lying on one of Dunedin’s many sandy beaches.

Recently there have been instances of the public attempting to interact with these animals, so if you are visiting Dunedin please take the time to read here about why you must leave them be, and tips on how to deal with an encounter with a sea lion. 

New Zealand Marine Studies Centre

It should come as no surprise, given that we live right on the doorstep of the South Pacific Ocean and that we are home to New Zealand’s first university, that we have a marine studies centre.  The New Zealand Marine Studies Centre is located at Portobello, a beautiful 20 minute drive from Dunedin city.

The University of Otago uses this as their practical base to conduct research, but also as a way to showcase local marine life and to educate.  The centre is no longer open to the public but during the ‘Wild Dunedin – New Zealand Festival of Nature‘, there are sessions open to the public where you can join a marine scientist to find out about marine food webs and who eats what in the ocean in ‘Wild Food Webs and Fishy Feasts.’ 

The reintroduction of Kaka at Orokonui Ecosanctuary is believed to be the first to the South Island mainland.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Across the harbour from the Otago Peninsula is another remarkable, locally led conservation project – the Orokonui Ecosanctuary.  Over 300 hectares of native New Zealand bush has been eradicated of predators and due to a predator proof fence is now home to an ever increasing population of native NZ birds, reptiles and plants.

The Ecosanctuary really is an example of what happens when a idea becomes a plan, and that plan becomes a reality.  Walking inside the gates of this impressive project feels very much like stepping back in time to what New Zealand would have been like prior to the arrival of humans.  Tui, Bellebird, Kaka, Takahe and Kiwi are some of the many birds who have been brought to live within this sanctuary and their numbers are on the up.

If you want to get up close and personal with NZ native birds, on their terms, this place is a must.  Plus, you’ll find a cafe, gift shop and plenty of educational resources available.  If you’re interested in finding out just what bird you are listening to, I found this fabulous resource from DOC that provides audio for some of the songs and calls of New Zealand birds.

This little guy was plucking his feathers out around a wound site, so staff decided a onesie would provide the solution to that problem, and it did!

The Wildlife Hospital

We have a Wildlife Hospital, and if that isn’t testament enough to our claims regarding being the wildlife capital, I don’t know what is.  I have not visited the hospital, so have taken this description from their website:

“The Wildlife Hospital is a partnership with Otago Polytechnic, and its School of Veterinary Nursing.  We’re also collaborating with many other organisations across the community, to create opportunities for education, training and research.

Before the hospital opened, sick or injured endangered species were flown to the North Island for treatment – a journey that seriously reduced their chances of pulling through. Animals that aren’t endangered were left to either fight for themselves, or were euthanased.

A quick, local response, maximises the survival rates of all native wildlife. Ultimately, we’ll be increasing animal populations right across the lower South Island.

Up to 80% of the native species in New Zealand are now under threat of extinction, and while there are many great initiatives to reduce predators and increase safe havens for these animals, there is a pressing need to save every single one we can – right now.  As habitats are slowly recovered, we need to make sure the animals are still in existence to populate them.”

A Southern Right Whale mother and calf. Photo courtesy of Steve Dawson from the University of Otago.

Southern Right Whale

When early settlers arrived in Otago they were kept awake at night by the noise created by Southern Right Whales who used the harbour as a natural nursery to safely birth their young. The name ‘right’ whale was given by the whalers who came here to hunt them as they were so easy to kill.  Our history with this beautiful animal is a very sad one, at one stage the population of this species due to commercial whaling operations was down to a couple of hundred animals – thankfully now that number is in the thousands.

As the whale population increases, so do sightings around Otago.  What used to be rare is now more common place as the animals take up their natural migratory routes and return to their ‘rightful’ (excuse the pun) place.  University of Otago researchers have been studying the population that lives near the Auckland Islands and this will no doubt continue to assist in understanding and protecting this recovering population.

Dunedin, Otago Peninsula & harbour

Well, there we have it, and there is so much more to say on this topic that I may have to revisit it!  I haven’t even mentioned the thousands of sea birds that nest along our rocky coastlines, the orca and dolphins that frequent our harbour, literally stopping traffic as people pull over in their vehicles trying to take a picture.  Take a look at the ‘Wild Dunedin – NZ Festival of Nature’ programme and see all the opportunities to immerse, educate and engage yourself in.   Ultimately in doing so you will help protect our precious taonga and we will be able to continue to call Dunedin, the Wildlife Capital of New Zealand.

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

Recreation at Otago = Unipol.

If you’re new to the University of Otago you will hear people talking about Unipol.  No, it’s not some undercover university police operation……Unipol is a very weird name…..it is an amalgamation of the university and the polytechnic and it doesn’t give you any idea of what it is all about….. but let’s not worry about the name, I don’t think it will be changing anytime soon, let’s focus on what Unipol is all about, because there is a LOT to talk about!

What is Unipol?

Unipol is the University of Otago’s recreation centre.  And it is some centre. Unipol Recreation Services offers a huge choice of recreational activities, including cardio and weights, sports halls, group fitness, outdoor rental, social sport and outdoor adventures.  Unipol is all about balancing your studies and keeping a smile on your face.

Prior to 2011, Unipol was housed in an awesome old art-deco building just a 5-minute walk from campus, but the demand for a bigger, and more up to date facility saw the creation of this amazing building, which is also home to the UOLCFY (University of Otago Language Centre and Foundation Year) and right next to New Zealand’s only covered stadium – Forsyth Barr Stadium.  Our stadium raises the roof by hosting international sporting events, including our famous All Blacks, and a range of world class entertainment, including Pink, Kendrik Lamar, Elton John (who loved it so much here he’s coming back on his final tour) and Ed Sheeran.

Who can use Unipol?

Entry into the Unipol Recreation Services is free for University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic students with presentation of their ID card.

It is also available for use by University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic staff and their whānau and friends.

 University approved recreation providers

Get in touch with your inner explorer, venture beyond campus and experience the natural beauty that Dunedin has to offer with a variety of outdoor adventures from local University approved recreation providers. Be sure to use your valid student ID card to get special student discounts!

Surfing

This mobile surf school based at The Esplanade, St Clair Beach, offer learn to surf sessions for beginners through to advanced lessons for those wanting to extend their local knowledge. Your wave is waiting!

Esplanade Surf School

Walks

A variety of walking excursions around Dunedin, the peninsula and surrounding coast lines. You will come across plenty of wildlife so bring your camera!

Untamed NZ Tour Company

Dunedin Adventures Ltd

Mountain biking

Love mountain biking? From sandy beaches to native forests Dunedin, and it’s surrounding area, have some amazing tracks to be explored.

Offtrack MTB Tours

Windsurfing/SUP

Experience the exhilaration and fun of windsurfing and/or stand up paddle boarding (SUP) on the beautiful Otago Harbour. It’s sure to blow your hair back!

Watercooled Sports

Ice hockey

Learn to play ice hockey, focusing on skating, puck handling, passing and shooting while having loads of fun.

Dunedin Ice Hockey

Sea kayaking

Picture yourself in a sea kayak cruising amongst Otago’s coastal wildlife while paddling around the beautiful Otago Peninsula. Get ready to see the unexpected.

Wild Earth Adventures

Rock climbing

Take a break from your study with a rock climbing adventure. Choose between an introduction course or advance your skills with some lead climbing!

Dunedin Adventures Ltd

Unipol staff – they’re a good bunch

This is Dan and Liz, two of the team that take care of all things Unipol and they are good sorts – they are pretty funny, smile a lot and enjoy life.  It’s probably because they follow their own advice and know how good exercise makes you feel, and I’m guessing they do a fair bit of it.  So take their advice, go into Unipol and see what you can find to put a smile on your dial.

Thanks to the Unipol website for providing a lot of the information contained in this blog.

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

Orientation at Otago – a snapshot!

Whether you are a new or returning student one thing you all have in common is the chance to be involved in the celebrations, events and information sessions that make up the University of Otago Orientation Week!  From attending the Convocation Ceremony – the official and formal welcome to all first year students, to making the most of the star-studded line up of performances, there are plenty of opportunities for you to immerse yourself into the Otago culture and surroundings and along the way meet some like minded people.

Student Village and Tent City

This year we are running a Student Village on campus alongside Tent City in the Museum Reserve from Monday the 17th February through until Wednesday the 19th.

Find out about all the services, support and other opportunities offered by the University including:

Staff from StudyLink will also be in attendance.

University Collegiate Sports Day

During orientation week first-year students from residential colleges, Uni Flats, and the Locals programme meet en masse in a collegiate sports day, complete with chants, flags and uniform t-shirts, to participate in a fun-filled afternoon of social sport.

This is the chance to cement newly formed friendships and get involved in some healthy competition. Sports include touch, netball, soccer and volleyball.

Need some tips on how to succeed at Otago?

Along with course advice available throughout the week, there are also other information sessions aimed at helping you understand what university academic standards and expectations are, and how you can succeed!  Including sessions on how to transition into university successfully,  points for international students on how to succeed academically at Otago, and if you are an international student don’t miss our official welcome and lunch, on Wednesday the 19th February, the food and the kapa-haka performance are always a hit!  Plus we are always on the look out for student stories and if you’re interested in sharing your story, being an ambassador for Otago, or featuring on the cover of one of our international publications, come and see the International Office booth at the expo and talk to us!

OUSA Clubs Day

OUSA has a crazy amount of opportunites for you to try something new, meet new people or perhaps get together with students who have also come here to study from your home country.  With over 160 affiliated clubs and societies on campus you really can’t complain about a lack of options.   Head to Clubs Day on Thursday 20th February to find your fit!

Looking to be entertained?

If you’re looking for pure adrenaline, big crowds and fun, there are a variety of events to choose from, including performances from big name DJ’s and bands (the image above was taken at last year’s orientation) at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, NZ’s only covered stadium, and just a 5 minute walk from campus.  And as the picture below shows you, yes, the famous Toga Party still lives on.  And if you’re a lover of food, don’t miss the International Food Festival on Saturday the 22nd of February, a huge array of delectable delights from around the world are on offer for you to try.

So, what’s our advice to you?  Get involved, try something new, literally be like a sponge and soak it all up.  There are so many choices for recreation, new experiences, study advice and general help available to you, and we like to think we are a friendly bunch of people so always ask if you’re unsure!  Enjoy this special time in your life, as the text in the photo at the top of the blog says it’s a “once in a lifetime experience.”

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago.

Where can an Otago degree take you?

One thing that never ceases to amaze me in my job is the sense of loyalty and pride that the University of Otago imparts on alumni.  International students who have studied at Otago and have integrated into the culture and immersed themselves in all the opportunities have an incredible passion for this university at the bottom of the world.  A passion that continues long after they have left us.

An email sent to our department was forwarded my way last week from a student who graduated with a BSc (Bachelor of Science) in Chemistry in 2012.  From my first glance it was clear that this student wanted to share her story, so I got in touch with Nicole Bravo Castro (nee Wurster) to find out what she had to say about her experiences at Otago.

Nicole exploring the spectacular South Island during her time spent here studying for her undergraduate degree.

Plans change

Nicole Wurster (pictured above) had travelled to NZ from her home in Germany as a high school exchange student.  She never had any intention of staying beyond that time, but plans do change….

“I felt inspired by everyone applying for university and was immediately drawn to the University of Otago –  having been to Dunedin previously on a summer vacation I guess I had already fallen in love with New Zealand’s southern beauty.  Back then, I remember strolling around campus and dreaming about studying at Otago.  I decided to stay for the duration of my entire undergraduate degree.”

Why Otago?

Like many other international students who choose to study here our worldwide reputation and cutting edge research is attractive.  Also, another point that is often mentioned is the welcoming and warm nature of our staff and students, and Dunedin as a whole, Nicole felt immediately at home.  But another reason is the flexibility of our programmes – Otago aims to turn out well rounded graduates who have a broader subject knowledge and skill set than their chosen degree may imply:

Choosing courses at Otago is quite flexible, I could individually select and combine my courses to plan my degree step by step.  I absolutely loved this option as it helped me throughout my studies to develop my strengths – the system allowed me to take a couple of non-scientific subjects in order to give me a broader general knowledge.”

How did you find the learning/teaching environment at Otago?

“I loved it and haven’t come across the same dynamics in any other tertiary educational institution I know.  Otago’s chemistry department put a great focus on teamwork and offered countless opportunities to develop interpersonal skills.  Otago is very modern in both its facilities and its spirit and I developed some core writing skills which I value up to this day.  Lecturers were friendly and felt very authentic, which made every trip to university enjoyable – even the early morning lectures!  The feeling of not being just one of many, but someone individual with something valuable to offer is something I have frequently missed in European universities.”

Nicole (second from left) and friends with the iconic University of Otago clocktower in the background.

What about the student life/culture?

As we have mentioned before the saying ‘one size does not fit all’ is very applicable.  If we are going to be authentic the fact is not every single student that comes to us loves their time here.  But one theme that does come through after all our discussions with international students is that keeping an open mind will allow you to enjoy the culture and the range of experiences more.  “During my entire time as an international student I have felt fully included by my peers and completely immersed into the Otago culture.  I always kept an open mind and am still thrilled about the genuine friendliness of people in Dunedin and their laid back attitude towards life.”

Nicole Bravo Castro today – she credits her time at Otago as a stepping stone to an international mindset and career.

Where are you now?

After completing a Master in Science in Germany and additionally studying for one semester in France, Nicole is now fully employed for the Scottish Company ‘PEAK Scientific’ as territory manager in Northern Germany.

“I love how my job allows me to make use of my chemistry background whilst as the same time giving me the opportunity to speak to a variety of people, using the various languages I speak and benefitting from my international experiences.”

Advice to those thinking of coming here?

“There really is no other place that compares to New Zealand, and Dunedin is particularly gorgeous.  If you love natural beauty, sports and everything else the South Island offers, this is your best choice, it is also a very safe place in the world.  My years at Otago feel like a key stepping stone in my journey towards having a very strong international mind-set, a curiosity for foreign culture and a high level of tolerance towards others.”

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

5 steps to becoming more mentally fit….

What is mental health and fitness?  Is it like physical fitness in that you can gain it or lose it?  What knowledge and support is there when people need to get help?  Or how can people retain their resilience and keep well when life throws its various curveballs?  This is an enormous topic, but we are going to keep it simple. 

Research shows there are five simple things you can do as part of your daily
life – at work and at home – to build resilience, boost your wellbeing and lower
your risk of developing mental illness. These simple actions are known
internationally as the Five Ways to Wellbeing and are actively being promoted by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand – mauri tū mauri ora.

Are mental and physical fitness the same?

Without getting overly complicated or indepth the answer is yes.  You can be mentally fit, or un-fit, just as you can be physically fit or un-fit and both can be gained or lost.  Depending on a variety of factors, you may be more susceptible to suffering from illness due to mental health than another person.  We are all different, and unique and I think it is really important to remember this.  Not one size fits all.  Understanding your own version of ‘normal’ will help you know when things aren’t feeling right for you.  Getting to know ‘you’ is one of the best things that you can do to safeguard and keep yourself mentally and physically well.  Let’s go through the five ways to wellbeing as recommended by the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.

1.  Connect

Feeling connected to others, and feeling valued and appreciated by those around you, whether in a personal or a professional context is a very important part of mental fitness.  Human beings are not designed to ‘go it alone.’  In saying that, I’m not suggesting you have to be an extrovert and the life and soul of the party, it just means that we all need connection with others.  Strengthening your relationships with your inner circle and your work/study colleagues by talking with them and listening to them are all safe guarding your mental fitness.  Healthy connections with people make us feel good about ourselves and where we fit into the world, they also help others understand our own unique perspective on how we view the world and can help support us in times of need.

2.  Keep learning

Neale Donald Walsch famously quoted “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  And although it is lovely to feel safe and comfortable in a daily routine, it also pays to be aware of new opportunities that come across your path.  Be open to new experiences.  Yes, it may very well be challenging, but that is part of what growing and developing resilience is all about.  It is frightening and stressful to try new things and go outside your normal level of comfort, but once you have overcome these initial fears you may completely surprise yourself – this alongside the feeling of self satisfaction will be totally worth it.

3.  Take notice

We are all guilty at times of worrying about the future and reminiscing about the past, but trying to ‘live in the moment‘ is another step to mental fitness.  Be aware of how you are feeling at any given time, and attempt to understand why.  Most importantly remember that all feelings, both good and bad eventually pass.  So living in the moment and taking time to appreciate the world around you can also help you keep mentally fit and boost your mental well being.

4.  Give

It really is amazing the difference a kind word or gesture can make to your day.  Carrying out random acts of kindness, whether small or large are a win, win situation for both the giver and the receiver.  The person receiving your kindness feels noticed, valued and appreciated, and as a result you feel positive about yourself!  In fact carrying our random acts of kindness can increase happiness, life satisfaction and general well being.

5.  Be active

Looking after your mental fitness is helped greatly by looking after your physical fitness.  Being physically fit and keeping active is known to improve mood, wellbeing and decrease depression, anxiety and stress.  If you are of student at the University of Otago, or the University of Otago Language Centre and Foundation Year programmes you will have unlimited and free access to Unipol Recreation Services.

So whilst this post has been about how to keep, or get mentally fit and improve your wellness, there are times in life where you feel that your version of ‘normal’ is not your usual and that’s when you need to ask for help.

The University of Otago International Office has a specialist team of Student Advisers that are here to help you in a variety of ways, including mental health issues.  There is also a designated Student Health Mental Health & Wellbeing Team offering a free service to help guide you.  There is also an amazing student led initiative called Silverline Otago that actively promote student mental health and wellbeing in the form of events, groups and resources.

So, look after yourself, both physically and mentally and try the five steps to wellbeing above, see if it makes a difference.  You might just surprise yourself……

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

Dunedin Beaches – we don’t want to boast but…….

It’s funny that Dunedin, New Zealand shares it’s namesake with another city on the other side of the world, Dunedin, Florida. Dunedin Florida has quite a few similarities with ‘our’ Dunedin, including the name itself derived from the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh.  Both cities enjoy a rich Scottish heritage, beautiful parks, a vibrant city and educational opportunities, but I bet you didn’t think that beaches would be one of them?  That’s right, today’s blog is all about Dunedin NZ’s beaches, what they’re like, where they are and we don’t mean to boast, but………they are many and varied and just down right awesome.

The big picture

We’ve used this aerial shot of Dunedin before, but let’s face it, it is absolutely amazing, so why not use it again?  Also, it shows you just how close Dunedin is to the coastline and an array of beaches.  You can’t see all of the coast line in this shot, but it gives you a pretty good indication. In Dunedin, all of our beaches are within approximately a 30 minute drive of the Central City, some as close as 10 minutes away, and that’s where we’ll start with the closest and possibly most popular local beach.

St Clair Beach

St Clair Beach and Hot Salt Water Pool is literally on the doorstep for many Dunedin residents, and only a 10 minute bus or car ride from the Otago University campus.  Not only is this beach blessed with beautiful soft, white sand, the mighty Pacific Ocean that stretches its long legs out from the beach offers surfing opportunities for both beginners and those that love to wet their feet on a regular basis.  If you’re coming to Dunedin and you’ve never surfed before, get some surfing lessons from the locals and see what all the fuss is about.  Or if you prefer a slower pace, take a stroll along the beach and end your walk at one of the many cafes, restaurants and bars that line our most popular of beaches.

Aramoana Beach

Aramoana translates from Maori to English as ‘sea pathway’ and this beach at the mouth of the Otago harbour was probably one of the very first beaches that the European settlers to Otago would have viewed.  Aramoana beach is situated next to a quiet little township that has an array of permanent homes and kiwi baches.  It, like St Clair is a surfing destination, but it also attracts (as most of Dunedin’s beaches do) a range of wildlife that comes ashore and on that note it’s really important that you don’t go near any wildlife you see.  Follow these guidelines on how to behave around our precious and often rare and endangered wildlife taonga – keep your distance, don’t engage, keep your dog (and children) under control and keep noise to a minimum.

Brighton Beach

20km’s South West of Dunedin you’ll find a delightful little seaside town called Brighton.  Again, this beach is popular for surfers and the community around the beach very much embrace a relaxed and easy going lifestyle.

You can hire a boat from the Brighton motorcamp to paddle up and down the stream, at low tide Barney’s Island (at the South end of the beach) is a wonderful place to explore, and you’ll often find families with small children making the most of these peaceful waters.

Surf lifesaving patrols are on duty during the busy summer months and rumour has it that there is a fairly impressive little cafe out there to add to your enjoyment.

Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach is named because of the fact that a man-made tunnel has been carved through the rock in the 1870’s which leads to a sheltered and private beach.  There are many rumours and local legends as to why John Cargill carved this remarkable walkway, including the drowning of one or more of his daughters, or the fact that he wanted to provide his daughters’ with a secluded place in order to be far from the prying eyes that Victorian settlers so avoided.  Either way, it is spectacular.

Tomahawk Beach

So this is just a taste, a mere sampling of the many and varied beaches that Dunedin has to offer, and whilst we aren’t inclined to boast we thought we would share this little clip filmed by Lloyds Bank as a finale!  Tomahawk Beach, and all our Dunedin beaches, look how beautiful you are!

NB:  We would like to make special mention to DunedinNZ.com for their imagery and comprehensive list and information on Dunedin beaches!

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

 

 

Surfing…….just another reason to come to Otago.

We hear lots of reasons why students choose to come to study and live in our little city at the bottom of the world; our world class rankings and reputation, our friendly and welcoming atmosphere and our drop dead gorgeous environment.  Choosing to come to study at the University of Otago for the surf is not a reason we’ve come across before, but it is exactly what led Celine Clausen from Norway to our doorstep.

Celine Clausen doing what she loves to do the most – surf.

Surfing

Celine is a passionate surfer, so her criteria when looking to study abroad was to find a world class university in a city that also provided her with incredible surfing opportunities.  She found two options; Sydney or Dunedin, and she chose us, but she was completely unprepared for the reality of what she found when she arrived here.

St Clair Beach, Dunedin, courtesy of Kieran Scott Photography.

Incredible environment

“I have been completely overwhelmed by the incredible lifestyle offered here and the natural beauty of the surrounding environment.  I knew there would be good waves but I had no idea that I would be paddling in the ocean alongside seals, sea-lions and penguins!”

The University of Otago campus with accomodation and amenities all within walking distance.

Proximity

The close proximity of the university and Dunedin as a whole was also something she was unaware of.

“I live super close to campus and the city centre, and I’m surrounded by students and good times.  Only 15 minutes away there are beautiful beaches, nature and wildlife.  Everything is so close.  It’s also easy to travel around the South Island from Dunedin and explore more of what New Zealand has to offer.

Kiwis are so friendly

The friendly student culture at Otago is another factor that has made Celine’s time here an enjoyable one and she has found it easy to transition as an international student.

“Kiwis are the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve ever met and the University of Otago is no exception – I feel so welcome here.  Campus is beautiful and lots of fun – all the students live super close and students account for a large part of the population of Dunedin – internationals live beside locals – I can guarantee you’ll have a blast!”

Class size

And it’s not only the natural environment that has made an impact on her, the learning environment has encouraged Celine to delve further into her learning experience.

“Having smaller classes here at Otago makes me really feel like I belong and am a part of the class – it also makes it easier and less intimidating to ask questions and really get to know the lecturers.”

And this relationship with students and lecturers alike has made Celine feel she is not just a number lost in the crowd.

“I have a really good relationship with my lecturers and I appreciate that they know my name and who I am.  I feel they all want me to perform to the very best of my abilities and that they are happy to teach me and share their knowledge.”

We loved having you here Celine, and we hope that the memories and the friendships you made here will stay with you for a lifetime.  Thanks for the photos, your thoughts and keep living the dream of surfing your way around the world!

If you are an international student and you would like to know more about studying at Otago, following the enquiry link below.

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

 

 

 

5 reasons why studying in NZ is a smart choice!

On a previous blog this month we discussed the 5 main reasons we believe Dunedin is an awesome place to be, but now we’re looking a little bit wider and we want to talk about our top 5 reasons that make New Zealand a great place to study and get qualified!

An Otago degree opens doors around the world, and graduation day is a day that Otago likes to celebrate.

When you choose New Zealand as your study destination you’re making a smart choice because you will receive a world-class education, and don’t just take our word for it!  All eight of New Zealand’s universities including the University of Otago are in the top 3% in the world.  Something that sets us apart here at Otago is the personalised and practical approach to learning and teaching.  Students get hands on experience from research led teaching so the information they are receiving is the very latest, studying at Otago means you are always on the edge of what is known and what is being discovered.  The other major point to make is that New Zealand university qualifications are recognised and respected globally meaning it can open career pathways and doors for you around the world.

Mountain biking high above the Otago Peninsula, Dunedin.

New Zealand is insanely beautiful.  Like, yes……RIDICULOUS…. The Lord of the Rings was filmed here.  Need I say more.  Of course, we still have some larger cities that aren’t quite as pristine, but you needn’t travel far geographically in New Zealand to find yourself in a picture book paradise.  And alongside this, is the opportunity to get into the outdoors and experience a lifestyle that is truly freedom.  And we aren’t all just paddocks and flocks of sheep, yes, you will definitely find that here, but we have become a lot more sophisticated over the last decade or so and developed our own unique New Zealand sense of café culture, art, food and fashion.

Students feel safe, with a sense of personal freedom as they walk around the Otago University campus.

We have always been a very safe country. In fact, we are the world’s second most peaceful country (Global Peace Index, 2017).  And the concept of safety if you are a born and bred New Zealander is just something that we have taken for granted.  We are used to feeling safe, and up until the digital age we were probably somewhat blissfully ignorant that many parts of the world are going through, and have been living in turmoil through war and unrest.  So the decision to bring yourself to the other side of the world means you want to know that you are not coming into danger.

Lower cost of living and a perception that you are getting good value for money is a recurrent theme amongst international students.

Money! Having interviewed countless international students on their motivations to come and study at Otago University, it is clear for many that money and perceived value for money is a very important part of the decision making process.  The international student recruitment market is a highly competitive one, and when it comes to cost New Zealand has lower living costs than many other countries.  Also if you are a PhD student thinking of coming to study in New Zealand you will pay the same amount of fees as a domestic New Zealand student. Plus, if you choose to study in New Zealand there are opportunities for you to not only study, but work part-time as well.

We are a pretty friendly people…….smile and say ‘Kia Ora’ and see what happens.

We are generally a friendly bunch of people. Well, certainly down here in the South Island (Te Waipounamu).  If you’re an international student it may seem strange that we say hello, Kia ora, smile or generally engage when we are out and about on campus, but that’s just what we do here.  International students are always surprised by this friendliness, and once they feel confident enough to start saying ‘Kia ora’ which roughly translates to ‘good health to you’ in Māori, one of our three official languages, smile and start engaging, life will definitely start opening up.  If you’re thinking about studying overseas consider these factors and get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!

 

5 reasons Dunedin is an awesome place to be

Dunedin’s population has surged past 130,000 people for the first time according to Stats NZ.  So why are people choosing to come and live in this city on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island?  Dunedin has in the past, and still does have according to some media outlets the reputation of being cold, wet and miserable.  But if you look at the statistics from NIWA Dunedin’s mean annual rainfall is 812 millimetres, compared to Auckland’s 1240 millimetres so that reputation isn’t really warranted is it?  So what makes Dunedin such a great place to live, study and work in?  Here are our top 5 USP’s (unique selling points) for our little city!

1.  It’s so pretty. Yes, it really is as pretty as the pictures!  And as recent as last month Dunedin was named the most beautiful city in NZ in the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards. The early Scottish settlers that mapped out the city’s footprint made sure that Dunedin had an array of beautiful parks, and areas of greenery throughout.  An area known as the ‘Town Belt’ is literally a green belt of native and exotic trees that runs through the city, and even when you’re in the city just look above the buildings and Dunedin is surrounded by green hills.  Plus, if you want to go a little off road, a 10-minute drive from the city centre and you will find yourself literally feeling like you are completely away from all forms of urban life.  Mountain biking and trail walking and running tracks are all right on your doorstep.

2.  Dunedin is a quirky, artistic and entrepreneurial city.  We have a street art trail, where 30+ walls have been adorned with art from visiting artists from around the world and New Zealand. Dunedin is home to artists, musicians, internationally recognised fashion designers, an annual fashion festival week, and writers, in fact Dunedin was the first city in New Zealand to initiate a writer’s fellowship, and is now a UNESCO designated City of Literature where writers, books and literature thrive. Dunedin is also gaining a reputation as the perfect place for start-up businesses to thrive and collaborate.   And in the deep of winter Dunedin celebrates as only Dunedin can by lighting up the city with a mid-winter carnival complete with fanciful, ethereal and elaborate costumes and lanterns.

3.  The University of Otago. Dunedin is a University City which adds to its appeal in regards to the research, literature, culture and people that are attracted to come here to study, research and teach.  Otago University is New Zealand’s first University and has a reputation for both academic excellence matched with an extraordinary lifestyle and balance.

4. Weekend travelling.  Getaway in the weekends to some of the most untouched, natural scenery in the world and a range of outdoor pursuits. Dunedin is the gateway to some of the most ridiculously beautiful scenery you are likely to encounter.  Fiordland National Park, Central Otago, including Queenstown, Wanaka and Arrowtown, or travel a couple of hours south of Dunedin and you enter the dramatic and wild Catlin’s area.

5. Dunedin is NZ’s wildlife capital. Yes, I know, that is a very big call to make, but we aren’t the only ones saying it.  Sir David Attenborough from the BBC states: “Otago Peninsula and Taiaroa Head is a unique and very special place. It is a place that every visitor to Dunedin should see.” Dunedin is situated around a natural harbour and adjacent peninsula and it really is the jewel in our crown.  We have the only mainland breeding grounds for Royal Albatross in the world, NZ fur seals, sea-lions, rare and endangered Yellow Eyed Penguins also choose to call the Otago Peninsula home.  And because Dunedin people are the kind of people who care about the lives of our feathered and furry friends, we have a wildlife hospital.  On the other side of the Peninsula is Orokonui Ecosanctuary a local initiative that saw a dream of creating a predator free area of native forest become a reality.  Orokonui now houses some of NZ’s most precious living taonga (treasures) and is contributing to the conservation and regeneration of our endemic birds and reptiles.

Dunedin is an interesting little city with a warm heart and welcoming inhabitants. Almost anyone can find their little piece of happiness here. It it is also a place with mysterious secrets than only locals know…..but thats a story for another day.

 

 

 

Nicky Richardson is an International Marketing Coordinator at the University of Otago. With degrees in music and marketing, she is a recent graduate of Otago herself – she loves Otago so much she ended up getting a job here!