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Category Archives: Students

A Quest for Change – One Student’s Journey to Otago

Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua
My past is my present is my future

Miranda Livers with outgoing Otago student Barlow Anderson

“My name is Miranda Livers, but my name is Saw Saw.  I am Cherokee.”

Miranda Livers knew very little of her heritage.  She was never taught her native tongue, or the ways of her ancestors, she was never passed down the knowledge of the stories of her people.  All Miranda Livers knew growing up as a young girl was that being native was censored, judged, stereotyped and policed.  But Miranda was not prepared to accept this, and set her sights on change.

“A quest is defined as a long and arduous search for something, and my quest began – I was going to learn as much as I could about who I am.  I learned that Native peoples are the largest group in the U.S. that has the highest poverty rates.  Our drug and alcohol addiction rates are also highest in the nation. I learned that so many people believe Native Americans are all dead.  When my high school graduation finally arrived, I graduated with a 4.0 grade point average in my last year and the knowledge I had beat the odds.  Native students have one of the lowest graduation rates.  I had ‘made it.’”

(L-R) Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne, outgoing student Barlow Anderson, inbound student Miranda Livers and Office of Māori Development Director Tuari Potiki.

Miranda Livers is the very first inbound student of the unique exchange programme Turangawaewae Pokai Whenua which translates to “a place to stand, a world to explore.”  This exchange is built on kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (face-to-face) relationships established between mana whenua and indigenous representatives of universities throughout the world.

“This programme is designed to integrate a native/indigenous student from another country into the Maori culture, while that student simultaneously teaches those involved about their own culture.  It is a fantastic programme in its first year, but in the years to come it may help in keeping other cultures alive.”

Why did Miranda choose Otago over other universities in New Zealand and the rest of the world?  “It was the only one that offered me an indigenous experience while abroad and I couldn’t be happier with Otago.  Otago has exceeded my expectations.  I knew that if I wanted to fully reconnect with my culture, then I needed this programme to give me that support and motivation.  In other words, it was the push I needed.”

Tūrangawaewae, Pōkai Whenua
A place to stand, A world to explore

Post-Study Work Visas – what’s changing?

Are you thinking about staying to work in New Zealand after you graduate from the University of Otago? Or maybe you are considering the University of Otago as a study destination and wondering whether you can work in New Zealand after graduating? In this post, Anna explains the recent changes to post-study work rights for international students

Recently the New Zealand Government announced changes to the conditions and length of the post-study work rights for international students.  These changes will start from 26 November 2018.

The new changes will mean most students who graduate from the University of Otago will experience fewer visa applications, a greater freedom to work and potentially less risk of exploitation by employers.

Post-study work visas will be granted with ‘open’ work conditions.  The ‘open’ work conditions mean that your visa is not linked to any employer and will allow you to work in almost any job, for any employer, anywhere in New Zealand after finishing your New Zealand study.

 How will this change affect you?

We would really like to answer this question in detail here. However, your eligibility for the post-study work visa, and the duration that will be granted, does depend on a number of factors including when you started your qualification, your qualification level and the length of your study in New Zealand.

To help you understand the changes, Immigration New Zealand have put together an information factsheet and list of frequently asked questions to assist international students. We recommend that you take a look at this information first and then, if you need further assistance with finding the right information for your situation, you can contact our office for support.

Prepare for your future career in New Zealand

Consider volunteering while you are studying – this is a great way to help develop skills that add to your CV (also known as a resume) and enhance your future employability. Remember, employers are not just looking at your academic record but also value real-life experience.  Volunteering may also provide you with an opportunity to explore Dunedin, engage with the local community and culture, meet new people and practice your English.  The University Volunteer Centre is on campus and offers an easy way to get involved in volunteering.

We also suggest you make use of the University of Otago Career Development Centre, which is available to all students, including international students.  This is a great resource on campus to help you plan your career path, prepare for the job market, and develop a NZ-style CV.  Do not wait until after you have graduated to talk to them, the best time to make use of their services is after completing your first year of study (or as soon as you arrive if you are only here for a year).

Know your work rights in New Zealand

Student visa holders with work conditions and work visa holders have the same rights and responsibilities as New Zealand workers.  It is a crime for employers to exploit you or impose illegal working conditions.  Immigration New Zealand have some information about migrant exploitation on their website, and international students studying at the University of Otago can also contact our team of international student advisors for support and advice.


 Anna McLachlan is the Team Leader, Compliance Services in the International Office.  Anna and her team members, Kathy and Angelique, provide a student visa renewal service on campus and are available to assist students with student visa and insurance queries.  If you need help with finding information about post-study work visa category, you can also contact them by emailing



NZ teachers lead the world – Otago teachers lead NZ!

New Zealand was ranked number one in the world for educating students for the future, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released late last year.

Here at Otago for the sixth time in seven years, we have the top tertiary teacher in New Zealand!  I’m sure we have all had teachers that we look back on and groan….but then there are those that inspired us, encouraged us and helped us become the best we could be….and we just happen to have that teacher (amongst many others passionate about their craft) here at Otago.

So who is this stand out teacher?  And what are her thoughts on Otago?  Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga took time out from her busy schedule to have a chat to us about her journey……

Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga

Faumuina Associate Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga receives New Zealand’s top tertiary teaching award from the Minister of Education, Hon Chris Hipkins, at a ceremony at Parliament. Photos: Ako Aotearoa.

From a little girl growing up in a small island in Samoa, to winning the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award at the National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards, Faumuina has certainly come a long way.

“I came to New Zealand in the 1980’s – fresh off the boat – to train in Medicine at the University of Otago.”

Faumuina also received an Endorsement for Excellence in Supporting Pacific Learners, a reflection of her ongoing commitment to pastoral care and curriculum development of Pacific students.  She is “delighted” that Pacific Health is being recognised as important in the training of future health professionals.

“As an international student, coming from a small island in the Pacific (Samoa), the University could have been overwhelming.  I thrived in the environment, met wonderful friends from many areas in the world including Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas and of course Kiwis.”

Faumuina’s experience studying at Otago saw her face some major personal challenges, but ” through the excellent and supportive environment, I graduated despite developing a chronic illness (Lupus) while in training.”

Faumuina chooses to call Dunedin and NZ home now – “Dunedin is truly an international university city, its people are proud of this, and embrace all students from different ethnic backgrounds.”

But it is her experience studying and now teaching at the University that Faumuina and her husband (a first generation Canadian with Italian parents), choose to stay here…

“The University of Otago’s motto is ‘Dare to be Wise’ – students are offered every opportunity to excel here.”

Discover more about how Otago and New Zealand teachers could change your future.


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!

India in Dunedin

Are there many Indians living in Dunedin? Are there Indian events, restaurants and supermarkets in Dunedin? In this post, Kate explores life in Dunedin for Indian students, and we meet Khushboo, a current Otago student.

Dunedin has an active, supportive and growing Indian community who hold events and celebrations throughout the year. Just this past weekend, Diwali was celebrated in style with a range of activities held at various locations around the city.

And last month, the Dunedin Bengali Association held what is believed to be the southernmost Durga celebration in the world.

Facebook connects Indians in Dunedin from all walks of life, with online communities like Indians in Dunedin, the Dunedin Tamil Society. Outside of Facebook, the Indian Weekender keeps Kiwi-Indians up to date on all current news and events.

Dunedin has a wide range of delicious Indian restaurants, including a number of affordable options perfect for student budgets, as well as a dedicated Indian supermarket for those more inclined to cook at home.

University Life for Indian Students

On campus at the University of Otago, the Indian Students Association is an active and enthusiastic group who regularly host food festivals and cultural events and generally celebrate life as only Indians can – through music, dance, food and cricket!

And for prospective students from India, Otago recently launched the Indian Student Connection facebook page connecting future and current students.

But what’s it really like for Indians at Otago?

But don’t take our word for it, meet Khushboo who is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Applied Science in Forensic Analytical Science and Biochemistry.

So there you have it – you’ll find a little piece of India right here in Dunedin!

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Kate Davis is in the International Marketing team at the University of Otago.