Giving back – one international student’s remarkable journey
Growing up in an academic family, in Yangon, Myanmar, with an emphatic value placed on education, my parents always wanted to give me an education abroad.
As I had never been away from home and as parents they wanted somewhere their child would be safe and still be offered the quality education they were after, it is not surprising New Zealand was at the top of their list.
With an interest in biomedical sciences from an early age, together with my parents, I made the decision to study at the University of Otago, New Zealand’s first university with excellence in medical and biomedical research and teaching.
I started my affiliation with the University of Otago in 2001, firstly completing a foundation studies course before moving onto studying genetics. I received my Bachelor of Science Degree, with first class honours in Genetics in 2005, after which I worked as a research assistant both at the University of Otago and Massey University in order to have the skills to pursue my PhD in 2010. I was awarded a PhD in Microbiology in 2013.
Immediately after my BSc (Hons) graduation and my PhD graduation, I started my employment at the University of Otago. I am currently leading an international research programme combating tuberculosis (TB) in New Zealand and my home country Myanmar through a prestigious Sir Charles Hercus Research Fellowship awarded to me by the New Zealand Health Research Council.
How did you find the learning/teaching environment at Otago? Do you think it gave you the skills and knowledge to enable you to find employment?
I would say that my experience at Otago gave me a chance to discover myself and my purpose in life. I have always wanted to make a difference and to contribute back to the community. Therefore, I selected the health sector as my way of doing so, particularly TB, which daily claims 5,000 lives mainly from socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.
What was your experience with your lecturers/supervisors like? Were they approachable and helpful?
Lecturers and teaching fellows were so helpful and supportive. Some of them are my longstanding mentors, and I can proudly call them my lifetime friends.
How have you found the ‘culture’ of the students, staff, and people that work at the University of Otago?
The culture of the students and staff at the University is that we courageously keep on tackling big challenges, which is the reflection of the University’s motto “Dare to Be Wise”.
How would you describe the University of Otago to somebody who was thinking of studying as an international student at Otago?
Truly home away from home – when I first arrived here I felt homesickness. But people here at the University and in Dunedin are amicable and welcoming, so Dunedin quickly became my home away from home.
Did Otago met your expectations?
How does it feel to be an Otago alumni?
I am a proud scarfie and a true University of Otago product (from Foundation Studies to PhD and now an employee of the University).
What is the best memory you have from your time at the University of Otago?
Unforgettable student experience – some of my best memories include my time at Cumberland College, a residential college I lived in first as a student and later as a residential assistant supporting other students. I am now a College Fellow at Cumberland, providing mentor ship to students within and beyond their academic life.
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.