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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.