Sarah C. Exchange Ambassador

What is one word to describe your study abroad experience:


"Your exchange is whatever you make of it so make the best of it! " 

SARAH C. Phaedra



Exchange student at Massey University, New Zealand
Winter semester
Studying Molecular Biology and Genetics

  1. What is the best thing that happened while you were studying abroad?

I made so many new friends while abroad, and we got to plan (and re-plan!) trips together, and commiserate about studying and romance together! The people I met while abroad really made the trip that much better and I learned so much from them.

  1. What was the biggest cultural adaptation you had to make?

New Zealand culture is quite similar to Canadian culture, except they are more laid back. The hardest adaptation was that everyone drives on the opposite side of the road, which is tricky to get used to but definitely do-able with practice!

  1. Where was the coolest place you travelled to during your exchange?

Queenstown! It is a super-touristy town- but for a good reason! Queenstown is the most beautiful town I visited. It is nestled between mountains and on the edge of Lake Wakatipu and is the perfect place to find hikes (or tramps, as they call them in NZ!) to do, walk through gardens, go shopping, or partake in the many water-based/thrillseeking activities! I went skydiving near Queenstown in Glenorchy and the views were incredible.

  1. What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew before you studied abroad?

Things aren't always going to go according to plan, so sometimes it's best to plan for your plan to not work by accepting that you may have to go with the flow! And if you're traveling through Air New Zealand it costs a fortune to bring either a second checked bag or an overweight checked bag, so cut down on what you bring as much as possible- especially if you want to bring back souvenirs!

  1. What was your best learning moment?

During the 2-week semester break, I went traveling by myself in the South Island which was an amazing lesson in self-sufficiency, independence, and responsibility. That trip tested both my abilities to plan ahead and to go with the flow to be open to new experiences!

  1. Who was the hardest person to leave from home? How did you deal with that?

It was hard to leave my Dad because he gets very emotional and worries a lot, so I kept in contact with him via Facebook messenger and I sent him postcards which helped him to worry less. It was also hard to leave my friends from home, but it's still easy to keep in contact via messaging so I never really felt too far from my friends or family!

  1. Who was the hardest person to leave that you met while on exchange? How did you deal with that?

I made so many wonderful friends while on exchange, but the hardest person to leave was the person I briefly dated while there. Unfortunately, we live on opposite sides of the world, and it was really hard to say goodbye to them, but thanks to the internet we're still in contact as friends!

  1. If you were to recommend exchange to your best friend, what would you say?

Going on exchange was an amazing decision that I have not once regretted. You will learn so much about the place you're visiting and also about yourself. Your exchange is whatever you make of it so make the best of it! You might only be to each of the places you visit once, so do that thing you're hesitant to do because when else will you get the chance to? 

  1. Would it be helpful to learn another language for this exchange?

English is the primary language spoken New Zealand, but I found it super fun to take a Te Reo Māori (the language of New Zealand's indigenous people: the Māori) course while on exchange.

  1. Did you live on- or off-campus? Would you recommend it, and why?

I lived on campus and I ended up in a hall of mostly international students which was amazing. It's great to be living with other exchange students because you're all new and looking for people to meet, plus you're all looking for people to travel with and do weekend trips with, so it's the best/easiest way to meet similar-minded people! My residence did have a mandatory meal plan so that was expensive and there was not much food variety- if you're vegan or vegetarian I think it would be very difficult to eat at Massey's Palmerston North campus on a meal plan, but they do have gluten-free options.

  1. How did you finance your study abroad experience?

I financed my study abroad using personal funds. I had planned to apply for scholarships but the deadlines passed before I received confirmation of acceptance from my host university so I missed the deadlines, unfortunately. My suggestion here is to apply for the study abroad scholarships before you have your acceptance so that you don't wait until you have the acceptance and miss the deadlines like me!

  1. What interesting courses did you get to take while studying abroad? What was the title of the course(s)?

I took two highly recommendable courses about Māori culture and language. The first is 300.110 Te Reo Whakahoahoa: Socialising in Te Reo which is a Māori language course. It was intimidating at first but the professor and TAs were so friendly and understanding, plus we got to sing in class all the time! The second is 150.114 He Tirohanga o Mua: Māori Custom, More and Economics, which gives a wonderful insight into the Māori worldview and history, and things that are significant in Māori culture. Also had a wonderful professor and TA who were very kind in how much of their personal/family stories they shared with us. The other course I did was 203.300 DNA Technology which is similar to MBG*3350 Lab Methods, but you do learn some novel stuff that isn't covered in Lab Methods, plus it's some more lab experience to add to your belt, so it's a good course for the MBG/micro/biochem major!

  1. How are you including exchange on your resume?

I used the example from this website to add my study abroad experience to my resume

  1. Is there any other helpful information you would like to provide to future study abroad participants?

I only took three courses while abroad which allowed me to fully enjoy both the "study" and the "abroad" aspects of my exchange, and if you can afford to add another semester on to your time finishing your degree then I would absolutely recommend this option! It allowed me to really enjoy learning what was being taught while also allowing me to explore all that New Zealand had to offer outside the school!

pictures from Sarah's travels while studying abroad

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