Born and raised in Nelson, University of Waikato Hillary Scholar Michaela Kerr will be heading to Wales next year for a semester-long exchange at Cardiff University.
She’s studying for a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, and has been doing a control systems internship with Mercury in Hamilton. She hopes to learn more about control systems through the papers she studies at Cardiff.
Why did you choose to study at Waikato?
I chose Waikato because I was accepted to be a part of their Hillary Scholarship Programme for road cycling. It’s been a fantastic part of my experience at University and I have met so many people because of this.
When did you start cycling?
I started cycling when I was six, at Junior Trackies cycling club in Nelson and have continued ever since. I started competing in South Island races at intermediate in years 7 and 8, and competed all through high school, representing New Zealand at a tour in Tasmania in my final year. I was also a part of a fantastic development initiative in New Zealand women’s cycling called ‘Mike Greer Homes Women’s Cycling Team’, which has helped and supported my career.
How has the Hillary Scholarship helped you?
The Hillary Programme has allowed me to learn from students who also had experience balancing their sport and academic studies. Learning how to manage that has been my biggest challenge. It sounds like it should be easy, but studying Software Engineering while trying to ride a bike well proved to be a challenge.
The Hillary Scholarship has also allowed me to grow my leadership skills. I was lucky enough to be a part of the programme committee and ran a quiz night to fundraise for the Himalayan Trust.
How has your experience at Waikato been so far?
I have had a fun and brilliant time studying at Waikato – meeting new people and making friends, and the wonderful opportunities through the Hillary Programme, and the Engineering and Computer Science Departments. Moving from Nelson meant I knew absolutely no one and now, in two years, I have made new friends from the halls, from working, from study, and sport.
What made you apply to the Overseas Exchange Programme?
In halls last year, my floor had multiple exchange students, some of whom I still keep in contact with and send postcards to! Seeing their experiences and knowing how much fun they had studying in another country showed me that it was definitely something I should consider. I applied for a travel scholarship through the Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences and received it – it really was the tipping point for going over to Cardiff.
Why did you choose Cardiff?
I chose Cardiff because it’s close to the rest of Europe, which is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. It also has a similar semester schedule, which meant I could complete my engineering placement of 400 hours before I travelled over.
With what mindset are you going into this experience?
I’m going in with the same mindset when I moved from Nelson to Hamilton – to be open to opportunities, to travel and get to know the area and to make friends for a lifetime!
I hope to learn a little bit of Welsh, and to take some papers that are not on offer at Waikato University. My internship at Mercury is a control systems placement, which Waikato doesn’t offer, however Cardiff offers papers in this area so I think I would like to learn more about that. I also hope to experience some great culture and see how different it is from New Zealand.
How do you expect this experience will make a difference in your life?
I hope that I can make friends who will want to come and visit once I have been in Cardiff. I also hope to get involved in their sporting culture, not just cycling but also social sports such as netball. Meeting and getting to know other international students would really top the whole experience off. You can follow my exchange journey on my Instagram (@michaela.kerr).
The Waikato Overseas Experience programme allows you to take one or two semesters of your degree at one of our partner universities around the world. The experience is a ‘win-win‘ as your tuition fees stay the same and your overseas study is credited back to your Waikato degree. There are a number of Faculty Exchange Scholarships and Waikato OE Travel Awards you can apply for, and you might also be eligible for an allowance or student loan for overseas study through StudyLink.