Life-changing experience

11 July 2018

Management student Gemma Carlson spent two semesters at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in Bergen.

Two University of Waikato, Tauranga students have recently returned from “life-changing” international exchanges. Fourth year Management student Gemma Carlson spent two semesters at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) in Bergen, while third year Psychology student Giselle Martins has returned from a semester at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Waikato OE programme allows students to take one or two semesters of their degree at one of our partner universities around the world. The experience is a ‘win-win’ for students as tuition fees remain the same and the study completed overseas is credited back to their Waikato degree, allowing them to complete their degree on time.

Gemma says that her experience in Norway has changed her life. Not a natural risk-taker before the exchange and worried about being homesick, Gemma realised that she had to overcome her fears, and is grateful to International Officer from the Study Abroad team Katy Clark, who she says encouraged the “scared wreck” that she was and recommended Bergen. “My approach to life has completely transformed. I cannot imagine the person I would be and what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone on exchange,” she says. “I learnt to be brave and confident so I can handle whatever comes my way, and that I always hold the power to change my life.”

Aside from experiencing life in a country that consistently ranks high on the world’s ‘happiness’ index, Gemma says she learnt to appreciate and build friendships wherever they start to grow. Despite “sucking at sports”, she joined the NHH badminton team and the team that organises the annual Bergen TED Talk. She also set herself the challenge of hiking all of the seven local mountains, visiting the breathtaking fjords and trying out cross-country skiing. Alongside the extraordinary extracurricular experiences, Gemma also managed to fit in her studies. “NHH is considered the best university in Norway, so I really enjoyed studying a different selection of courses – I was able to take some really cutting-edge classes on sustainability, design thinking and corporate social responsibility.”

Psychology student Giselle Martins spent a semester at the University of California, Berkeley.

Meanwhile, Giselle Martins is equally effusive about her exchange experience at UC Berkeley, describing it as incredible. “Campus life was dynamic – there was always something happening.” Giselle says that with the university’s reputation for activism, she could definitely sense their liberal take on environmental and political issues. “It really inspired me to think outside the box, recognising the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, as was discussed in the Medical Anthropology paper I studied,” she says. Giselle worked in three internships during her semester at Berkeley, making the most of all the experience had to offer. “This OE experience opened many doors to me,” she says. “I networked with professionals and academics, volunteered in shelter homes, did extracurricular courses and travelled around the US. I will always be grateful for the opportunity.”

The Waikato OE programme is open to Waikato students from both Tauranga and Hamilton campuses. There are a number of Faculty Exchange Scholarships and Waikato OE Travel Awards to apply for, and you can also apply for a student allowance and/or student loan for overseas study through StudyLink. To find out more about the programme, book an appointment with Katy Clark who works from the University of Waikato Bongard Centre office in Tauranga every Thursday, and is happy to advise any Tauranga student considering an exchange. The application deadline for 2019 A semester is 15 July.

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