Sky (Ziqi) Ma

Bachelor of Social Work

Key Info

  • Bachelor of Social Work

What are you doing now that you've graduated?

I completed my studies at the Tauranga campus but had my degree conferred at a ceremony in Hamilton in December 2019. I wanted to finish up and be ready to move to Australia to start my Master of Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University of Adelaide. I hope to come back to New Zealand one day and work as a youth social worker.

What made you choose to study at Waikato?

I was already living in Tauranga (my parents sent me to study at Bethlehem College when I was 15 - actually I had a story written about my journey to the University of Waikato). The Bay of Plenty is a great place to live and not every university in New Zealand offers the Bachelor of Social Work so the Tauranga Campus was a good fit for me. Hamilton has a beautiful campus but I’m from an inland part of China so being close to the beach at Mount Maunganui was a bonus.

What was the highlight of your degree?

I think the degree itself was a highlight for me. The past four years were a real eye-opening experience and I was exposed to many things that people around my age would not normally have the chance to know. I gained a deeper understanding of myself and contemporary New Zealand society.

Other highlights were my placements. I completed my first placement at Empowermentnz in Te Puke and the second one at Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children in Rotorua. Both placements enabled me to utilise all the skills and knowledge that I learnt at the University. I got an insight of what is like to be a social worker at a non-governmental organisation and a statutory organisation which helped me to decide the career path that I want to choose in the future.

What was your favourite subject?

Human Development - because those papers helped me to better understand myself, people around me and the rationales behind different human behaviours.

What did you love about Waikato?

All my lecturers and the University staff members were supportive and I could ask them for help whenever I needed to. Because of the smaller class sizes I got to know everyone very well.

My time at Waikato has definitely shaped who I am today. It has helped me to become a critical thinker, be less judgmental, and has enhanced my skills to help me be a better co-worker.

What was it like being an international student at Waikato?

I studied at the Tauranga Campus for my entire degree – the first three years at the Windermere Campus and one year at the new CBD Campus in the city. I actually felt really unique and special as there were not many international students at the Tauranga campus.

After living and studying in New Zealand for seven years, I did not view myself as a so-called ‘international student’. My hobbies, worldviews and behaviours are really similar to most Kiwis - I would sometimes wear shorts during the winter time and walk barefoot. Apart from paying international fees and having exotic facial features, all my friends, classmates and even my lecturers did not see me as an international student - they just saw me as Sky and I am what I am.

Do you think your studies have prepared you well for your future career?

This degree has equipped me with a specific skill set and knowledge that I need to be a competent social worker in New Zealand, such as “bi-cultural competency’’ and “Tikanga Māori”. By utilising all of these skills and knowledge in my future practice, I think I am able to help people who are in need and have a positive influence on youth and young adults.

I was the only Chinese international student, the only student with English as a second language, the only male in the class and one of the youngest students in my social work cohort. I learnt how to mingle with people much older than me which will help in my career. I’m also aware of the shortage of male social workers in the field, so when I’m ready to enter the profession I’ll stand out.

What’s your number 1 tip for making the most of university?

My number one tip for making the most of university life is study hard. My priority was to ensure that I managed my academic side well. The social work programme requires students to have good, clear and advanced English competency, as most assignments involve a lot of reading, writing and public speaking. Having English as a second language, I felt I needed to put in more effort with my studies to get good grades.

Do you have any advice for international students?

I just have one suggestion for international students who are considering study at Waikato - studying aboard is not always easy and sometimes it could be a bit challenging. If you need any help or support, do not be afraid to ask people around you. There are plenty of people out there who would be willing to give you a hand, such as university staff, lecturers and classmates. Also, it really helps if you can learn a bit of Te Reo Māori while you are studying in New Zealand.

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