Studying In New Zealand

Continuing in our series of Migrant Tales – first hand immigrant stories about life in New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.

Many international students are attracted to New Zealand by relatively low fees and the prospect of gaining residency at the end of their studies. This story was taken from and in it an American student tells us what it’s really like to study in New Zealand:

I am a US student doing a graduate program here in NZ so listen to me when I say think long and hard about coming here. I have decided not to finish my program and go for a lesser degree because what I get for what I pay for just does not add up.

I have experienced constant internet outages on campus that interrupt my research, hostility from others because I am American, lack of concern by university staff when trying to find help for what may have been culture shock (they wanted me to wait 1 month to speak with a counselor), extremely cold, damp and dilapidated student flats that cost twice as much to rent as they do in most of the states, insane food prices etc etc.

As far as crime goes I feel that there is less violent crime then in the US(less guns) but I sure have wanted to pop a few folks in the lip for the way I have been treated. My first week here I was physically assaulted at a bar. I walked away and then 4 guys I did not know proceeded to beat the hell out of 3 other guys, one of whom was they guy who assaulted me. It seems like fighting is contagious here, but this is the only time I witnessed anything like this.

Overall I feel like my quality of life has been greatly reduced. I cannot afford to buy new cloths and other than fast food can not afford to go out to eat. Such is the life of a student in New Zealand.

If you have about $20,000 USD a year just to cover your living expenses you may have a better experience but if you on planning on taking out student loans, as I did, you will struggle and your studies may be effected. Think about trying to study when it is 40 degrees F in your room, it does not work.

I have met some nice people here but most of them have not been Kiwi, and the ones that are have lived overseas at some point. If you really want to study overseas I would try Europe.

Read more:

Students Raise Concerns Over Halls – Students worried about appalling living conditions at hall of residence.

International Students “Only Seen as Cash Cows – ““International students are worth $2 billion annually to the economy. “If you want to put it crudely, they are seen only as cash cows,” said Professor Manying Ip, a professor of Asian studies at Auckland University”

20 thoughts on “Studying In New Zealand

  1. It seems as thought I wrote this blog post myself. Every single word written is what I have experienced. The area that is considerent “studentVille” is the most delapidated and deprived area I have ever lived in. The students will urinate and scream loudly into the wee AM hours and any complaints are replied with “Awww, well they are students”. What?! I’m from New York, there are more students in NY than in all of NZ, this type of horrid behavior does not go on.

    I am an American and the outward dislike of America is appalling in New Zealand. I am currently here and it is COLD, Expensive, the staff refuse to assist with any issues. I have paid over $50,000.00 USD into this horrible system. However, they are all friendly when they accept you and insist on payment. They also refused my access to learning tools that were vital saying they were waiting on a visa. However, when a woman from Norway didn’t have a visa they gave her all access and let her pay her tuition over a month after school started. Complaining is of no avail. It’s the whole university staff body to the one me; in which my learning is insignificant. The only significant aspect to me was the more than $30,000.00USD I gave them for tuition.

    The people are not friendly and I found them to actually scoul when they heard my accent. I also have decided that I will not complete my studies here because of this. I will in every way possible encourage people to not study here as the exuberant high costs does not mean a high value education or degree and clearly does not mean decent treatment.

    • ” However, when a woman from Norway didn’t have a visa they gave her all access”
      Most rules are somewhat ad hoc, so even though your situation was similar, rules were ignored or made up, typical.
      The “when they heard my accent” is VERY real, most kiwis do not like Americans. They are intimidated by us and would love to knock you down a peg, every chance they get. So, don’t expect it to get better when you’re out of school and looking for work.
      Education [for residents] is quite affordable, though dubious as to international acceptance, but for that kind of loot, I am sure there are much more prestigious institutions that will provide a superior product. Where your degree comes from is as important as the degree itself. Not very many [if any] NZ universities are “world renown”.
      “not complete my studies here”, wise decision.

  2. I am an (about to graduate) student at Canterbury in New Zealand and on behalf of all tertiary education attendees I would like to apologize! I’m sorry some of you had such a horrific experience studying here. Some of the things you have suffered such as being broke, cold and lonely are unfortunately an accepted reality of student life in NZ; even New Zealand students from wealthy families subject themselves to expensive rents for shocking living conditions. However the treatment from your peers is unforgivable. Last year an American girl came from California to study at my campus and I was lucky enough to be introduced. She is now one of my closest friends and I kind of thought most people would be as open and friendly as we were to each other upon first meeting. Possibly a lot of New Zealanders are frightened, we can become very naive down here because we are so geographically isolated – what we see in the media is never challenged by our own perceptions – but by no means does that excuse racism and rudeness. My apologies once again, if you ever come to Christchurch I hope you will find your experience to be very different, I hope what you have experienced is the exception and not the rule!! 🙂

  3. I don’t know whether this is in the right section because it is an intersection of “higher education” and “crime” …
    typically housing areas right next to university/campus facilities have lots of nonviolent crime, of the “walk in your door and out the residence with a laptop/electronics”.
    I’m wondering whether statistics are included for that, as on-campus magazines, some of which report on break-ins and burglaries …
    not a single week went by (at my university) during term-time, without a theft happening.
    The students told me they had given up on reporting to police, as investigators would only turn up later in the week … if at all.

  4. “wouldn’t most colleges prefer to give sought after places to students that are most likely to pay the full costs of completing a degree?”
    Offhand I would say it has something to do with government funding that universities/colleges receive, based on the amount of domestic students that they get.
    Most New Zealanders do not have a degree.

    The degrees conferred in NZ: 38,730
    Amount of people living in NZ: approximately 4,000,000
    … it seems not many of the locals are interested in higher education.
    It stands to reason that to gain that government funding, they would, quite literally, have to grant places to every “Tom, Sione and Pene”.
    Having seen, firsthand, at a CUP course level that I had the chance to observe, that 70% of the students FAILED BECAUSE THEY NEVER TURNED UP, I find it remarkable that the allegation of foreign students stealing places from locals can be made.
    Maybe the locals – never turned up.

  5. Some of the colleges excuse the low graduation rates by saying some students only aim to do a select few subjects of a degree and leave when they’ve got them. That seems illogical to us, as wouldn’t most colleges prefer to give sought after places to students that are most likely to pay the full costs of completing a degree?

  6. I do have to make it clear though, that the courses which are rigourously examined and objective, are going to have much fewer graduates than the considered “airy-fairy” ones.
    Here’s a report
    26,000 people gained a degree from 2002 to 2006 (since they say that is how they do their percentages). BUT: 26,000 people, and “Students gained bachelors degrees at over 40 tertiary education providers, including 14 private training establishments”
    Over that period (5 years), 26,000 is a very small number – meaning 650 graduates per education provider. And what was the total number of initial enrolments? That is what is left unsaid.
    In my experience, and from my field: 600 people started. 30 finished, 3 years later.
    Was the course hard? You bet.

    • lol hehe yes they hide the part where how many people enrolled at first. I have also noticed that in my polytechnic, the trend goes like this, 1st YEAR: there is a whole population of people in class, 2nd YEAR: by end of this year half the population is gone, 3rd YEAR: perphaps 5% graduate like u said.
      Its very interesting…

  7. We took a first look at this by reading Salient – Wellington’s Victoria University magazine.

    Out of Victoria’s 21,000 students only a small percentage will graduate and an even smaller number will move on to do postgraduate studies. Only 15 per cent of students who enrol in a New Zealand university come out with a qualification.

    But that was over two years ago and the article doesn’t give a source for the data, or say what other colleges’ stats are like.

  8. Thanks P Ray. The low rate of graduation suggest that something is very wrong, we’ll try to find out more and blog about it.

  9. I took the rate of enrolments for 2006 for my university, and went through the graduation magazine for 2009 (covering the ones who finished in 2008) and that’s where I got the figure.
    The international student centre will tell you how many people enrol in a year (Typically about 40 – 60K).
    And the graduation magazine will tell you how many finished their courses 3 years later (of course, not all courses are 3 years long)
    That’s where I get the figure from.

  10. P Ray that graduation rate is an eye-opener, could you point us toward a source we could use?

  11. I feel your pain Mis-treated. And I do have to point out to you that the poor after-class support is something that I’ve seen happens from 2nd year onwards in any post-high-school (e.g. after 16+ years of age) education. So even the Kiwis are affected. Yeah, I don’t speak English with the kiwi accent, but my grasp of the language is very best since I want to succeed in the STEM fields… I laughed when I was in university at the extremely badly made signs that left out key details such as meeting location, time, date, convenor and subject. And this was done both by lecturers and students!
    “I have seen this also done to some asian students, but they are afraid to speak up because most of the time they can’t express themselves well enough in english and so they just let this Kiwis manipulate them.”
    That’s exactly what ticked me off about my fellow foreign Asian students – accepting that the Kiwi is always right and you are an eternal foreigner, nevermind the fact that you PAID to be at the university, you PAID 5 times more than a local student, you may usually receive fewer services (BECAUSE they don’t inform you about what services are available to you; your chances of being employed in your field are much lower (ESPECIALLY if you are an ASIAN MALE, ESPECIALLY if you speak and write fluently in ENGLISH, ESPECIALLY if you have a STEM qualification…
    “I tell you im suffering alot now in a polytechnic with a racist tutor that has costed me so much i can’t finish my degree. I feel lack of support with that teacher at all, how can i learn when im not being taught well because the teacher is scared to approach me.”
    THIS is WHY you must complain. I can tell you that there are irregularities where international students are concerned… in that there is talk that foreigners are given an easy ride – but where is the flip side, where international students are accused of wrongdoing, FALSELY? I have personal experience with that. Best part was being told about it 1 DAY before an important exam. I REFUSED to let them get away with that. The lecturer finally admitted she made a mistake, but only verbally. (Good thing I kept a record of my dealings with her).
    As an international student, you also have to worry about the International Student Advisors (staff working at the University) who keep a lookout for failing students NEVERMIND the fact that you FAILED because the subject was difficult (there is only a 5% graduation rate for universities in NZ).
    Those people will tell you that you will not be allowed to stay in the country if you take a lighter workload, and will try to INTIMIDATE you to take on more subjects than you can handle. I just told them, you’re arranging MY studies, and taking MY money, on MY terms. Otherwise, I walk… They didn’t pressure me after that.
    You DEFINITELY need to make some noise, mis-treated. Because EVERYONE LOVES A SILENT VICTIM.

    • Yes of course I have reported my case. They is no way one should let themselves to be manipulated.Yes I have been a silent victim too long now BUT its time I OPENED for other migrants to LEARN how to speak THE TRUTH on how they’re being mistreated.
      We are all equal no matter what colour your skin is. Its good u also had to stand for your case. The only reason they enrol so many international students is they want their money, but once they have got NZ qualification they will not hire them. Only a few if they’re lucky depending on the career. So then u wonder why bother bringing all these asian students if they are not going to help them get jobs. This country’s problem as i see it, is they are still suffering what America was going through years & years ago. If they can learn from America’s example that all are equal then a tremendous positive change will be in this country. Thanks for your support I will keep fighting

  12. Hi Mis-treated. Thanks for the message, sorry that you’ve been treated so badly – it’s awful that you feel that you can’t finish your degree because of this, your whole life is going to be affected by the actions of one tutor.

    Is there a student liaison or counselling service that you feel you could talk with about your concerns? perhaps it could be the start of changing things for the better at your college, or at least help to develop a more productive relationship between you and your tutor.

    Out of interest, where in the country are you studying? You don’t have to be specific if you don’t want to, and what are the student support services like where you are?

    • oh its has been a nightmare for me that I managed to speak up, something I hardly thought I could do as this isn’t my country, but I guess time for change had to happen for me as I couldn’t bare it. Since I want to put the tertiary’s name in good terms and I don’t believe all tutors are bad either. It is just that one person that has pushed my limits to report to the school counsellor and yes hopefully it can be reconciled . Its a big change because but I guess its time we spoke truth on how migrants are being treated in this country. Well as for me that’s not the only place to study in the world, thanks to Tertiary cross-credit system helps sort all your problems!

  13. I am a from kenya and i I would agree with you, because i have lived here for 7 years. Any young or old people from overseas wishing to study here I would recommend you to re-think your choices twice!! This is the most racist country, its funny that they say aussies are racist but nah i think NZ is the most racist. If aussies were racist then probably they would be treating kiwis badly just like their treating foreigners in their country. To know that im saying the truth then read the amount of positive comments in this website that New zealanders have said abt leaving in australia. First of all is to do with their xenophobic behaviour towards foreigners. I tell you im suffering alot now in a polytechnic with a racist tutor that has costed me so much i can’t finish my degree. I feel lack of support with that teacher at all, how can i learn when im not being taught well because the teacher is scared to approach me. I have seen this also done to some asian students, but they are afraid to speak up because most of the time they can’t express themselves well enough in english and so they just let this Kiwis manipulate them. Therefore if any foreigners are studying here thinking they will rise up to be CEO’s in this country. Try your luck bcz it mite cause u depression. Thats wht they’re doing with asians, they enroll alot of international students and once they graduate and apply for jobs they will take the usual kiwi with a C grade and not the international student with A grade because they do not speak the kiwi english accent that they want. It will take a long time for this country to wake up as i see it.

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