College vs. Uni

Jessica Robyns
November 18, 2017

One of the reasons I wanted to go abroad with IES Abroad Auckland was because I wanted to study at the University of Auckland. The UoA is a lot different from my university in the states. I’m used to a small college of 1500 students with a campus so small you can walk across it in 15 minutes. The UoA was a big change for me, not to mention it being in a foreign country. The first thing I learned about university in New Zealand that they use different terminology. First of all, it’s called “uni”, not college (college is high school, and if you mix it up, Kiwis will laugh at you). Courses are called papers. “Faculty” refers to your field of study, not to professors (for example, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering, etc.)

I took four papers at the UoA: Pacific Biogeography, Plant Diversity, Intro to Geographic Information Systems, and Intro to Spoken Maori. I was really excited to take these classes because I couldn’t take any of them or anything similar to them at my home university. It was a really great opportunity, and it opened new doors for me.

I gained valuable skills by learning how to use the computer program ArcMap, something that I wouldn’t have been able to learn at my home university. I can put that skill on my resume and possibly use it in future jobs. I got to do a project on ferns and learn a lot about the local uniqueness of the local flora and fauna, which is one of the things that drew me to New Zealand in the first place. Needless to say, the opportunity to take Spoken Maori was really unique. Although I probably won’t use my Maori skills, I got to learn about Maori culture and it was eye-opening to study a language that has nothing in common with English.

Studying at such a large university required some adjustments. I had to get used to having classes in big lecture halls. For a while I was afraid to ask questions during class. Although it’s common at my home university, it’s not so common for a student to raise their hand and ask a question during a lecture. Knowing that lectures were usually recorded and that no one would notice if I was gone, skipping class became a lot more tempting.

I had fewer assignments than I was used to, but the assignments I did have were worth a larger percentage of my total grade. Exams are also generally worth a larger percentage of your course grade in New Zealand than in a university in the States. Students in NZ take assignments and exams very seriously, and will start working on them a long time in advance.

I also had to learn to plan my day a lot better. Campus is a 20-30 minute walk from Parnell Student Village, where I live. The walk is through the Auckland Domain, and it’s lovely on a nice day. But it also means that I can’t go back to my room between classes. Most days, I would go to uni in the morning and not come home until the evening, like a 9 to 5 job.

Most of the students at the UoA who were born and raised in Auckland still live at home with their parents. This is also totally different from my home university, where everyone lives on campus. It can make it hard to hang out with people if they live in a completely different part of the city. But it’s also an advantage, because Aucklanders can show you all the cool places to visit in the city.

For me, the biggest difference between uni and college was that at uni, I had to take charge of my own learning. No one was checking up on my progress at the UoA, unlike my home university where professors would notice if I started missing classes. It was challenging, and I don’t think I ever fully got used to it, but a challenging experience is what I wanted. Overall, I think it depends on the individual which style of learning is better. For students who come from large universities, the transition probably won’t be too jarring.

Jessica Robyns

<p style="margin-bottom:12.0pt">Kia ora!&nbsp;My name is Jessica and I'm majoring in biology and environmental studies at Lawrence University, a small school in Appleton, WI. I grew up in Marquette, Michigan and will always call the shore of Lake Superior home. I love to travel and have been to Costa Rica, Chile, and Argentina so far.<span style="text-autospace:none"><span style="font-size:16.0pt"><span style="font-family:&quot;Times&quot;,serif"> </span></span></span></p>

Home University:
Lawrence University
Marquette, MI
Environmental Studies
Explore Blogs