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Exploring New Horizons: From the Netherlands to New Zealand

  • Renee Cox
    Renée Cox

As young adults, many of us dream of independence and the opportunity to carve out our own paths. For Renée Cox from HAN University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, this dream took the shape of a semester abroad at Unitec in New Zealand. 

To be honest, I've wanted to be fully independent from a very young age, says Renée. “Of course, when you go to university and start living on your own, you become slightly independent, but my family and friends always stayed close during that time. When I got the opportunity to study abroad, I decided I wanted to go as far away as possible. I knew that New Zealand was a beautiful country, and the culture wasn't too different from my own, so that's why I decided to do my semester abroad in New Zealand.”

The choice was partly due to it being the only partner university available through her home institution, but she soon found subjects she wanted to pursue.

“At my home university HAN University of Applied Sciences, I study International Communication. At Unitec, I was able to choose 4 subjects that interested me. I chose Studio 1, an art subject I absolutely loved, Social Media Marketing, Organisational Behaviour, and Consumer behaviour.”

Coming to the other side of the world wasn’t without its challenges, Renée admits, but she quickly adapted to the New Zealand’s lifestyle, finding the pace less frantic than back home, with social life involving spending time with friends, hiking and enjoying nature rather than clubbing.

“I think they all genuinely cared very much about their students' wellbeing and wanted us all to pass. I also think the level of the material was around the same as what I was used to, although the assessment was easier in New Zealand (which gave me more time to explore the country, so that was a plus for me).

For others considering a similar journey, Renée enthusiastically recommends giving it a go.

“Do it! It's an amazing opportunity to discover what life can be like in a different country and culture. It helps you figure out where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and it helps you to make yourself happy rather than rely on others for happiness. Studying at a different university can also help you to understand what type of learning works for you. Being able to choose subjects outside of your usual study field is also great because it's exciting to learn new things.”

Throughout her stay, connecting with both locals and other exchange students was invaluable, she says.

“They both add a different kind of value to your life. Kiwis can show you what life is like for them, and they're usually very interested in where you come from as well. Other exchange students understand the struggles that come with moving abroad and you can talk to them about it and experience everything for the first time with them.”

Now back in the Netherlands, Renée is doing an internship in employer branding.

“After this, I have one more year left in my International Communication bachelor at HAN University. I'm thinking of doing a master's program at HAN after my bachelor as well, because I really enjoy studying here. My time in New Zealand has also made me love travelling. I hope to travel to lots of places in the future, and maybe even do my second internship next study year abroad as well.”

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