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Campus visits for students from refugee backgrounds

15 June 2016

James Cook High School students from refugee backgrounds on a campus visit
James Cook High School students from refugee backgrounds on a campus visit

The University’s Equity Office – Te Ara Tautika is leading a programme of campus visits to help familiarise secondary students from refugee backgrounds with the University.

The pilot engagement programme works with Auckland secondary schools with high populations of students from refugee backgrounds (SRB). The programme supports the University’s commitment to being safe, inclusive and equitable. 

To date, around 50 SRB and their families from James Cook High School and Kelston Girls’ College have participated in the programmes, which include campus tours, presentations and Q&A sessions. The students’ countries of origin include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

While on campus in May, Kelston Girls’ College students heard insights and advice from two University of Auckland students who are from refugee backgrounds. Fatima Mohammadi is in her 3rd year of a conjoint BA/LLB studying politics, ancient history and laws. She told the audience that the transition from high school to university can be “challenging”, and she advised the students to “attend class, ask for help, and don’t be afraid.” She also emphasised the importance of keeping up with friends and joining clubs to meet new people. 

Fatima Mohammadi and Adorate Mizero sharing their experiences with students from Kelston Girls' College
Fatima Mohammadi and Adorate Mizero sharing their experiences with students from Kelston Girls' College

In contrast, Adorate Mizero, a 3rd year BA student from Burundi, admitted she found the move from high school to university easy, describing how much she enjoyed choosing her own courses. But she agreed that busy study timetables can make it harder to maintain friendships. 

Director of Student Equity, Dr Terry O’Neill, acknowledges the government’s recent announcement that, from 2018, it will increase New Zealand’s annual refugee quota from 750 to 1000. He says the value that comes from supporting people from refugee backgrounds can be seen not just at the University but in society as a whole. “Our University community is amazingly diverse and our staff and students from refugee backgrounds add to this richness, contributing to our society, and to our future economic success and prosperity.” 

Feedback from both schools has been positive, with one James Cook High School careers adviser saying “The chance to visit the University is huge – you can’t have the experience by looking at a website or reading a prospectus. Visiting the campus takes away the fear factor.”  

For more information about the SRB campus visits programme email Terry O'Neill, Director - Student Equity: t.oneill@auckland.ac.nz

Visit www.equity.auckland.ac.nz/ssrb