2017 Go Overseas New Zealand scholarship winners

See the winning entries in the 2017 Go Overseas and Education New Zealand Study Abroad scholarship. These students will be starting their Study Abroad experience in Semester One 2018.

The overall winner for the 2017 New Zealand Scholarship was Josh Golden from North Carolina State University. Josh won a full US$15,000 scholarship to study in New Zealand.

The University of Auckland has awarded 5 additional students scholarships of NZ$1,000 to study here with us in Auckland. See their entries below.

Easwari Amirthanayagam, Brown University

I have always been interested in New Zealand specifically and Oceania more broadly. I have a lot of family that migrated from Sri Lanka to both New Zealand and Australia. Due to the civil war in Sri Lanka, my grandparents migrated to the United States, however other family members moved to places that were a bit closer to home. I have always been fascinated by the reasons people choose (in situations where there is a choice) the place in which to create a new home. In getting the opportunity to study in New Zealand, I hope to be able to reconnect with some of my extended family and learn more about their experiences of moving to New Zealand.

The University of Auckland looks like a wonderful institution of higher education. I was so excited as I scrolled through their website to see an extensive list of classes and departments, some of which are not found at Brown. I am really interested in possibly doing a Masters in Social Work and the University of Auckland has an undergraduate degree in this field. It would be amazing to delve into this field during my undergraduate experience so that I would have a better idea of whether or not I would want to pursue a Masters either in Social Work or in a related field. As a senior, this opportunity could not have come at a better time. One class within the Social Work degree that I am especially interested in is Bicultural Social Work Practices. The course delves into the impact of the Treaty of Waitangi in Social Work practice. Not only would I be given tools to view Social Work through a bicultural lens but I will also get to learn about Social Work in a New Zealand specific context.

I would also be very privileged to be able to take courses that are specific to New Zealand’s rich cultures. As a Sociology major, I am interested in the interaction between indigenous peoples and recent immigrants to the country and the way that social structures (namely the government and the education system) treat marginalized populations. I have found numerous classes both within and beyond the Sociology department at the University of Auckland that would provide insights to questions that I have.

There are several courses at the university that have integrated field trips into their schedules. I am a strong believer that learning does not only take place in the classroom. In studying at the University of Auckland, I would not only have access to excellent professors but also an incredible landscape that can only aid my understanding of concepts and ideas covered in lecture. I am hoping to take the class, New Zealand Ecology and Conservation, which includes fieldtrips as part of the curriculum. I haven’t taken any Biology/Environmental Science classes while at Brown, even though these were subjects that I really enjoyed in high school. Getting to take a class that crosses these two fields, in a place like New Zealand with its ecological diversity, would be incredible.

Finally a statement about wanting to study abroad in a country like New Zealand would be incomplete without mentioning the physical beauty of the country. Even though I have always been fond of cities (which makes the University of Auckland perfect as it is situated in the heart of the city), I have also always loved getting away and spending time in nature. The ability to study in a city but have the opportunity to also trek to my heart’s content would be an experience like no other in my life so far.

Julian Villavicencio, Gonzaga University

I thought to myself, where is the furthest place from Washington that I can study abroad and play rugby? The answer was New Zealand. I have never been to New Zealand nor will I pretend to know much about it. The thought of going to a country that I know nothing about and where I have no personal contacts, makes it so appealing to me. I am excited to experience the unexpected and immerse myself in the New Zealand culture. I have lived primarily in the Bay Area of California and in Spokane. I would love to explore a far away land, interact with people who are culturally different from me and challenge myself to adapt and grow personally as a student, an athlete and as a person. Finally, I love the outdoors and New Zealand is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world to explore. If you saw the Hobbit Series, most of the scenes were filmed in New Zealand.

New Zealand is a multiethnic country and I am curious to see the difference between American and New Zealand ethnic relations. I have been involved in cultural and ethnic clubs since high school and I have thoroughly discussed racial relations whenever possible. Being multi-racial, I am Guatemalan, Native American, French, Japanese, Caucasian and Spanish, I have read about different groups of people of New Zealand and its rich tradition. I am extremely interested in cultures and how they interact with each other. I believe that New Zealand will be the perfect setting for me to communicate and interact with all the different races which make up the faculty and student body at the University of Auckland. I love food! I must admit that I have never heard anything about New Zealand food. After researching the types of food that I will be exposed to in the next few months, I am already getting hungry. I’ve always enjoy tasting all the great foods and different food styles of the many different cultures. In restaurants and in the various cafes, food is the common bond with which I utilize to greet and meet people. My hobby is adding more pictures to my extensive (and growing) food photo log!

I want to improve my rugby skills, but more importantly I want to make new life-long rugby brothers. Being part of a team creates brotherhood and friendship. Rugby is a sport that connects the whole world, so I want to bring back the teachings of New Zealand rugby back to the U.S. I transitioned from American football to rugby while in my senior year of high school. I not only love the purity of the game, but I really enjoy the social aspect of the sport. We truly are brothers on and off the field. Rugby is played by all races and is one of the most popular sports globally. There must be something about brotherhood in New Zealand that makes its rugby programs the best in the world. It is a tremendous opportunity for me to test myself and achieve my goals as a player, a teammate, and a person. Playing at this level and talking to the players and coaches in New Zealand is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I plan to bring back the knowledge, experience and skills to Gonzaga University and improve as a player. Hopefully, some of my new teammates will come back and study for a semester at Gonzaga!

Academically, the University of Auckland will challenge me to learn in a new academic environment. I have always been in some type of structured Catholic learning environment while in the Bay Area and Spokane. After my flight, I will be not only stepping into an unfamiliar country, but I will be required to use my skills and knowledge to succeed in an entirely new and unfamiliar teaching atmosphere. I will have to understand my challenges and immediately form a plan to succeed as a student/athlete during my stay. I went online and researched this highly-ranked school. They even have a program that will combine my rugby schedule with my different academic courses. Many of the courses will fit right into my major of Business. Many international students attend the University of Auckland. In my home town of San Francisco, the emphasis for many business transactions are with China, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. This will be an excellent opportunity to meet them and talk about how my fellow exchange students view the state of the world and its future opportunities. It will be very interesting to be taught to by non-American teachers and exchange ideas and theories with students from all over the world. I am excited that I will experience a new and fresh perspective of how the rest of the world views me as an American. 

I personally realize how important it is for me to take advantage of this opportunity and grow as a student, athlete, and person. Since I’m paying my way through college, this opportunity is my choice. Although studying abroad will be financially challenging, I will make sure to utilize every second in New Zealand. I will need to test myself in the classroom and on the field. Since I am a Business Major and wish to someday go out into the world of business on my own, I will be meeting the future business leaders of the world. Finally, I will be able to see the world through their eyes, not just from the perspectives of my teachers and fellow students in the U.S. Again, I do not know much about New Zealand, but I am excited to embark on this opportunity of a lifetime.

Laurel McGerty, Albion College

I hope to study in New Zealand to fulfill personal, professional, and academic goals.

It has always been a dream of mine to study abroad ever since I was a little girl. I had never really considered New Zealand until I came across a Boston University Internship program that was based in Auckland. After being accepted into this program, I have continued to learn more about the country, I know that it is the right environment for me to study in.

New Zealand’s natural beauty entices me, and exploring the country while studying there for 6 months would be an absolute dream come true. I have always been an avid fan of the outdoors, including hiking and camping, and enjoy visiting national and state parks in the United States. During my research, I have found that New Zealand has 13 amazing national parks, and I hope to visit all of them if I am able to study there. I’ve also done research into the Waitomo glow worm caves, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Rotura, and other unique destinations in New Zealand that I hope to experience. New Zealand has so much natural beauty to offer, and it would be an incredible opportunity to visit these attractions that are not present in the United States.

In addition to having the opportunity to expand my love and knowledge for the environment, I know that this trip would help me become more independent. If I were to study abroad in Auckland, I would be very far from home. The time difference between Auckland and Michigan would make it difficult to call home often to ask questions. This distance would push me to be more self-reliant, and broaden my ability to adapt to new situations. I would gain real-life experience in handling adult responsibilities, such as budgeting my money, making meals for myself, and being able to navigate while using public transportation.

Finally, I want to study in New Zealand because I believe that it will help me become a more culturally competent individual. I plan on going into the healthcare field, and as a part of that community, it is vital to understand how to be accepting and willing to learn about other cultures. Immersing myself in New Zealand’s culture, and observing the Maori way of life, would teach me how to adapt and grow while being exposed to values and ideals that may differ from my own. I want to have an excellent foundation of cultural competency to build off of during my graduate and professional careers. During my sophomore year of college, I had to write a paper about a democratic transition in history. I chose to write about New Zealand, and began to research the Maori, their history, customs, and how the introduction of democracy impacted them. It would be an honor to be able to respectfully observe and meet members of this community.

New Zealand offers so many incredible chances to learn about myself and others, grow as a member of the healthcare field, and broaden my horizons by traveling a far distance from everything I am familiar with. Studying abroad has been a dream of mine for so many years, and I am doing all I can to make sure my trip is financially stable. I thank you for taking the time to read my essay, and I am more than grateful for this opportunity to be considered for this scholarship offer.

Nora Wolcott, George Washington University

A key factor in even my earliest decisions choosing a university was the comprehensive variety of study abroad programs offered to me through George Washington. When I happened upon the GW Exchange program at the University of Auckland, I knew I had found my ideal host institution. Among my peers studying Molecular Biology, am I one of only a few who endeavor to go abroad during their undergraduate careers, for the simple reason that the majority of institutions do not have the scope of biological classes necessary to complete such a rigorous degree. The University of Auckland, however, provides a startlingly wide variety of biological science offerings; courses such as Biochemistry, Animal Behaviour, and Plant Diversity have exact counterparts at GW that I have been unable to match at any other institution. At George Washington I have been lucky enough to be granted the Harlan Biology Fellowship twice during my undergraduate career for my work with genomic editing, and feel that it is imperative the institution I attend allow me to continue to grow in this field. As world-renowned research institution, Auckland presents me with ample room to expand in this area, while exploring the full scope of my academic interests.

In addition to this, I am a Presidential Scholar in the Arts for Music at George Washington, and am therefore double majoring in Music. An exchange program is the only way for me to take a broad enough range of courses to fulfill both biology and music requirements, and of all my exchange options the University of Auckland is above and beyond any other institution in terms of the diversity of its course offerings. Music department courses such as Conducting and Jazz History present me with excellent GW equivalents to fulfill the demands of my second major. Ultimately, without delaying my graduation this program is absolutely the best, if not the only option for my specific academic requirements.
I personally put immense value on being an informed citizen of the world, and believe that enrolling in a study abroad program is a vital step in achieving that goal. As a politically active young woman in a field dominated by men, I will take any opportunity to gain a competitive edge as an aspiring biologist. Aquiring research experience in an institution that values my contributions, while battling the challenges of cultural and academic differences, will no doubt prepare me to face any professional difficulties in my field. Learning to speak up in a venue that is unfamiliar to me will prepare me for the transitions from undergraduate to graduate school, and from graduate school to the professional world. It is evident from the increase in gender disparity as STEM education progresses that these transitions take their toll on women in science. I am determined not to be one of those women.

Beyond academics, the city of Auckland harbors a fascinating Pacific culture I must admit I am not very familiar with. Despite having family in Melbourne, I have spent little time in New Zealand, and feel that I ought to be more informed as to its Maori roots. I would also consider it a privilege to be able to explore the fascinating natural and man-made architecture of New Zealand. As a Biology major, the endemic ecology and geography of this area is fascinating to me, and I would love to take advantage of my admittance to the University to explore this beautiful country. I understand that such an immersive experience can lead to difficulties adapting, and believe that over the course of my undergraduate career I have developed some strategies for coping with this culture shock. As someone who enjoys structure in their daily lives, it is important to learn how to deal with ambiguity in situations where excessive planning can only go so far. Doing research ahead of time can lessen this stress, but being open minded is ultimately a better tactic for navigating new cultural territory. In addition, I believe that when travelling it is not only respectful but also personally critical to embrace the immersive experience, and try to fully welcome whatever situation you may find yourself in. Personally, if admitted I will look forward to familiarizing myself with the native New Zealand Maori language which, while perhaps not widely used, is integral to the culture of Auckland.

Lastly, I urge the committee to consider that, unlike others who may be considering this Exchange as just one option among many, this institution is ultimately my only option to enroll in a program that accommodates my specific requirements both as a Molecular Biology major and a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Given admittance to this competitive program, I would do everything in my capability to excel. I thank you for your time and consideration in reviewing me as a candidate, and hope I was adequately able to communicate my excitement in taking this step to pursue my personal, professional, and academic future.

William Drager, Stony Brook University

As a psychology and business student at one of the top public research institutions in the United States, I am fascinated by the way people operate. Whether it’s the way people interact on a day to day basis with each other, or the means by which two sides come to an agreement in a contract, I have a passion for learning about what makes people tick. I have learned in my studies and teaching in social psychology that situations can often determine peoples’ interpretations of the world, as well as influence their functioning in it. This is what has sparked my desire to study in New Zealand -- the experience of an entirely new culture and people, halfway across the world.

Ever since my mother had the amazing opportunity to travel to New Zealand last year, I have dreamed of having an experience like hers. She told me of her interactions with the Maori natives, and her experiences with the Kiwis throughout the country. She spoke of the friendly disposition of the people, and the way they were able to constructively interact with one another at a time and in a way that people in the United States seem to be struggling with such connections. She also told me of the incredible scenery, and to someone who has spent all of his days in New York, I was amazed and fascinated by the astounding natural beauty of the country. Her pictures were breathtaking.

New Zealand, however, is not without flaw. It has the highest teen suicide rate in the developed world, far ahead of all other developed countries. I am interested in studying and having a firsthand experience of life in New Zealand to better understand this issue. I believe I can apply my psychological studies to better analyze this issue from a first-hand perspective, and take something constructive away from this.
Lastly, I am interested in connecting with and studying alongside students from backgrounds and cultures different than mine, whose life experiences have both similarities and vast differences. As a student at Stony Brook University, I have met and interacted with students from different countries and cultures, and inquired about their experiences assimilating into a new world while in an academic context. I am very excited and motivated at the prospect of experiencing this personally, and learning from it. I believe that this will help me to be more sensitive to others.

Overall, I can’t wait to go.