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Student Stories

Theo Tsiolas

Theo graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Commerce (marketing and international business)

“When I first started looking at studying in New Zealand I thought about just doing a year at Auckland. It is part of the global group Universitas 21, so has strong links with some UK universities, which made me think perhaps I could go to Auckland for a year and then go home for the rest of my degree. Looking back though, I think this was probably just nerves and not knowing what to expect from New Zealand. I ended up staying at Auckland for my whole degree.

“Living in halls of residence was the most important decision I made because it really immersed me in Kiwi culture. New friends made me feel at home and, once I’d settled, leaving after a year never even crossed my mind.

“Homesickness didn’t really hit me until the middle of my first year. Of course, being so far away from home means it never really goes away completely – you wouldn’t want it to! – but as my time at university went by, Auckland soon became my home away from home. Making friends is the best way to get rid of homesickness. For me, short holidays like Easter came to mean going to friends’ houses and being treated to some amazing Kiwi hospitality.

“The workload on the course definitely increased between first and third year. At the beginning, I had no idea what to expect and, because the academic year in the southern hemisphere doesn’t start until February, I’d been out of school for six months when I started, which put me slightly out of sync with the study environment of deadlines and essays. My time management skills were definitely in question in my first year, as I was trying to balance academic life with social life in a new country and environment. As the time went by the workload did increase, but I got better at managing it.

“I graduated in May 2010. In the current global economic climate I consider myself very lucky to have had a job lined up before I finished uni. I’m working for a marketing firm in Auckland.

“What made me decide to stay and get a job here rather than coming home? All the stories I’d heard of students in the UK having problems getting jobs and the level of graduate unemployment – it made sense for me to stay and work in New Zealand for a while. The Australasian economies have never officially entered a recession, so there are good jobs available for well-qualified students. Then, when I do come home, I’ll have a decent amount of work experience to back up my internationally recognised bachelors degree.

“I found my job myself, but the University does give lots of career guidance and advice, including help with CVs and so on. They also had immigration officers come in and give us information on how to apply for specific visas after university, which was very helpful and I think also shows the New Zealand government is keen to keep qualified students in the country.

“Now that I’ve done it – finished a tough degree at a top university and got a job in the field I trained in – I look back at my amazing time at university. My first year laid the foundations for where I am now. The friends I live with and keep in touch with are all from halls. I’ve travelled round the country seeing and doing amazing things, like a five-day trek in Milford Sound, bungee jumping, sky diving, skiing and much more. I’ve travelled the world and been able to immerse myself in another culture, albeit a relatively similar one to home. I’ve proved to others (and to myself) it’s a good thing to step out of your comfort zone. Try it! It’s not always easy, but it will be rewarding.

“If it weren’t for Study Options, I’d never have even thought about going overseas to study. They made the process so easy. So I’d like to thank Stefan and Sarah for being at that university fair, way back in 2005, and just making me think, ‘why not?’…”