When I first arrived at “uni” at Victoria University of Wellington, I didn’t know what to expect. I decided that I would look at university in New Zealand with an open mind, even if it wasn’t what I was used to. As it turns out, much of university life is the same. We have class lectures, the buildings are the same, the library is the same, and we have “tutors” which are what we would call TA’s. Even with these similarities, there were some new things to get used to.
My first mistake: calling myself a “college student”. If you do this in New Zealand, especially when at a bar, or on the town, people will give you a blank stare of confusion and slowly back away from you. In New Zealand, “college” is another word for high school. “Uni” or university is what we would call “college”. Here, we call ourselves “uni students”.
On the first day of class I noticed the difference in appropriate dress for class. At home, it is acceptable to show up to your 8 a.m. lectures in a big sweatshirt and leggings or sweatpants. Here people dress up for class. Girls wear dresses or skirts with tights and cute shoes, and guys wear nice pants with a shirt and cardigan, or some other nice outfit. People are very “trendy” here, and are not afraid to express their individual style. Nothing people wear is considered strange. Purple hair with overalls and combat boots? Sure. I like dressing up for class, and seeing the interesting things everyone is wearing!
The next thing that I noticed is that school sports are different. There are no official sports teams at Victoria, only club teams such as Rugby and Soccer. Because of this, any of my friends who are also exchange students were able to easily join teams for the term and learn a new sport. It was strange at first though, not being able to throw on some face paint and attend a big football game as I would at home.
The final major difference that I noticed was the grading scale difference. At my home institution, an A is 90%, and above, and the grades go down from there. Here, a 75% and above is an A, and a C is 50%. My lack of knowledge about this change caused a minor panic when I received my first 74% for a paper. Because of the grading scale difference, the feedback and grades for assignments seems much harsher, so we had to get used to the fact that our work is evaluated the same way, just different marks.
Overall, it has been a learning experience in more ways than one attending a university in a different country. I don’t think of “uni” as better or worse than my home institution, but I have had a blast seeing the similarities and differences that I never would have guessed!