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Otago Orientation Week

Sri Themudu
Sri Themudu
Sri has left his home in Malaysia to study for a Masters in Entrepreneurship at the University of Otago in New Zealand. His ASEAN Scholarship has opened up this new opportunity for him.

Otago Orientation Programme for NZ Aid Scholars

Before I describe my campus orientation experience, I would like to thank New Zealand Aid committee in considering investing a reasonable amount in acclimating scholars into the community.

Starting university can be stressful for an international student because of all the unknowns

  • Will I make any friends?
  • How will I manage myself in a new place?
  • Whom do I ask if I have a question?

Of course, we hope for orientation week to get an answer for all these questions. But based on my undergraduate experience, I already knew that orientation will range from a one-day program to a week-long event with full of seminars and info session.

Even though most orientation programs are designed with a first-time college student in mind, Otago NZ Aid scholar orientation had special features. It took into consideration transfer students and even nontraditional (older) students. Some design thinking and user experience were applied here.


 0 sri orientation week

What’s new in Otago University NZ Aid Scholars orientation?

I was puzzled when I receive an email from the International Admission Manager that I have to be here a month earlier to attend the scholarship orientation. I have even had a thought of joining the orientation in a later stage in order to skip the info session that will run us into boredom wall.

Contrary to common perception, the orientation programme was well designed to welcome us to Otago, and:

  1. Helped us find our bearings
  2. Taught us some academic preparation skills
  3. Showed us what Otago can offer us
  4. Helped us to meet new people and have some fun all before we get into a serious study

There was two helpful University staff, Catherine McKinlay (Teacher at language and foundation centre) and Claire Slocombe (International Student Adviser) who have guided us for a month to acclimate with the Otago community.

1. Visiting The Attraction Places In Dunedin


I personally believe acclimating international students by introducing to the places is a meaningful activity. This activity has given us good exposure to the places that we could visit when have reached the monotony at campus or missing our family.

Similarly, Otago NZ Aid Scholar orientation has aimed in acclimating students to their new environment through guided tours, campus tour, or even time to just wander. This orientation provides a safe avenue for us to find our way around campus and city. The orientation was fun-filled. They scheduled a van tour to Mt.Cargill lookout, Baldwin Street, Botanic gardens, Railway station, Otago Peninsula and Allan’s beach wild life spotting in this 4 weeks time period.

2. Exploring Dunedin By Foot


Catherine designed this wonderful activity for students to get familiar with Dunedin city. We were given a 9-sheet paper with questions and hints to identify the shops and places that are relevant to international students. The 8 hours foot journey reward us with the knowledge where to stroll around during weekends.


3. Managing My Own finances

Sri - Managing your finances at Otago

Understanding the value of money, how to budget and spending to your means are incredibly important lessons which international student should well aware off. This orientation programme has featured with a budget advisory briefing by Shirley, team member of Dunedin Budget Advisory. Shirley with her immaculate accounting knowledge has guided us through simple and logic budgeting formula.

On the other hand, to shop smartly and environment-friendly, Catherine took us for an op-shop tour to know how to get the essentials. Being an international student for a short period, I would consider getting a puff jacket for 20 dollars rather than spending 200 dollars to get a new one. The op shop tour was a crucial part of our orientation programme.

4. Academic Preparation Classes


While having an exciting tour and advise sessions, the orientation programme was also heavy on academic modules. Experienced teachers and lectures taught us the important academic modules such as paraphrasing, referencing, grammar and summarizing.

5. Local Culture, Language & Lifestyle


Culture and language is a new learning chapter for us in NZ.

Firstly, to understand Kiwi house culture, our house visit to Catherine’s mum’s house certainly gave us an exposure in understanding Kiwi house norms and cultures. Her mother took good care of us with her delicious scone and tea. It was simply awesome.

Secondly, to understand expats life in NZ, we are lucky to meet Dunedin “transplants” and discuss about NZ culture from the perspective of recent settlers. This gave us an idea of how to assimilate and adapt in the NZ community. To understand the history and people of NZ, Dr Sandra took us to the Toitu museum. The cultural knowledge exchange also included a session to share our own country and customs.

 0 sri steepest street

In many instances, this orientation program creates a lasting impression for an international student like me. All thanks to the University of Otago Language Centre and Foundation Year in collaboration with the International office and NZ Aid foundation. It was an amazing one-month orientation to get us grounded well in Dunedin.