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What to Expect When You Study in New Zealand

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Offering amazing landscapes, world-renowned universities and a friendly and progressive society, study in New Zealand and you’ll be the envy of all your friends back home. You’ll leave with a great degree and a wealth of memories from your experience, whether its your deeper understanding of Māori culture, photos showcasing the impressive sightseeing spots seen on film in Lord of the Rings, or, if you’re brave enough, your thrill-seeking activities such as skydiving or bungee-jumping. Read on to find out more about what you can expect when you study in New Zealand.

Before you arrive

University of Auckland

Of course, the first step is choosing a university and course. As a relatively small country of only 4.7 million, there are only eight universities in New Zealand to choose from – however, impressively, all of these feature in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings® 2019, with half of these in the global top 250. Of these, the University of Auckland is consistently the country’s highest-ranked university, currently ranked 85th in the world, followed by the University of Otago (joint 175th), Victoria University of Wellington (joint 221st) and the University of Canterbury (joint 231st). To help you further with choosing a university, it’s worth taking a look at the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019, which lets you see how universities in New Zealand rank for 48 different subjects.

Applying to universities in New Zealand

Once you’ve decided on a university, you’ll need to apply to it directly online, submitting proof of your academic qualifications, your passport, academic transcripts and, if applicable, your IELTS or TOEFL English-language test result.

Once you’ve applied for and received a university place, you’ll need to apply for your student visa online or via a paper application to Immigration New Zealand, submitting the following documents:

  • Proof of acceptance to an approved university (an offer letter)
  • Valid passport and passport-style photos
  • Proof of medical and travel insurance
  • Evidence of sufficient funds to cover living costs (at least NZ$15,000 per year of study, which is approximately US$10,000)
  • Evidence of sufficient funds to cover tuition fees, or evidence of a scholarship
  • A police certificate, to show you’re of good character
  • Students from certain countries will need to have an X-ray and/or medical check
  • Return flight ticket (or proof of sufficient funds for this)

You’ll also need to state your intention to purchase health insurance – it’s very important to take this out, as you’re not eligible for free healthcare as an international student in New Zealand.

Where to study

Wellington

New Zealand may have a relatively small population in comparison to its size, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it doesn’t have exciting student cities. As well as choosing a university that meets your requirements, it’s also important to select the right city for you to call home for the next few years.

Two New Zealand cities are currently ranked among the top 100 cities in the world to be a student according to the QS Best Student Cities 2018: Auckland, which is ranked 23rd, achieving its best score for ‘student mix’ (one of the five categories used to compile the ranking), at joint third, showing that it boasts a large and diverse community of students, as well as a friendly and tolerant outlook. Also featured in the ranking is Christchurch, ranked 69th, which again earns its best score for student mix.

Capital city Wellington is also well worth considering – nicknamed ‘Wellywood’ thanks to the film tourism brought on by its association with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, it’s a compact and highly liveable city, with plenty of beautiful open spaces (such as its picturesque harbor), great cuisine from all around the world, and a calendar full of vibrant festivals and other cultural events.

Alternatively, if you’re interested in studying in a city with a huge proportion of students (around 20 percent of the overall population), Dunedin is the place for you. Emulating Scottish capital Edinburgh, Dunedin is an attractive and historic city with a vibrant student life and major sport scene, particularly in terms of rugby.

Costs to consider

Although the student visa requirement is NZ$15,000 for living costs for each year you study in New Zealand, you’ll likely need much more than this, with the University of Auckland recommending that students budget at least NZ$20,000 (~US$13,300) per year.

Tuition fees at universities in New Zealand start at NZ$22,000 (~US$14,600) for international undergraduate students, with higher fees for subjects like medicine or veterinary science.

Read more about how much it costs to study in New Zealand >

Things to do

Things to do in New Zealand

So, you’ve arrived in New Zealand, sorted everything out with your university and accommodation, and are settling in nicely to your studies – but what about your downtime? Often considered one of the cleanest, healthiest and most beautiful countries in the world, life in New Zealand is generally chilled and laid-back, but that doesn’t mean that New Zealanders, known as Kiwis, don’t know how to have some fun.

Those with a taste for adventure will be particularly at home here – as well as hiking through the country’s breath-taking natural landscapes, you could also try your hand at kayaking, sailing, diving, bungee-jumping, rafting, jet boating, sky diving and zip lining. If you’re more into beaches, the best of these can be found on the South Island, while the North Island is home to the best mountains.

Or, if you prefer to keep your feet firmly on dry land, other things to do in New Zealand include watching a tense game of rugby with your friends, getting involved with clubs and societies at your university, and sampling some of the country’s delicious wine.

If money for these activities becomes a bit tight, never fear – your student visa allows you to work up to 20 hours a week during term time, and full-time during holiday periods, so you could always find a part-time job to help supplement your income.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina edits and publishes articles which guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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