The country looks like a broken boot on the side, kiwis, beautiful landscape, Lord of the Rings and the whole thing on the other end of the earth and with that my “knowledge” about New Zealand was already exhausted. Knowing so little and still daring to take the step, and that at very high costs, was a big risk, and on top of that I didn’t even know whether I could meet the requirements at an English-speaking university and then at a university with a worldwide reputation, which has quite high places in worldwide rankings. I am glad that I took this step anyway.
My name is Stephen Niemann, I spent my 5th semester at the University of Waikato. I am studying IT management and have therefore taken three specialist IT modules (Developing Mobile Applications, Graphics and Computer Games, Introduction to 3D Modeling and Animation) and one module in the Management Faculty (Advanced E-Business Implementation) at the University of Waikato.
Choice of country
I’ve been thinking about where I’m going for a long time. I had already lived in China for 1. 5 years, visited a partner university in Brazil and looked at a lot of information about other countries and partner universities. And yet New Zealand was my choice. A common question I was asked was “Why New Zealand?”, Often my answer was “Because it’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world” and it’s true! New Zealand is a beautiful country and the rich culture and diversity of nature are more than a good reason to travel to this country! But why a semester abroad there, especially where it is so expensive? It gave me the opportunity to make many friends at and outside the university and, thanks to the rich program organized by the student organizations and the International Student Office, to get many areas and impressions about the country that I would never experience on a “vacation” should have.
North or South Island?
Personally, I would recommend studying in the North Island and then traveling to the South Island after completing the semester. The North Island is smaller than the South Island and if you have a good location, you can travel to the North Island completely within the semester. Furthermore, there are larger cities on the North Island (Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Tauranga), which makes life a little more pleasant because the smaller cities in New Zealand usually only have their charm for a very limited time.
When should I go to New Zealand?
Compared to Germany, the seasons are exactly the opposite. Summer begins around December and goes through March / April. Of course, the thought “yes cool then I’ll go at the beginning of the year” quickly comes up, I would advise against that! The A semester begins in New Zealand in February / March and runs through May / June. So when you’re done with your semester, it’s winter!
“Yes, but then I can travel relaxed beforehand. ” Yes, you can! But then you are also out and about in the high season! This means greatly increased prices and, what I find much more important, you haven’t met anyone! I got to know a lot of people in New Zealand and I ended up doing a month-long road trip with one of them. We met many of our friends on the road and another reason to travel after the semester is the university itself. The University of Waikato has many tours and it would have been a shame if I had been to these places before. So if you start studying in the B semester, it is winter, this has the advantage that you don’t miss out on the nice weather so much. When I arrived in July, it was always between 0-10 ° C, So in the evening it was very cold and it is advisable to take a warm jacket with you for this period. Despite the winter, New Zealand is worth visiting! So if you do a few tours during the semester, the weather will rarely let you down.
Of course, it is not so super warm then, but you will often be fed up with the sun. When it rains in New Zealand, it is briefly but heavily, otherwise it is mostly sunny. Another advantage is that the highlights are not as overrun by tourists as if you were to travel in summer. And when you have finished your semester in October / November, spring has long since arrived, the tourists are still staying away, it is getting warm, you have many new friends or travel companions and the prices are still quite good. In short: go to university in the New Zealand winter!
Why the University of Waikato?
I tried to find a university that corresponds to my goals and specialization. So I looked around many websites and finally came across “MicroEDU “. This company supports students in planning their semester abroad. Since my university has no partner universities in New Zealand, I have now sought advice from MicroEDU to get a better overview of the universities. I have been advised that the University of Waikato is New Zealand’s premier university for management and that it has a very strong computer science faculty owns and I was not disappointed. The International Student Office took excellent care of your guest students and offered many joint activities (visiting the Hobbiton, the Marae of the Maori King, welcome week, farewell events, trips to various sights and much more). In general, I can say that I am very satisfied with the University of Waikato and I would choose it again for a semester abroad! Hamilton isn’t a highlight, but the location can’t be beat! It is relatively centrally located on the North Island and you have the opportunity to visit a lot of the North Island during the semester with day and weekend trips. This allows you to concentrate completely on the South Island after the semester. Hamilton also has the advantage that it is much cheaper than Auckland and busier than Wellington. The University of Waikato is the perfect place for a semester abroad, the location is unbeatable, the support is excellent and the teaching is excellent!
The college offers several different types of student accommodation. I lived in Orchard Park. I had my own room with a bathroom (since I was in the studios), which was located in a small hut. I then shared this hut and the existing kitchen in the hut with four other students. Unfortunately, the studios do not have a common living room / living room, which would have been really nice for living together (but this living room is available in the normal dorms, but you do not have your own bathroom). There were also three other student residences. All in all, if you want to live on campus, I would highly recommend living in Orchard Park. The complex with the many huts and meadows, bushes, lemon trees is simply a really great living environment. The other accommodations often have many very young (16-19) students,
In general, however, I would recommend accommodation off campus. The student dormitories are really incredibly expensive compared to an apartment / flat share. It is of course very pleasant and comfortable to live on campus, but in the future I would prefer a flat share. There are an incredible number of Facebook groups for apartments and shared flats, where many apartments are offered or there are shared flat offers.
Buy a car As fast as you can! We got around a lot by bus, rental car and Uber, but in retrospect I could have saved a lot of money with my own car. They also sell a lot of cars for less than NZD 1000, they may need some repairs, but it’s still very good to sell at the end of your life! Cars are also offered a lot in Facebook groups, so it’s best to take someone with you who knows a little bit and then make sure to do it.
Everything is expensive except for kiwis. In general, New Zealand is a very expensive country. Food, and especially alcohol, is very expensive. The cheapest way to shop is at Pak’n Save. Orchard Park (one of the student accommodations) offers a weekly shopping trip, where you are taken by minibus to a supermarket (countdown), where you can shop in peace and then be picked up again. Countdown is also reasonably priced, I would advise against New World, this is the most expensive of the local supermarkets. In many cities there is a farmers market on Sundays, where many products such as vegetables, bread or meat and fish are offered by local farmers and businesses. The prices in the markets are really very good and are always worth a detour. You should get alcohol at Auckland Airport!
Small travel tips
Get yourself a Lonely Planet, this really is an excellent travel guide. I had a travel guide from Marco Polo, which only helped me to a limited extent. Here are two travel destinations that are still insider tips and more:
- Kerosene Creek (hot water river)
- Te Puia Springs (Hot Water Beach, the official Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula is actually always overcrowded, NOBODY was at Tepuia Springs! Wait until the sandbar in front of the beach is exposed, there you can start digging on the beach itself is nothing!)
- In Auckland you have to go to swashbucklers, ugly bagels and Giapo!
- When you do a bungee jump in Queenstown, the “Human Catapult” is no longer so exciting
It will be expensive! That is the short version. I must have left over 20,000 in New Zealand, but I have to say that I haven’t left anything out! Bungee, Skydive, Human Catapult, Food, Party, Car Rentals and a lot more. Nevertheless, without all the “luxury” things, you quickly have fixed costs of 15,000. When it comes to flights, you should make sure that you buy an outbound and return flight together. There are bundles where you can buy the return flight without having to choose a date! If you have the opportunity, try to be flexible in this regard. It would be a shame if you had to fly even though you still want to discover a lot more. Make sure you apply for scholarships as soon as possible. The DAAD offers a lot of scholarships, but if you miss the deadline (like me), a lot of support goes through the flap All in all it was expensive but worth every penny.
Choice of modules
That was the hardest of them all, and unfortunately there is not much advice that can be given. The modules offered were an important factor in choosing my university. It was important to me that I enjoy the modules and that they stimulate and motivate me in advance. The selection is huge and then comparing the modules against each other is incredibly difficult. The University of Waikato builds up their names for the modules functionally:
COMP448-18B (HAM) & COMP548-18B (HAM) – Developing Mobile Applications
- COMP stands for the department here, informatics
- 448 stands for the module, the first 4 stands for the academic year and 48 for the number of the subject
- 18B stands for the year 2018 and semester B, i. e. the second semester
- (HAM) stands for Hamilton (there is a second location in Tauranga)
- & COMP548-18B (HAM) this means that module 448 and 548 are taught together
- 5 is an indication that it is an advanced subject
At the end is the normal name of the subject, but generally the “code”, ie COMP448, is always used. Take as much time as possible for it! And be sure to compare the timetables so that no lectures overlap! Don’t worry, you can easily adjust the compartments on site! So it’s best to think about a few alternatives in general, I myself changed a subject after a lecture because I didn’t like the professor at all.
Generally speaking, look for subjects that you enjoy! Or you are interested. You will spend a lot of time (at least in the area of computer science) and then it would be a shame if you get angry about the content.
Developing Mobile Applications
This subject revolved around the development of Android apps (as the name suggests). The lecture took place every two weeks, but then for three hours. The lecture itself did not deal with “how” to program Android, but rather what the special challenges and problems that arise in Android programming are. Furthermore, it is about the general structure of Android. The lecture also addressed the problems that occurred in the laboratory tasks. There was no exam, all you had to do was write three Android apps that contained different core challenges. The first was about GUI and design. I had to program an app based on the general design guidelines and create my own list views, which contains individual list elements. In the second application you had to integrate a database, I had used SQL Light. Here you should make various queries to your own database and implement writing and reading functions. The third app had to contain Google Maps. The app should use your own location and perform mathematical calculations with a target location (e. g. calculate the distance between your own position and the ISS).
Graphics and Computer Games
The subject can be summarized well: A lot of work. I had a total of 10 lab submissions that required work every 2-4 days. Three areas were covered: 3D-Design, Unreal Engine and Three. js. In the first, we “built” a figure with a humanoid shape with the Blender program and animated it in further steps using skinning and rigging. In the second part we built a game world with the Unreal 4 Engine. This had to meet various conditions. In the end, we were allowed to explore our created worlds with 3D glasses in a show and tell session. The program ended with Three. js. I will definitely never do that again! After the 10 laboratory tasks, which together corresponded to 66 percent of the overall grade, we wrote a three-hour exam.
Introduction to 3D Modeling and Animation
This module was completely laboratory based. There was only one lecture at the beginning of the semester, the rest was worked out by everyone on their own and handed in using laboratory tasks. You can find my thesis on Youtube, just enter “Stephen Niemann” and select the video “Shenmue ThePianoplayer”. The video sums up the scope of the subject very well. 3D design, skinning, texturing, rigging, animation, camera work, exposure, etc. are all part of the laboratory tasks.
Advanced e-business implementation
This module completely revolves around enterprise systems, here with a focus on products from SAP. Within the subject you get to know various modules such as SD, PP, MM and others. In a laboratory you learn how to use them and in the lecture you get all the theoretical knowledge. The subject and Professor William Wang are highly recommended, he has an incredibly broad but also deep knowledge and it was just fun to work with him.
Should i really do it?
YES! Doing a semester abroad is an experience of a lifetime! You will definitely regret it if you don’t.