Goh Kai Ying on the SEP Experience at Auckland: Getting tough!

Student Exchange Programme
to University of Auckland, New Zealand,
July-Dec 2009

Being away from home for five months can be very daunting. It wasn’t just the mental challenges, it took my body quite awhile to adapt to the cold and dry climate of Auckland, New Zealand. Even as I reminisce about the ‘roughening and toughening’ I experienced, SEP was all worth while!

I began exchange experience with a week of getting and being lost. While my five NUS schoolmates had taken residence in the university hostel, I lived in the suburbs with a kiwi family. Getting home was tough as the bus frequencies and routes were all unfamiliar to me. So I spent that week taking the wrong bus, alighting at the wrong stop and missing the bus. With daylight hours in winter quite short and the streets not exactly exhibiting docile Singapore conditions, the fear of lurking bad guys triggered lots of adrenaline through my blood!

With familiarity though, I began exploring Auckland beyond school and home. Weekends became fun-packed short road trips to various towns on the outskirts of Auckland. But fun and danger always come hand-in-hand. Once up a ski mountain, Mount Ruapehu, my group of friends ventured beyond the training grounds to the higher ranges for a taste of death. The combination of poor control and bad brakes battered our heads and butts, but the domino effect ending with laughter.

Meeting and getting to know new people is an integral part of the exchange experience – package. There are unpleasant individuals everywhere, but the friendly ones do make up a fair share. It was the people who make the SEP really memorable for me and the best parts of my experience were the shared ones. In particular, I had my New Zealand family whom I bonded with and truly felt to be a part of. Those genuine feelings are hard to describe but priceless.

The SEP experience began from the pre-exchange period – when the financial issue finally surfaced, it was hard not to get worried. Fortunately, since the application for SEP was approximately a year ahead of actual travel, there was time to gather money – I did odd jobs which supplemented the support from a NASA award and my parents. Choosing exchange universities and mapping modules got really messy so I had to be alert and persistent. I decided to forgo the competitive and prestigious Universities for a less popular one. As a budding ecologist, nature was a much bigger draw than mappable modules, so New Zealand easily secured my vote.

My motto when it came to SEP then was, “Fun is primary, studying is secondary.” The pictures below provide a tip of the iceberg impression in describing Auckland’s wonderful outdoor classroom experience!

Goh Kai Ying,
Honours student, Marine Biology Lab, Department of Biological Sciences.

Morning at Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park

Yearly sand dune jumping competition at the geography 101 module field trip

Kayaking around the coastline of Abel Tasman National Park

To Harwoods Hole, Golden Bay

Glacier walking, Fox Glacier

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