4 May 2022

How 4 years of studying in New Zealand enriched and purified me

Mengping Cheng
PhD student

Chinese PhD student Mengping shares how her New Zealand study experience challenged her to become more open-minded, confident and purposeful.

I started my PhD study in March 2018 at the University of Canterbury. My four-year experience as an international student in New Zealand has been a priceless treasure.

Each person I have met, each moment I have spent, each effort I have made, and each decision I have taken make me who I am today. My experience in Aotearoa New Zealand enriched me and purified me.

I became an open-minded global citizen

From Asian cuisines and European desserts to dancing to Latin American music, every gathering with my PhD fellows exemplifies the diversity of cultural backgrounds in New Zealand.

Although we have different mother tongues, traditional food, beliefs and lifestyles in our home countries, we all gathered in Aotearoa New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud. Here we have built friendships and become a family.

I have enjoyed learning about local New Zealand culture and being exposed to other global cultures. I remember my first time watching a rugby game, tramping for three days, and tasting the traditional Maori meal hangi; my first time celebrating Diwali with an Indian friend, participating in a one-day fasting challenge, and experiencing a summer Christmas. These experiences are like beautiful sounds that form the melody of my life.

Meanwhile, these experiences allowed me to observe my Chinese culture from an outsider’s point of view. I am happy to share my story and understanding of Chinese culture with local people, and I cherish my Chinese culture more than ever.

Studying in New Zealand makes me more open-minded with better cultural awareness.

I became a confident and independent individual

Studying abroad is challenging but rewarding. There were some down times when I questioned if I could complete study tasks well. However, my supervisors and other support staff at UC always had my back. Their encouraging words and heart-warming smiles powered me up so that I could continue marching on my journey.

I received clear guidance and constructive feedback from my supervisors, attended helpful and engaging English courses at the University of Canterbury (UC) Academic Skills Centre, joined informative and inspiring workshops at UC Careers, and participated in fun and welcoming student-oriented activities organised by UC International Relationships Office.

The tremendous support I have received over four years helped me build up my self-confidence in terms of studying, working or socialising so that I could get out of my comfort zone and challenge my limitations.

Study your PhD in New Zealand

You won’t pay extra for being an international student and New Zealand makes it easy to bring your family along with you.

I became a competent graduate

Society needs a competent graduate rather than a student with only good academic performance.

I understood the importance of connecting with the local community, knowing more about the local job market and training my soft skills. Therefore, I was always ready to take on any volunteering roles to contribute to the community and learn by doing.

For example, I took the UC Global Society president role in 2021, led an 11-person team, and organised over ten events. I still remember I was nervous when hosting the first team meeting; I was stressed when looking for potential sponsors; I was excited when planning upcoming events; I was exhausted when emailing over 60 models and performers to prepare a show.

Presenting at the international fashion show

My schedule was very tight at that time because I was also writing up my thesis and working part-time. But I felt fulfilled.

These experiences trained my leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, event management skills and other soft skills. I was also joyful because I made contributions to the UC and the wider communities.

Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made. I am very fortunate that I chose to come to study in New Zealand. This choice gave me an opportunity to enrich my skills, know what I want and purify my value and thoughts.

A suggestion that I would give to a first-year international student is: Come and explore! You will love who you turn out to be!

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About the contributors
Mengping Cheng
PhD student

Mengping is a passionate Chinese language educator and researcher. She came to the University of Canterbury for a PhD study in 2018 and started to be a lecturer in Chinese at UC in early 2022. She believes language is a bridge between cultures, building connections among us.