1 November 2019

Animal lover's amazing NZ study experience

Brigid Sexton
US Study Abroad student

If you’re an animal lover like me: great news! New Zealand is one of the absolute best places to follow your passion.

My love for animals led me to spend a semester abroad at Massey University in Palmerston North; home of the only veterinary degree programme in the country.

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with animals. I’m the type of person who will greet your dog before I greet you, and the only way I’ll be excited about something is if an animal is involved.

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Learning outside the classroom

While studying at Massey, I was able to take courses directly related to my interests including Ornithology, Zoology, and the Fauna of New Zealand. These courses were hard work, but I learned a ton of interesting and useful information about New Zealand’s birds, reptiles and even insects.

Education didn’t end in the classroom as all of my courses included field trips where I had the opportunity to practice bird call identification skills, measure populations of estuary invertebrates, and even get up close and personal with a tuatara.

A kea - a mountain parrot, native to New Zealand

Volunteering to gain experience

Outside of study, I volunteered at the Whanganui Bird Rescue, where I helped rehabilitate New Zealand birds such as kereru, morepork and harrier hawks. I also volunteered in an ecology lab on campus helping a professor review camera trap footage aimed at documenting Kiwi bird behaviour. I even got the chance to help out in the field by collecting data on tīeke (the Māori name for the New Zealand saddleback) populations in the area.

Joining clubs to make connections

I wanted to make the most of my experience, so I joined the Massey Wildlife and Conservation Club. I made professional connections, friends for life and even attended the Wildlife Rehabilitators Network of New Zealand annual conference in Christchurch where I found myself in a room full of wildlife veterinarians, rehabilitators and students studying wildlife medicine.

Not only did I receive a wealth of information about rehabilitating New Zealand species, but I was honoured to meet and interact with some of the world’s best veterinarians in my future field.

More than just study

Whatever you’re passionate about, seek it out in New Zealand. The country has so much to offer – from adrenaline rushes to research.

By studying in New Zealand, I was able to do much more than just study; I learned from unique experiences, made professional connections and developed skills relevant to my interests. I got out of my comfort zone, made lifelong friends, interacted with some of the most interesting wildlife on the planet and had the time of my life doing it.

I am now in the process of applying to veterinary schools in the US and hope to pursue a career working with wildlife after graduation.

All photographs in this blog post are courtesy of Brigid Sexton.
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About the contributors
Brigid Sexton
US Study Abroad student

Brigid Sexton is from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the US where she is studying Animal and Poultry Sciences with a Pre-Veterinary Option and Equine Emphasis. She spent a semester studying at Massey University in Palmerston North and has now returned to the US where she hopes to pursue a career working with wildlife.