6 March 2018

Studying at AUT | Study With New Zealand

Phillomina Wong
US Study Abroad student

One may wonder if I was actually “studying” while “studying abroad”.

Well, the truth is much of the work I did at university didn’t feel much like work. My classes did not involve a lot of book studying. However, this is not to say I didn’t learn anything. What these classes tested was my self-motivation and balance between work and play.

In terms of facilities, AUT University has one of the coolest buildings. I fell in love with AUT's beautiful WG (Sir Paul Reeves Building) and enjoyed working there for the short few months I attended the university.

The building incorporates natural lighting into its structure and has elements of nature embedded throughout the facility. The ceiling looks much like the window panes you would find in a greenhouse.

This gives the entire school an air of permaculture, where the building works with nature you would find in a greenhouse. This gives the entire school an air of permaculture, where the building works with nature rather than against it. There’s even a place called the treehouse where students hide away in their own booths and workstations.


At AUT University, I was required to take four classes or “papers.” I took Te Ara Pou: Leadership, Photography, Applied Media Ethics and Radio Production I. All of the classes presented different methods of teaching. Some followed a rigid syllabus and others made necessary changes to accommodate the class. I’ve listed a short description of my experience for each paper.

Te Ara Pou: Leadership

Te Ara Pou was one of the most interesting papers I took. The class is held at the wharenui, or a sacred Māori meeting house, once a week and for 2-3 hours. The first part of class was usually an activity that tied into the lesson of the day and second part was a lecture.

Fifteen weeks of material was broken into three parts. It started with the micro, looking into our personalities and ourselves. Then, it looked at ways to improve what we found out about ourselves. Finally, we looked at how these habits and leaderships were already being applied in traditional and contemporary Māori leadership. Each week, we learned about a new leader and tried to find ways the leader reflected those skills.

In this course, if you give even the slightest effort, you will learn something about yourself you didn’t know before. 


There was a lot of freedom with this class. The strange thing about this course is that only two assignments determine your entire grade. So, you can either fail or ace the course.

The first assignment is meant for us to find an aesthetic or play with the camera enough to learn and refine our photography skills. Yes, the description was quite vague. It asked us to find a part of Auckland that was personal to us. I had trouble with this because it was such a new place to me. I ended up doing something completely distant and impersonal and my work showed it.

Part of our last assignment was to recreate a “cover shoot” inspired by a professional photo. We decided to re-shoot the cast of friends in a studio setting. Lighting is key to composing the perfect image. For my second assignment, I decided to focus on one community. The goal was to have a consistent mood or tone in each photo for it to be potentially be published as a collection somewhere.

At the very least, the class taught me to see things differently and even apply them to my photos as a tourist. Some of these photos mean a lot to me, and others are simply for fun.

I still believe you don’t need a great camera to be a photographer. Many of the photos I took were on my iPhone.

Check them out here.

Applied Media Ethics

This was the only course I took that had more than 100 students in the class. There is a lecture component of the course and a discussion or “tutorial” section. I really enjoyed taking this paper. Not only was the course material interesting, I also met some of the coolest people in my tutorial.

There are three marks we received for the paper. The first was an essay discussing the ethics of a news story, the second was a group presentation and the final was a written exam. All of these assignments tested me on how well I learned and knew the ethical theories.

Radio Production I

I originally chose this class because it was on a list of approved courses from my university and because I genuinely wanted to learn about radio. I think the class is great in theory, but not executed in the best way.

There are three parts to the course: an interviewing section, writing for radio, and a final essay comparing public and commercial radio. These courses are very specific to New Zealand radio.

While it was interesting learning about New Zealand’s radio ecology, it did not offer any insight for US radio. There are more radio stations in New Zealand per head than any other country, which made it hard for me to catch up with all of the radio stations. That is a lot of listening to catch up on in one semester. Nonetheless, I learned as much as I could about NZ radio in order to pass the class.

Also, we met one of the radio personalities, Guy Williams in Auckland when we wanted to see Prince Harry down at the Queen’s Wharf. These are the types of celebrities you’ll find in New Zealand

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About the contributors
Phillomina Wong
US Study Abroad student

Phillomina is an American broadcast and digital journalism student who studied at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and had a Generation Study Abroad Award. She is fascinated by the changing face of the media and how it can affect people and ideas.