Studying medicine in New Zealand
Studying at a New Zealand high school for a year helped Malaysian student Novell Teoh make the transition to university to study for her medical degree.
Why was it useful to study at New Zealand secondary school before starting university?
Spending a year at Riccarton High School in Christchurch made the transition to university much easier. It meant that by the time I started university I didn’t have culture shock any more.
Doing NCEA Level 3 gave me all the knowledge I needed to study at a New Zealand university.
What’s it like to study medicine in New Zealand?
The medical system in New Zealand is technically quite advanced, which means I’m gaining a lot of skills that will be really useful if I go back to Malaysia to work and will help me contribute to the community back home.
One thing I really like is that in the New Zealand hospital setting there are a lot of opportunities to interact with patients and have one-to-one teaching sessions with doctors.
That has been one of the highlights of my time here and will be really useful in preparing myself as a doctor.
Have you gained research skills while studying?
Yes, I’ve been able to carry out several research projects during my studies for my medical degree.
My most recent research project helped me to learn a lot about different types of skin cancer, including melanoma. New Zealand has the second highest rate of melanoma in the world.
I researched teledermatology, which involves using technology to diagnose and treat skin conditions. My project involved looking at the effectiveness of New Zealand’s longest-running virtual lesion clinic at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton.
If a doctor is concerned about a skin lesion, a specially trained nurse takes a photo of it and sends it to be assessed by a dermatologist.
I found that using the service cut the amount of time it took to get an assessment from 120 days to just 44.5 days, which is a significant improvement. The service is also very good at picking up early skin cancer.
What is New Zealand’s education system like?
The New Zealand education system really encourages you to speak up about your opinions and think outside the square.
Initially I found it a bit challenging because the Asian education system is more about rote learning and following what the teacher says.
Now I like having the opportunity to discuss my thought processes with the teacher and critically reflect on what I have learned.
I also like the fact that we do a lot of our assignments in groups of students from different cultural backgrounds. Being in the same group as Kiwi students has helped me to learn about Kiwi culture and about New Zealand.
How have you changed since you arrived here?
Studying here has made me much more independent than I would have been if I’d stayed living with my family in Malaysia.
One of the things I did to help me cope with being homesick was to join the Union of Malaysian Students in Auckland (UMSA).
Then I became the cultural officer, helping to organise events such as Mooncake Festival, and liaising with the Auckland University Students Association to organise other events.
Studying here has also changed my way of thinking. I’m much more open-minded and accepting of other people’s values and opinions.
About the contributors
Malaysian student Novell Teoh has completed her medical studies at the University of Auckland. During her final year she carried out a research project assessing the success of a teledermatology service at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton. At 18, she spent a year completing NCEA Level 3 at Riccarton High School in Christchurch before starting her medical studies. NCEA is the main secondary school qualification in New Zealand.