Your AOUA donations at work!

Your AOUA donations fund grants for students on exchange at a US partner institution. One award to the value of US$1500 is available per institution, with up to 15 awards being made in any one year. Based on academic achievement and personal qualities, selection is made by a panel of university staff which includes the Manager of the Exchange Programme and the Head of Alumni Relations. To be considered for a student exchange programme, students must have completed at least one semester of fulltime study at Otago before applying, with a minimum B average grade. Exchange Programme students undertake study at an international partner institution and credit the work they complete back to their Otago degree. The University has Exchange Agreements with 90 institutions around the world, and currently has agreements with the following universities in the USA: Boston College, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, University of California (all Colleges in the system), University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management, University of North Carolina – Kenan Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina – MBA programme, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Oregon, University of Richmond, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at Austin McComb’s School of Business, University of Virginia. As the following reports and photos from US exchange students show, your donations are making a huge difference for Otago students. We’d love to hear from alumni who are interested in reaching out to Otago US Exchange students attending Colleges near them – contact an AOUA Board member to discuss your interest.

  • Harry O’Connell

    Harry O’Connell

    Leaving for America I was excited, I was excited to travel and experience a new...

    Leaving for America I was excited, I was excited to travel and experience a new culture/ way of student life and am very grateful for the experience AUOA has given me. My adventure started with a group of friends much like myself road tripping up the west coast of America together. We experienced the likes of Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, and Seattle before we parted ways for our own chosen exchanges.
    Once I arrived in Minnesota I knew this experience would be special. When I arrived, it was warm compared to what most people had told me about the place, but I had prepared for the cold and was ready to start my adventure. My first day was daunting, I felt like the new kid at school and was eager to get involved. The University itself had set up a buddy program for exchange students and I couldn't have got a better buddy.
    My buddy was called Lydia Hanna and through her I met my closest friends. With this opportunity I was able to join a Fraternity called Sigma Pi. Normally this is unusual for exchange student to join a fraternity for a semester however, with a bit of kiwi charm and that "kid from the other side of the world who everyone thinks is from England or Australia' attitude I was welcomed into the fraternity. It was there that I gained the experience of a life time.
    The opportunity this scholarship provided was a first-hand insight to be an American college student in a fraternity. After a week of being there my eyes were open to the reality of what it was like to be a college student. A fraternity is a business in every sense and it helped me develop more and see that everything is not as it is. Within the fraternity there was an executive board. They controlled the day to day of the fraternity and the direction in which it would be going for the future with recruitment, grades, education, volunteer work for the community and charitable collection. I was placed on the social committee. Here I had to work and help the other members set up social events and help plan them, ensuring that they were safe and suitable. It was a shock working with people my own age from the other side of the world and just how they would go about things. It enabled me to listen and work with them while seeing a completely different culture while gaining a greater understanding of potential conflicts in personality in working life.
    The University Classes were different compared to those of Otago. Classes were more internally based and consisted of tests or assignments every week or two. The experience was invaluable, helping me develop a better work ethic. Most of my classes had lots of group work and I got another first-hand experience with two completely different student cultures working with each other.
    The social aspects also provided made my time in Minnesota and helped me even more. I made my closest friends in my fraternity who I keep in touch with today. Once I joined I automatically got 80 new brothers from all around America and the world, an experience I would not receive anywhere else. In a way it was its own small-scale network and I was able to be a part of it. Some of my friends were from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Chicago, St. Louis, South Africa, France and Russia.

    Once again, I got to experience the mix of cultures and interact with my own peers. However, I didn't spend all my time in Minnesota, I also went down to Austin Texas to visit a friend of mine and we went to ACL for the weekend. Austin was amazing, and it was an experience to see literally the other end of the country and experience some warm weather. I also visited Washington DC and New York near the end of my semester which were both and amazing experience.
    I would just like to thank AUOA for this scholarship and the experience of living and studying overseas, developing myself as a person, and making lifelong friends along the way. Without the support of AUOA this experience would not have been the same.

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  • Emma Fraser

    Emma Fraser

    I was incredibly lucky with the timing of my exchange and ended up arriving in...

    I was incredibly lucky with the timing of my exchange and ended up arriving in the US on August 20th, 2017 and therefore got to experience the coolest thing I have ever seen- the total solar eclipse that occurred on Aug 21st, 2017! To say my time in America kicked off with a bang would be an understatement.
    I spent the next three weeks getting as much travelling in western USA done as I could. I spent a few days in Seattle, Washington staying with my friend and visited Snoqualmie Falls, Pike Place market, the Space needle, the famous Seattle gum wall, a couple of museums etc. My time in Seattle was short but I really enjoyed it and it’s a really cool city! I then went on a 3-day tour to Yosemite Valley and a 9-day tour called ‘Canyons of the West’ both through a company called Green Tortoise Adventure Travel which I cannot recommend highly enough! Before my Yosemite trip I spent a few days exploring the city of San Fran which was really cool. I really enjoyed the California Academy of Science and the de Young Art Museum in Golden Gate Park.

    I also tried to travel on weekends around Oregon and would definitely recommend checking out Crater Lake, Salt Creek Waterfall, McCredie Hot Springs, Abiqua Falls, Silver Falls, Umpqua Hot Springs, Blue Pool, Wolf Rock, Terwilliger (a.k.a cougar) Hot Springs, the Oregon Coast (sea lion cave, Herceta head lighthouse, Florence, sand dunes etc.), Portland, Bend and Mt Hood.
    My two genetics papers at U of O were Bi425- Advanced Molecular Biology Research Laboratory and Bi427- Molecular genetics of human disease. These were worth 5 and 4 U of O credits respectively and I had to take a minimum of 12 credits to be enrolled as a full-time student so I also took Rock climbing, Hatha Yoga and Tai Chi which were worth one credit each. The class sizes for my genetics papers were very small (7 people in my lab-based class and around 20 people in my lecture-based class) which is typical at U of O for high-level classes and was an aspect I really enjoyed as it meant that class participation (which is compulsory and graded) was less awkward than at Otago. It also meant that paying attention in class was a lot easier as you were often interacting with the professor/other students. In terms of difficulty, I was pleasantly surprised that I had a really good base of understanding for my genetics classes and I was among the most knowledgeable. My 1 credit PE classes were all really fun and easy to pass as long as you show up and put a decent amount of effort in.
    Bi427 was very literature based and I really enjoyed learning how scientists discover the genetic cause of human diseases and develop treatments. I also enjoyed learning to dissect and understand scientific papers. It was pretty easy to do well in this class because homework questions and class participation made up a considerable chunk of the grading. Bi425 was all lab-based and I found it to be slower paced and more organised than Otago lab classes. Otago had prepared me well for this class as I found I generally had more lab knowledge, skills and experience than my peers. This class was time-consuming as you have to spend at least 12 hours in the lab a week but not too difficult because some of the grade is participation, lab notebook checks and quizzes about the work so as long as you stay on top of what you are doing it is easy to do well.
    My time abroad was all thanks to the financial support from AUOA. Please accept my deepest gratitude for enabling me to learn and experience so much in the time I was away.

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  • Eileen Kennedy

    Eileen Kennedy

    Living in Berkeley in the co-ops is one of the most incredible things I have...

    Living in Berkeley in the co-ops is one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced in my life. The Alumni of the University of Otago in America Award helped to make this experience possible, and I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity.
    While attending the University of California, Berkeley, I lived in two different co-ops. The co-ops have been described as “the real Berkeley experience” (by at least one person living in a co-op) and they are like large flats. Some students are elected as “managers” to make them function. The houses range from seventeen people to over a hundred. They have a lot of social events and were a great way to meet lots of American students. They are also way cheaper than any other housing in Berkeley.
    There was a lot of freedom in the co-ops. They were covered in murals and members could paint, draw, or write on the walls in any white space. Members were even allowed pets. There was a lot of vegan and vegetarian food, and people were very friendly, accepting, and open-minded. Each co-op was run democratically and members could voice their opinions and vote on just about everything.
    New co-opers had one or two roommates. This was a great way to get to know people really well, and I think a great experience for everyone to have at least once in their life. I lived in two co-ops – first Stebbins for two months, and then Casa Zimbabwe for two and a half months. I liked Stebbins, but I wanted to experience CZ as well.
    Stebbins was my introduction to co-ops, and living there made me a more caring person. There were sixty-seven people there, but it didn’t feel big. Stebbins was very welcoming and homely. The managers really cared about all the house members, and the democratic style of living was taken seriously. Everyone knew almost everyone and there was an emphasis on offering emotional support to house members. Before dinner, everyone lined up on the steps and chatted before serving themselves dinner in an orderly fashion and sitting down to talk about their day.
    People at Stebbins were mostly pretty academic, but they also had some fun parties (although not as many as at CZ). House members frequently planned things like beach trips and invited the entire house. Stebbins felt like living in a big, warm home. The house was cleaner than CZ, although sometimes messy. I was comfortable at Stebbins, but I wanted to experience more.

    I moved into CZ after hearing interesting stories, and to have a real experience. Every inch of every wall was lined with art – beautiful creatures, poems, and every strange and unique thing imaginable was there. There were lots of social activities. There was always someone new to talk to, some new piece of art to look at, and something completely unexpected happening. At dinner, there was loud music playing and general chaos.
    Just walking down the street in Berkeley was interesting because of all the dynamic people. There was once an entire week of protests. Student dance clubs were always practicing, and sometimes performing. There were lots of stalls selling hippie art and jewelry on the side of the street.

    The food in Berkeley was delicious and I tried to eat at as many places as possible when I wasn’t eating in the co-ops. Berkeley was also so close to San Francisco, which was incredible! I was so interested in getting absorbed in the Berkeley culture that I ended up not doing a ton of travelling outside of Berkeley and San Francisco, but I definitely experienced plenty.
    Overall, my exchange experience was absolutely mind-blowing and incredible. Berkeley and living in CZ and Stebbins made me grow so much as a person. Semester two 2017 has easily been the most eventful four months of my entire life, and my life as a whole has been pretty eventful. I met so many amazing, unique people, had so much fun, and learned so much about humanity, the world, and myself. I have made so many memories that I will look back on for the rest of my life. I am very grateful to be a recipient of the AUOA scholarship which helped to make this experience possible.

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  • Julia Isoyama

    Julia Isoyama

    I would like to thank the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc.,...

    I would like to thank the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc., very much for their generous award of this scholarship which allowed me to study at Florida International University. It was the best few months of my life. The weather has been getting colder and according to the locals Miami has been the coldest it’s been in a very long time. My classes this semester have been great, I have challenged myself by taking some more challenging classes, such as the Animal Behaviour class along with the optional laboratory class. The professor for this class is the mayor of South Miami and he is extremely clever. I have learnt so much about Zoology and the ecological and environmental issues of Florida – something I never would have had the chance to learn had I not been on exchange here. The laboratory class included a trip to Everglades National Park, an amazing place. My experience of taking classes in a university in America has been a real-eye opener. There are so many cultural differences and differences in teaching style between Otago University and Florida International University. One significant difference is the way in which they award grades. Here, the grading schemes and awarding of credit varies based on every individual professor, rather than the overarching subject department of the class. Although it has been a challenge adjusting to life in Miami, I have maintained excellent grades. I am also trying to make the most of my time here.

    I have really enjoyed exploring Miami, a city that before this opportunity, was so unfamiliar and unlike anything I have been used to in New Zealand. I really enjoyed visiting “Zoo Miami” where I saw some elephants for the very first time (my favourite animal). During times where I was able to get ahead in my studies, and during the winter break, I took the opportunity to travel to places in the US that I have always wanted to go to. Along with some other exchange students, I travelled to New York, Las Vegas, California, and Orlando. This was an opportunity for some personal growth and provided some memories that I will always treasure.
    I would like to thank the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc., again for this incredible opportunity.

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  • Sam Drury

    Sam Drury

    Firstly, I would like to thank the Alumni of University of Otago in America Inc.,...

    Firstly, I would like to thank the Alumni of University of Otago in America Inc., for your very generous financial support. The scholarship really helped me out and made my experience at the University of Richmond that much better. The scholarship went towards my accommodation and meal plan. That meant I could then use the money I saved towards my exchange on experiences. I’m going to just give a quick summary of my exchange. I arrived in LA on the 1st Of August and travel to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National park, and San Francisco. I then reached the University of Richmond and had the best time of my life. I was taught by some amazing lecturers. I got to experience an American college culture, which was so much fun. I met some of the greatest people, who will now be my lifelong friends.

    During fall break I went to Austin City limits, in Austin, and saw some of the world’s greatest musicians. During Thanksgiving, I stayed with a friend of mine who was from New York and got to experience a traditional Thanksgiving.

    Each day I spent in American I was able to do something that I wouldn’t have been able to do in New Zealand.

    The places I visited, the people I met, and the university culture, all created an experience that I will never forget. It was without a doubt the greatest time of life. The scholarship I received contributed to these incredible experiences and I am very thankful to AUOA for providing this scholarship.

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  • Bryn Kerr

    Bryn Kerr

    My time on exchange at the University of Texas at Austin was an incredible experience...

    My time on exchange at the University of Texas at Austin was an incredible experience and an amazing way to finish my time at university. I completed a one semester exchange during the fall and would have happily continued on for another semester if it weren’t for the fact I was finishing my degree. I cannot thank AUOA enough for providing me with the financial support that enabled me to have this experience.
    One of the first things I did when I got into Austin was get in touch with the college rugby team. The team was very welcoming and I was immediately immersed in a large group of American students who were eager to show a kiwi exchange student a good time at their college.
    The American college sports experience is second to none as it is taken very seriously and nothing but a full commitment to your sport and team is expected. I was part of the University of Texas Rugby Sevens team that trained up to six times a week and competed in televised tournaments, an experience which would not be available to me anywhere else. The team hosted many social mixers and we travelled around Texas numerous times—it was therefore a big part of my exchange experience.

    Another standout was my accommodation at the Pearl Street Cooperative, part of the College Housing Organisation. This was an experience I will never forget as it was essentially like living in a 100-person hall of residence except it was run by the students rather than wardens. College Housing provides cheap, communal housing for students in return for four hours labour per week and compliance with their tenancy rules. The labour includes things like cooking, maintenance, cleaning, yoga instruction etc. and all contributes to the smooth running of the house you live in.
    The organisation is an all-inclusive, cooperative living structure which attracts people from many backgrounds, therefore offering an experience to live with an extremely diverse range of people. Living at Pearl Street was easily one of the most fun and exciting experiences I have had.

    A great part of living in Austin was the travel opportunities that were available by virtue of its location. For a start, Texas is an amazing place with a lot of history and there are endless things to do and see around the State from national parks to huge cities. Dallas, Houston, and San Marcos were some of the places I visited while in Texas. New Orleans, Louisiana was certainly a highlight out of the places I travelled to during the semester. Texans are very proud of their State and its history, and after spending a semester there I find myself sharing their appreciation of it. I now consider Texas a must see for anyone travelling to the Unites States and I am eager to return there at some point in the near future.
    I am very grateful for the financial support from AUOA. Your generosity is very much appreciated and I believe your contribution was pivotal in the overall enjoyment of my exchange experience.

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  • Taana Trotter

    Taana Trotter

    My name is Taana trotter, I am 15 years old and go to Queens High...

    My name is Taana trotter, I am 15 years old and go to Queens High School in Dunedin. I attended the 2015 Deep Thought Programme with the help of the money from being awarded the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc. Scholarship. I wanted to go on this course to further my knowledge of marine science and to be exposed to more of this amazing science to see it as a future career option. The course was about oceanography and three main aspects; physical oceanography, benthic and planktonic. I was in the benthic group and we did our study on ‘how different sediment types affect the richness and abundance of benthic organisms’. We gathered our data onboard the RV. Polaris II using a grab to take samples of the ocean floor. We then took a sediment sample from each grab sample, and strained the rest of the sediment out using 1mm mesh, leaving anything bigger than this behind. We did this in multiple locations that we thought would have courser sediments and finer sediments. Back at the lab we sorted through the samples taking out all life forms and, under a microscope, counting them and identifying them. Then we got all our data together and made conclusions and presented back all our work at the end of the course. I actually really enjoyed collecting and sorting out the data. I was amazed to find how many different species of worms there were and how they look only slightly different, but could be a completely different species. In our group I found it hard dealing with the other leaders, since I myself often take up this role. With others also trying to lead we often clashed, so I stood down from leading and just did what work was needed, even if it wasn’t the way I would do it. In group situations this often has to be done. As I stated before there’s a lot, I mean like a lot, of different species of worms as well as other benthic organisms and I think it would be quite interesting to learn how to identify the different species. This would be very hard but I believe a very great talent to have. I learnt a lot academically and gained great skills. I learnt a lot about the benthic organisms and about the range of sediment types (e.g. the difference between sandy mud and muddy sand). I also learnt from what the other groups presented. A lot of computer skills were gained like; shortcut codes in Microsoft Excel, how to do certain shortcuts and use programs with Mac computers, and also furthering my knowledge on fair testing and carrying out a scientific investigation. I made some great new friends and caught up with some old ones. I had a lot of fun with the night activities that were all marine-based. Coping in group situations, working with a range of people with different skills, abilities and ways of thinking, is something that will help me in the future to get along with everyone and work efficiently and effectively. I want to thank the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc. so much for awarding me the scholarship, which allowed me to have this brilliant experience and provided me the opportunity to further my scientific knowledge, as well as gain people skills and let me explore marine science further. I will continue to use my knowledge in and outside of school and hopefully with the years to come I’ll have this experience to help me decide which future career in science is right for me. With all my gratitude, Thank you.

    Setting_the_grab Setting the grab
    Deploying_the_grab Deploying the grab
    Collecting_sediment_samples Collecting sediment samples
    Sieving_the_sample Sieving the sample
    Identifying_worm_species Identifying worm species
    Sorting_through_the_sample Sorting through the sample

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    Sam Hall-McMaster
    University of California Berkeley My exchange to UC Berkeley really was the opportunity of a lifetime. The Alumni of...

    My exchange to UC Berkeley really was the opportunity of a lifetime. The Alumni of America Scholarship allowed me to study at one of the world’s best universities, embrace a culture once unknown and to see things from a new perspective. During my time at Berkeley I lived in one of the iconic student coops. This was a truly dramatic and wonderful experience for me. It put me in contact with so many people, both American and International, with the warmest hearts and most creative minds. I have fond memories of its walls covered in murals, the laughter that bounced from door to door and the fascinating conversations held into the small hours of the morning. Over my exchange I was able to walk through Muir woods, Tilden park, Pier 39, Alcatraz, see baseball, basketball, gymnastics, bike the Golden Gate Bridge, travel to Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, Las Vegas and LA, drive through Death Valley, win my first marathon, run a 50km ultra-marathon and witness the vastness of the Grand Canyon. In giving me more financial flexibility whilst on my exchange, the Alumni of America Scholarship allowed me to immerse myself in many of the experiences I have listed above. The incredible personal experiences I had did not come at any expense academic work, in my field of Neuroscience. Quite to the contrary. Of my four courses, I received three A+ grades and one A. For one course I was the third person in its history to get an A+. Berkeley has been an utterly transformative experience. I am convinced I am a richer person, a more complete person, for having been there. I have no regrets and do not feel as though I left any stone unturned. I thank you deeply for what has been one of the best experiences of my life.

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