I have recently received an email from a prospective Malaysian student of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
In this email were relevant questions that any student should ask to better prepare themselves before flying all the way there.
I have decided to share my reply here because I think that there are many other people in the world who may be seeking similar information...
This is written specifically for middle-class students from Malaysia who will study on Victoria University of Wellington's Kelburn campus.
Any past or present student of VUW are welcome to comment & add to this post!
Ask you can see, the university is very close to the city centre so you dont have to worry about transportation or food when you get hungry.
They are about 10-15 mins walk from each other.
Be aware however, that it is a steep uphill walk from the city towards the campus.
Do make sure you have comfortable walking shoes or flip-flops (Both cheaper in Malaysia).
Having climbed the Kelburn campus slopes every day to get to class, climbing stairs or walking long distances in Malaysia will be nothing but a breeze!
Consider the 10-15 min walk your daily exercise!
I've visited other parts of NZ but I still think that Wellington is the best.
When I was in other parts of NZ, I felt like I was in Asia. It was all hustle & bustle. There were also many people of Asian origins moving up & down the streets & inhabiting the buildings. I didn't pay an arm & a leg to fly all the way here just to get back into Asia!
Wellington has a diverse & wondrous blend of people groups. There is an equal majority of Maori (the indigenous people) & Pakeha (white foreigners). There is also a minority of other ethnicities like Indians, Koreans, Japanese & Chinese. It is only in Wellington that you get to experience New Zealand's melting pot of culture. Get to know the different people groups & be fascinated as you learn about their cultures.
The people in Wellington are amiable & very approachable. New Zealand is probably one of the friendliest countries in the world!
Usually the person sitting next to you on in class or waiting at the same bus stop will greet you with a customary "How's it going?". Please don't look confused & answer what's going where. It's a question that enquires on how your day has been.
The question is a polite gesture & sometimes people will get back to what they are doing.
Those who want a chat will carry on by talking about the weather or asking you where you're from.
Be brave. Enjoy the people. You don't have to speak perfect English. You're not expected to.
The weather in Wellington is divided into 3 seasons: windy cold, rainy cold & sunny warm.
You will experience sunny warm the most during summer (around Nov-Feb).
The rest of the year will be a combination of the three but mostly windy & igloo cold.
You should prepare clothings suitable for the weather.
Umbrellas are a waste of money. The winds will make sure that you get wet.
Besides, you'll either ruin it or get blown all the way back to Malaysia.
I kid you not. The winds are that strong.
Bring your summer-wear from Malaysia.
Bring your best tops, skirts, dresses, shirts, t-shirts, shorts, a fashionable hoodie & a good pair of jeans.
These things are cheaper in Malaysia.
Never buy your warm clothing from Malaysia.
You can find more suitable ones at discount prices here in Wellington.
One of my favourites is Kathmandu along Willis St.
They make awesome thermals (warm underwear), rain coats & sleeping bags.
They have massive discounts twice a year in Feb & Aug.
Don't be miserly when spending on warm clothing.
Remember: Save now... freeze later!
Be prepared to spend $200-300 on a good jacket & $100-200 on a good raincoat.
Instead of a 2-in-1 waterproof tramping jacket, I would recommend that you get a jacket & a one-size-larger raincoat that can fit over the jacket. This will give you more variety in the clothes you have to wear.
Wellington is a student city.
Most of the workers in the city are students & employers are more than happy to hire students because they're cheap, they work hard & they don't complain much.
Therefore, if you have the time & think that you can manage, I strongly suggest that you get a part-time job to open up other possibilities to your lifestyle like travel & extra money.
Jobs come in 3 lengths: long-term, short-term & one-off.
The names are pretty much self-explanatory.
The best place to seek student jobs is Student Job Search.
Register with them & visit their branches for the latest jobs.
You can also look them up online but by the time it gets up on the website, someone may have already taken it.
You can also look in newspapers, bulletin boards or online agencies.
Some establishments will put up a notice at their front door if they're hiring.
Keep your eyes open & you might just land a great job!
I have worked several different types of jobs in the city.
I've been a promoter, typist, chef, barista, waiter, cashier, labourer, surveyor & etc.
I have found that, generally, Wellington employers are very generous & considerate. They are willing to provide encouragement & listen to feedback.
If you're happy, they get extra money!
However, be careful when you seek employment with an Asian employer.
I don't mean to be racist but there are many incidents where employers with an Asian background have cheated employees.
If you are not happy at your workplace or if you are underpaid, quit.
There are many other better jobs out there waiting for you!
Keep in mind that you are there to study.
So, if your work is affecting your grades, make the necessary adjustments!
The student halls with Victoria University of Wellington are generally commendable.
Find a list here.
Halls may be more expensive but they are a stepping stone for every new student.
The first few months is when everybody makes friends, so make as many of them as you can. Student halls are full of new students, so you'll have a higher chance of making friends there.
Halls will also organise games, events & get-togethers throughout the year.
They are doing it with your money so make sure that you do attend them.
While you're there be friendly, have fun & make some new friends!
Here are a student's categorisation for the halls:
Quiet halls: Education House & Stafford House & Te Kotahinga.
These are halls where students are known to be quiet & private people.
Happening halls: McKenzies Apartments, Cumberland House & Victoria House.
These are halls where students are known to be more lively & nocturnal.
After your first year, I would recommend that you move on to private housing.
This is because renting a house or apartment with a few close friends is WAAAAAAAY cheaper than staying in a student hostel!
Houses or apartments usually free up during summer time so that'll be the best time to arrange for a viewing.
Be sure to act quick because good places usually get taken up really quickly.
Try to deal directly with the owners.
Avoid having to deal with real estate agencies because they usually ignore students.
Students have got a bad reputation among realtors.
Look in local newspapers, online or the VUW Accommodation Service bulletin board for advertisements.
A good listing website would be TradeMe.co.nz.
Also, use these tips from the Accommodation Service to make your stay a pleasant one.
In the Wellington CBD, there are 3 supermarkets from the New World supermarket chain (just like our Carrefour supermarkets).
The biggest one is on Wakefield St, the New World Wellington City.
There are two smaller New World Metros on Willis St & at the railway station.
New World is not the cheapest.
The cheapest would be Pak'nSave.
But the closest one is in Kilbirnie.
You'll have to take a 10-15 min bus ride. Hardly worth it if you don't have a car.
There are also 24hr mini convenience stores called 'dairies' (just like our 7-Eleven stores).
There is a list of them here.
Diaries are where you get snacks & necessities when you can't be bothered to walk all the way to the supermarket or if it's late at night.
Btw, they serve delicious warm pies. They're awesome but they'll make you fat!
List of necessities that are cheaper in Malaysia:
- toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap & etc)
- electronics (computers, laptops, cables & etc)
- condoms / tampons / sanitary napkins
Sad to say, there are no 24hr Mamaks in Wellington.
Most stores close by 5pm. Restaurants close by 10pm.
If you get the munchies at 12am, you're out of luck!
Remember to stock up some food at home!
It is of course cheaper to eat at home but if you ever have the desire to dine out, there's no better place to do it than Wellington!
There are plenty of restaurants in the city. You will be spoilt for choice.
Turkish, Western, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Malaysian. You name it, you got it!
It's not cheap to dine out though. Be prepared to spend $20++ for a meal.
Drinking water is free & it's fine to just have water in a restaurant as long as you order something to eat.
To ensure that you do not spend your hard-earned money at a horrible restaurant, check out dineout.co.nz for restaurant reviews by every day people like you & me. (I used to write some reviews under the pseudonym 'koko')
For the students on a budget, there are also lots of takeaways that serve cheap awesome food!
My favourite budget places are an Indian takeaway on Willis St (around #248), Korean Country House in Manners Mall & KC Cafe in Courtney Place.
Malaysian restaurants I recommend are Satay Kampong & Istana Malaysia (the bosses there know me!)
Other places you must try: exquisite Japanese food @ Kazu Japanese Restaurant, pizzas @ Piccolo Italian Pizzeria, yam char @ Regal Chinese Restaurant, steaks @ Crazy Horse Steakhouse, Curry Laksa @ Satay Kampong, Lamb Curry @ Istana Malaysia, fruit gelato @ Kaffe Eis, crepes @ Crêpes à Go-Go & croissants @ Le Moulin Bakery.
Wellington is also the espresso capital of the world!
This city has the highest concentration of cafes than anywhere in the world!
Walk down any street or turn a corner & you'll definitely find a place that peddles fresh steaming espresso coffee!
When in Wellington, YOU MUST TRY THE COFFEE!!
Take your pick of flat white, latte, cappuccino or mocha.
My favourite is a latte made with Illy Coffee.
Most of the cafes prepare great coffee. Stay away from Starbucks or Coffee Bean.
New Zealand is a wine producing country & you will find that wines are very cheap in Wellington.
Go to any supermarket & you can get a bottle of decent wine for $20.
NZ produces really good white wine while the reds are just decent. Australia produces more flavourful reds.
My favourite NZ winemakers are Church Road, Matua, Kim Crawford, CJ Pask & Lawsons Dry Hills.
Take your time to give the different wines a try. Then, you can choose your favourites!
Look out for 2007 & 2008 wines. I hear that the grapes are at their best during those years.
If you fall sick, there is a student clinic on campus that you can go to for free.
The cost of your medical consultations will be covered by your student insurance (which is compulsory for international students).
However, the place is very busy. Do call first to make a booking.
There is also physiotherapy, counselling & other healthcare services available with the Student Health Service.
The Wellington hospital is free too but it is very far away in a suburb, Newtown. You'll need to take a bus.
Keep in mind that medical fees are very high in New Zealand so go to a private establishment only when there no better options.
Remember that International Students are as valuable as gold to the university.
We pay exuberant fees which are exuberantly accepted by the university.
If you have any problems or issues, don't ever be shy to seek help.
For anything & everything you may need help with, there is a department in the university that is specially formed to assist you.
All you have to do is just ask.
Finally, let me say congratulations on being accepted.
Not only will you experience quality education provided by some of the most professional educators in the world, you will also be in a place where your minds will be broadened & your experiences diversified.
Wellington as well as New Zealand as a whole have got a lot to offer you.
Go out and grab hold of every opportunity!
All the best!