Alumni Spotlight: Caitlin H


Caitlin is an undergraduate exchange law student at the University of Auckland. Although she is currently based in The Netherlands, she grew up in Switzerland and has an affinity for travelling and experiencing new cultures.

After her semester abroad, she is going to finish her LLB and then take a year off to travel and gain work experience at a few law firms before starting her LLM focusing on Media and Entertainment Law, wherever that may be!

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to study abroad largely because of the inherent differences between civil and common law jurisdictions. As we never learned about New Zealand's take on jurisprudence, it seemed like an interesting area to dive into. I chose to study abroad due to this, but also to discover more about the 'unknown' other end of the world and to just go experience something entirely away from home, family, and friends.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My home university set up a variety of events to talk to people from other universities and backgrounds. Going to these events only made me keener to go and experience another country and university.

They have also helped ensure that I met all the relevant deadlines on time and that I was given this opportunity to go abroad. Although they did an immense amount of administrative and supportive help, I still had to decide what I wanted to focus on and make sure I met all of my academic requirements.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

My biggest piece of advice is to get in touch with another student from your university who already went on exchange to your new university. They have been in the same boat as you and most definitely have some great recommendations on what you need to do and where you need to go.

If your university provides experience reports, I really recommend reading them as it provides an ease of mind of what to expect when you get there and what to look forward to.

If you are going overseas, I would most definitely make sure that you are aware of the deadlines, especially housing ones. Often this is the trickiest step and sometimes accommodation is scarce, and you definitely do not want to arrive in a new country with nowhere to stay. Apart from that, make sure you dive in headfirst and join as much as you can to meet new people and places.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

As I have to take 30ECTS/60 credits, I am taking four classes at the University of Auckland. I have Tuesdays and Thursdays off, so I am usually spending my days playing volleyball or going out to a new area to explore.

I have two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and they are differently structured than back home. Nonetheless, it is still exciting to go and learn more about areas that I am genuinely interested in.

The Study Abroad association at Auckland University also has a few events each week. Either to a place like Waiheke Island or Rangitoto. This is a great place to explore your surroundings and meet new people. I usually try to go on most trips- so far, they have been amazing.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear is actually so trivial because, at the end of the day, all of the exchange students are confronted with the same circumstances and all of us just want to make friends. I know that making friends is not that hard in a group of open-minded and welcoming students, but it always plays a role in your fear before you go on your trip abroad.

I think, when you start university anywhere, that is a thought that goes around in your head. As I said before, just be yourself, open and kind, and join clubs and societies to make sure you get the most out of your time abroad. Don't be afraid to try new things, oftentimes you'll enjoy yourself and you'll meet the greatest people while doing it.

What is something you expected from Auckland that is actually different?

Coming from Europe, I thought that New Zealand winters were similar to our autumns. Although it is not nearly as cold here during the winter as back home, it is still cold. If the wind comes from the South, it is freezing, and you can tell. The amount of times I almost got blown away is more than I'd like to admit. Nonetheless, there have not been days where I couldn't walk to class because it was "too cold". In fact, some people still wear shorts. I'd not like to follow suit, though!

The weather is very unpredictable. The weather app is almost always wrong! It'll say it's sunny, but it'll actually be raining like crazy. We hiked up Rangitoto in the rain and once we got to the top, it was so overcast we couldn't see an awful lot. When we were heading down, it was dry and blue skies! My biggest tip is to be patient and take your time. The weather changes quickly and sometimes waiting a minute will make the world of a difference. That being said, be prepared to buy a few umbrellas during your stay here! ;)

Auckland is relaxed and vibrant and everyone is really friendly and willing to help. I can't wait to see what else New Zealand has to offer! If you have the chance, I would recommend going on exchange and exploring the stunning scenery in New Zealand!