Staff Spotlight: Craig Lee



Dr. Craig Lee is a lecturer in the Department of Tourism. He was previously a Ph.D. candidate and sessional lecturer at the University of South Australia before joining the University of Otago in 2016.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Since we’re talking about studying abroad, my most important travel memory is my decision to leave my home country of Malaysia to study my post-graduate degrees overseas. I learned so much not just in class, but also how to live in a different culture. It taught me how to be independent and also increased my cultural awareness and understanding.

Traveling abroad literally changed my life and it’s the best decision I’ve made so far.

How does your role have a positive impact on the experience of international students at your university?

As a lecturer in tourism, my role is to ensure all students have a good learning experience. I’m particularly aware of the international students in my class and I try my best to help them integrate with the culture here in New Zealand, whether it’s about studying, living, or working. Being a former international student myself, I can definitely relate to the things they may be experiencing!

I also encourage international students to talk about what it’s like in the countries they are from with their classmates so that local New Zealanders can learn more about the world around them. In this way, we can all break the barriers between us and perhaps make some new friends!

What do you enjoy most about working with international students?

International students bring a global perspective to the issues we discuss in class, which helps us think differently. I just love it when they give a different opinion about an issue based on their own cultural or national context, and seeing the rest of us in class (me included) go “Really? That’s amazing/crazy!”. International students are enthusiastic, brave, and eager to learn, which I always appreciate.

What makes your university a great place to study abroad?

The University of Otago has everything, whether it’s in class or outside of class.

If we talk about studies, there’s almost every subject you can think of, which are all taught by excellent staff, so you’ll most likely be able to find something you’re looking for.

Outside of class, I’ll quote something a student once said to me which has stuck with me ever since:

“The University is a residential campus, so you’re living amongst people your age who are into the same things you are into and who are going through the same things you are going through. It’s so cool to have all your mates living down the same street, and the friends I make here will likely be the friends I will have for life because we’ve grown up together”.

What makes your city a great place to study abroad?

I call Dunedin a convenient and accessible city. You’re never more than 15 minutes from the city centre. You won’t have to worry about sitting on a train or bus or drive around in a car to get where you want to go. Nature is at your doorstep if you like the outdoors. You can take weekend road trips with your friends around the South Island where you can see everything and you won’t break the bank.

As a tourism researcher, I also talk to a lot of international visitors and many of them say Dunedin and the South Island feel like “true New Zealand”.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in creating an excellent experience for study abroad students?

What do I think? Everything I’ve said previously! I feel The University of Otago is the total package. Excellent study? Check. Great city? Check. Fun social life? Check. Experience New Zealand life? Check. And finally, the University has a welcoming and supportive environment. From the International office to Student Services and the teaching staff, we are all friendly and accessible and eager to help study abroad students have a good experience.

Hope to see you visit us soon!