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A STEM Student Finds Perspective and Support in New Zealand

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Studying in New Zealand at University of Otago has helped me focus on my major—exercise sports science—and realize my studies are part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) umbrella. Since I have been here, I have had time to focus on the science portion of my degree and discover all the amazing support for STEM students. 

Learning the hands-on way 

Courses here are different because of the hands-on experience and the application of science during class and lab. Labs include work with partners and sometime working with local people, too. In my experience, lab facilities are bigger here and well-equipped.  

One of the classes I’m taking is Exercise Metabolism, which examines how the body handles macronutrients consumed during exercise. This class includes a lab with a lot of work to test different exercises and how they affect the body. I enjoy getting a sense of the practical application of how the body works under certain stresses and discovering how the body is more complex than people realize. 

In Prescription of Physical Activity, we’re discovering that it can be difficult to prescribe exercise to people with health concerns. The lab for this class includes testing exercises and learning how to help prescribe them to people under certain conditions. We practice exercises and showing proper technique, practicing with partners as if they were clients.  

Plenty of academic support  

The support for STEM students here is amazing. This includes tutoring and one-on-one meetings with faculty. Personally, I have met with tutors about ways I can work in lesson plans, how to study certain material, and how to study more efficiently.  

One of my flat mates is in the chemistry club, and she talks about how they work with students to redo experiments and talk them through steps and process. This gives the students the chance to learn without feeling rushed, like they might if they were trying to understand a concept in a lab or lecture. There is nothing worse than a teacher who doesn’t make sure their students understand the material they are working on in class. 

I have met a few other students who are also studying exercise sports science, known here as kinesiology. Like me, they never considered themselves STEM majors, but now we realize we are all part of the group of students studying science, just in a different way. At the University of Otago societies and clubs day, there was no sign of a STEM club. The offices of each major have clubs, so hopefully someday they will merge to benefit everyone in the STEM field. 

Looking forward 

As my time in New Zealand comes to an end soon, I will make my transition back to the U.S. school system again and I can’t wait to see what my future in STEM holds. If you are an exercise sports science major or any STEM major, consider studying abroad! Know there is support out there, waiting to help the next generation of STEM students who want to study internationally. 

—Jennifer C. (Oregon State University), University of Otago, IFSA First Generation Scholarship recipient.