Vicky Guilfoyle

Vicky started a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Primary) at the University of Canterbury in February 2014

Vicky Guilfoyle outside the education faculty at the University of Canterbury

“I am a mature student from Southampton. I’d done a year of a primary teaching degree in the UK but decided to transfer to UC as my partner has a job in New Zealand and is based in Christchurch. I managed to get a year’s academic credit so went straight into the second year of the Bachelor of Teaching and Learning at UC. Study Options were great helping me with my not-particularly-straightforward application! I went to their offices in London with a whole heap of evidence for the application and they went through it with me, identified the information that was relevant, scanned and sent it all and then chased up the university for me. They also helped with my visa application and have stayed in touch since I got out here.

“So, I arrived and started to explore the campus and get to know the support and admin staff. The first thing that struck me was how friendly and helpful everyone was – nothing was too much trouble. Student Services and the International Office answered all my questions and the Student Advisor at the College of Education talked me through enrolment and all the admin involved.

“The students have been great - really friendly and welcoming, especially to foreign students. The College of Education induction process starts with a pōwhiri (Māori welcome ceremony) then two weeks of workshops, including one on the Treaty of Waitangi. The first thing I did with the second years was a 'noho marae' which is a stay at a traditional Māori meeting house. We learned Māori songs, the protocol of visiting the marae and all slept in the wharenui (meeting house) together overnight – all 55 of us. It is definitely a good way to get to know your fellow students, and I have made good friends from that experience. Since then, I have been doing lectures and a four week teaching placement, all of which I have enjoyed, and I have now completed my first semester.

“The lecture schedule is particular to the College of Education as it has to take into account the school placements and also has slightly different term dates to the majority of the courses at UC. I am in lectures most days and the assessments are mostly assignments, which are submitted electronically, with a small number of exams. Many of the students meet up in the library and work together, and several of the assignments require group work. Teachers in New Zealand have to be able to teach te reo Māori, so that has been a challenge, but fun as well.

“Outside of lectures, there are loads of things to do at UC – student societies of all descriptions, sports, socialising and exploring beautiful South Island. Christchurch itself is still rebuilding following the major earthquake of 2011, especially in the city centre, but there are plenty of places to go including the Re-Start mall which is made of shipping containers, the ‘cardboard cathedral’ which has been built to replace the stone one and the botanical gardens and Hagley Park which have many activities going on during the year. For exploring inside the city a bike is ideal as the city is pretty level and there are bike lanes on many of the roads.

“Getting away from the city the scenery is fantastic, with the Pacific Ocean surrounding the country and the mountains running down the spine. Arthur’s Pass is one of the routes from the East to the West coast and there are some wonderful walks, but watch out for the keas (mountain parrots) who are very intelligent, cheeky and inquisitive as I found out at the local wildlife park!

“I have had a great time in my first semester. Communications with the UK are good with e-mail and Skype both working well. Students living in university halls of residence have access to the university wi-fi and, although I live out in rented accommodation, my friends tell me that the accommodation and food are good. I would recommend coming to the University of Canterbury – New Zealand is a fantastic country with a laid back feel and amazing countryside. I would recommend having a full UK driving licence before coming out here so that cars can be hired to explore the areas outside the city as there is very limited public transport between towns and no routine rail network. This midwinter break (in July – something it takes a while to get your head round) I am going to Wellington and Invercargill and possibly the West Coast. I can’t wait!!”