South African Christiaan William landed on New Zealand soil just before the world had heard about Covid-19.
In November 2019, he took leave from his job at North West University to finish his master’s degree and visit family in New Zealand who he hadn’t seen in years.
It was his first time traveling out of Africa and he’d been planning the trip for nearly a year. However, soon after he arrived, the borders closed and he became stuck.
“I decided, why not make the most of the opportunity and do something different.”
He noticed OPAIC was offering Covid-19 Relief Scholarships. While the discounted fees appealed to him, he was more impressed that the polytechnic really seemed to understand that internationals were having a hard time under the given circumstances.
“Even the first time I came in here I could really see the care they have for their students.”
At Orientation staff laid out the truth about what had been an extraordinary year for all the wrong reasons, he says. They acknowledged that everyone was facing challenges and said we should be there for each other. Students were invited to tell their stories to see how staff could better help them.
“That was just wonderful. I’ve never had that frank openness,” says Christiaan.
He’d now got to know a lot of staff across campus.
“Everyone I’ve met has a passion and drive to be here. It’s not just a job.”
He says he admires people who are passionate about what they do.
“I’ve really come to like everyone here. Everyone’s very friendly and open and approachable.”
You can have access to anyone you want to talk to right up to management, he says.
“I really treasure when you have this very friendly culture.”
Christiaan has thrived here at Otago Polytechnic. Soon after enrolling he joined the Student Ambassadors, a group that assists with various events on campus and helps new students settle in.
“It’s a great place to meet people and socialise. If you’re new here and you don’t know many people, the student ambassadors is a good place to make friends.”
“There’s a lot more to Otago Polytechnic than just going to class.”
Christiaan’s now the Student Representative here listening to and learning from students and staff and finding solutions to problems students face.
He’s also recently started a Public Speaking Club on campus. He finds public speaking a lot of fun but knows not everyone does. He likes helping people improve their speaking skills. His lecturing background helps with that.
Christiaan taught philosophy to classes as big as 400 students back home – having been thrown in the deep end when the original lecturer had to fly home due to visa issues and he offered to take over.
Christiaan says he doesn’t like monotony and enjoys a challenge. Other professional experiences have included managing the front end and factory of a wedding boutique as well as managing research teams at a business consultancy firm.
A desire to enter the project management industry drove him to enrol in Applied Management at OPAIC.
He’s not sure what the future holds for him but looks forward to exploring opportunities here in New Zealand.
“Why not make the most of where this journey takes me? I’m going to give it my best shot to see if I can get work here. If that leads to something greater and being able to stay long term, that would be fantastic. If it so happens that things don’t work out, then I still have a lot to look forward to going back home.”