Stephanie Fong

'I love that the courses focus on local, national and international examples, and go in-depth...'

  • Stephanie Fong

Bachelor of Science in Geography

Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Geography

Studying towards a Master of Forestry Science

'An excellent place to study, with amazing opportunities for everyone to reach their potential,' is how Stephanie describes the University of Canterbury. 'It is not only a great environment – I love walking around campus – but also a hub for meeting people and spending time together.'

Stephanie's interest in people underpins every aspect of her university life. As a student mentor, Geography tutor, and working for the University's Disability Resource Service (DRS) and other support services, she has been able to help a number of students.

'I have been a mentor for four years – meeting students, both domestic and international, and helping them with life at Canterbury. I've also helped at Careers Day, the International Welcome, during Orientation week, and in the Welcome Centre for the three weeks it was open at the start of the year.

‘I got involved with DRS via UC Career Hub as they had a job opening and as a result I am now working part-time. It is excellent to have a job on campus as it means no travelling between work and university which is a bonus. I love working with DRS as it means a lot to know that I am helping other students on campus.’

Stephanie first specialised in Geography with UC, and her interest in that broad subject during her undergrad study centred on human geography.

'I developed a strong interest in geography at high school and I thought it would be ideal to study something I'm passionate about. Geography has a number of topics that you can study, and I have always been especially interested in the interactions between people and the environment. I love that the courses focus on local, national and international examples, and go in-depth about the topics.’

'I also love the Geography Department – it is a friendly community in which you can meet not only undergraduates but also postgraduates and staff members,’ she says. ‘I have taken a field trip to Living Springs for GEOG 309 which is a way for the students to get to know each other over a weekend! It’s fun and you get to really know the people in your class.’

Through a Geography internship course, Stephanie also got to help out the local Christchurch community, with research for Te Pūtahi which organises the Festival of Transitional Architecture (FESTA).

‘FESTA is a bi-annual weekend festival in Christchurch aimed at bringing people into the CBD of Christchurch. My role was a research-based intern helping Te Pūtahi understand issues surrounding accessibility and disability for the 2018 FESTA. The course required 150 hours of work helping the organisation for coursework credit.’

It was a good thing that Stephanie followed her passion with Geography into university, as she initially wasn’t sure about pursuing her interest.

‘I never really considered it for a degree,’ she says. ‘I came to UC intending to do a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology but I wanted something more. Part way through my degree, I changed to a Bachelor of Science and I’ve never been happier! It has taught me to always investigate what my interests are.’

Stephanie later completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Geography, with a focus on urban ecology or ‘nature in cities’. This inspired her to take on the Master of Forestry Science, to better understand forest and plant resources and management within cities.

‘I love that I get the opportunity to use a variety of different disciplines to explain and understand the world we live in. Although each discipline is unique, being able to use different research areas is able to give different perspectives on your research.

‘My Master of Forestry Science is looking at the barriers to implementing urban forests in cities. This is a new field of Forestry (been around since the 1970s) and looks at the interaction between cities and nature. Melbourne is an example of where urban forestry has really become popular.

‘I am wanting to do some work in urban environments and looking at how we can make cities better for the future. This could be in either doing research or in a council role. My overall goal is to help and use my knowledge and apply it to my field.’

UC’s location, then, is ideal for her love of the outdoors.

‘I decided to go to UC because I wanted to be close to the different landscapes around the city. The mountains are close by, and there are beaches and also hills. It has accessibility to beautiful natural environments such as the Southern Alps, and also the changing environment following the Canterbury earthquakes. It’s a perfect place!’

But in the end, her favourite aspect of UC is the community.

‘I’ve made some amazing friends and had a lot of fun times along the way. I also appreciate the campus itself – it’s a beautiful place. Even when I’m not studying, I’ll sometimes come onto campus and just go for a walk in the weekend.

‘UC is amazing and it’s taught me so much. This place is amazing and it will be sad when I leave but the memories will stay with me for a long time.’

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