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Student story

Ewen Ford

20 July 2023

"UC offers the ideal modern languages department..."


Bachelor of Arts in Chinese and Russian

Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Russian

New Zealand Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment

"Learning a new language is something that isn’t to be taken lightly," says Ewen, who came to UC to tackle two of the toughest languages, Russian and Mandarin.

"Russian is an important language to learn, especially as Russia is now very resurgent economically and politically. The recently established free trade agreement between New Zealand and Russia has opened new career opportunities in diplomacy and New Zealand-Russia relations."

"China's growing economy and population means knowing Mandarin will be greatly beneficial in the near future."

These are not his only languages, however – he was first exposed to Russian while on a 10-month AFS student exchange programme in Hungary. "My host mother was an English and Russian teacher. I learned a lot of Russian from her and from the teachers at the school I attended. I can also speak and write semi-fluent Hungarian."

Ewen chose to study at Canterbury "because it offered an ideal modern languages department… my classes were quite small and that makes for more enjoyable learning as opposed to hugely populated classrooms," he says.

"All the teachers that I had throughout my degrees have been very helpful and resourceful."

UC set up an exchange programme with the Lomonosov Moscow State University while he was studying here, and Ewen was one of the first students to take part. He spent five months in Moscow completing papers for his Honours degree, an experience he describes as "incredible".

Originally from Colyton in the Manawatu, he adds: "Coming to UC was also a chance to experience student life away from home and to meet new people… The student lifestyle has been very entertaining, especially living with a great bunch of mates. Outside study, I would go to the gym and occasionally go for runs, watch the rugby, and spend time drinking with mates, riding dirt bikes and playing my guitar."

Later completing a Master of International Studies at Otago Uni, Ewen now lives in London working for the NZ Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, getting extensive use from his language skills and meeting his career goal to represent New Zealand within international relations.

"I use Russian at work and often have to phone people in Russia or Azerbaijan for verification purposes. I'm now learning Polish (similar to Russian and picking it up quite quickly),’ he says. ‘I’ve recently been to Georgia and Kyrgyzstan where I've only used Russian and have had a great time as opposed to being a typical Westerner only knowing English."

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