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Student story

Henna Chua

20 July 2023

"I want air pollution caused by power generation to be an issue for the past..."


Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Electrical Engineer, Meridian Energy

Having a self-professed fascination with technology development, Henna studied electronic engineering in Malaysia to become a part of the progressive industry. 

"I was fascinated by how fast technology changes, from using cathode ray tubes (CRTs) to VGA to LCD, and how mobile phones evolved from key pads to touch screen," she says. 

Her studies eventually developed a specific interest in renewable energy generation to power these technologies, and the importance of combating climate change.

"Back in Malaysia, we have very little renewable power generation," Henna says. "As they always say, you should go to the place where they live and breathe what you study. There is no better place in the world for this than New Zealand, which is renowned for its green and sustainable environments." 

"Coming to UC and having exposure to power engineering, I learnt how power is generated and how we can use an environmentally friendly way to achieve it. It amazes me how the human mind works and is able to think of ways to generate power using the endless resources provided by Mother Nature. I want air pollution caused by power generation to be an issue for the past."

New Zealand also helped in discovering a passion for being in the outdoors, as well as looking to preserve it.

"If you love nature, this is the place for you! There are lots of tracks and places for you to tramp or camp, especially in the South Island. I’ve experienced water skiing, snow skiing, overnight tramping and fishing for the first time in New Zealand. There is definitely a lot more to explore and experience if you are up to it."

Travelling for study at UC was made possible through a UC College of Engineering Malaysia Scholarship. Once arriving, Henna thoroughly enjoyed the practical coursework and labs part of the degree as preparation for industry work.

"UC is famous for engineering and is also well known for Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Apart from learning all the engineering concepts and formulas in the classroom, we get to apply all that knowledge in real life. This is the most enjoyable thing about Engineering – loads of hands on learning."

"Besides, for the Electrical and Electronic Engineering degree, we get different projects and assignments, like programming helicopters to make them fly and turn, building control boards for Go Carts, etc. For my final year project, I even went on 2 field trips to Auckland and Wellington. I got to see how transformers were made in a factory and visit a windfarm."

One particular highlight was an engineering internship with Meridian Energy, which specialises in renewable energy generation using hydro, and eventually lead to her current role with them after graduating. 

"Working for Meridian was a great opportunity because I got to do what real engineers do," she says. "When I was in the hydro team, I was responsible for finding solutions to potential problems in the power generation and looking at whether upgrades are needed, so that when a problem arises, the fault is detected before it may damage the system. I definitely enjoyed working there as there are no two similar days."

Earning a UC Summer Research Scholarship, Henna later carried out research with UC's Electric Power Engineering Centre (EPECentre) looking into transitioning New Zealand energy requirements from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources for transportation and all industries.

Looking to gain more industry experiences like these, Henna made use of the Academic Skills Centre workshops for international students while at UC.

"I went to Academic Skills Centre prior to job hunting and applications. They gave me tips on how to find a job in New Zealand, helped me with my curriculum vitae and cover letter and gave us a talk on how to negotiate on terms, conditions and salary with a company."

As such, Henna plans to continue her career in the New Zealand energy sector, starting with her current role at Meridian Energy as an Electrical Engineer.

"I hope to be always involved in renewable power generation or power transmission sector. Right now, I'm working on the development of a new wind farm, where I look at the cabling side of things like calculating voltage drop, determining the cable sizes, and also at civil aspects of cable placements for the new wind farm. I feel very honoured to be able to leave a footprint and give back to the community by being involved in this project."

She is now a New Zealand resident and plans to stay here for the next few years. She is also looking into doing a master's in Fire Engineering in the future.

Outside of her study and career aspirations, Henna spent a lot of her time getting involved with the local community, tramping and playing board games. Making new connections and gaining independence on the other side of the world was important to Henna, and she advises other international students to immerse themselves outside of study.

"I am always keen to meet new people so feel free to hit me up of you want a fun board games session or need more tramping buddies! I lived in Ilam Apartments when I was a student. When you are living with other people you learn about other cultures, the difference in ways of doing things, the way people think which are influenced by their culture and also how to compromise," she says.

"I would encourage people to branch out and make friends with all kinds of people – that's the point of studying overseas. You get a great opportunity to experience other cultures that you will never get at home."

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