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Student story

Kestral Johnston

20 July 2023

"UC is one of the best experiences you can get that combines academics with outdoor adventure..."


Study Abroad student

Certificate of Proficiency Engineering

A combination of high quality courses and the desire to discover a new part of the world is what led Kestral to UC through the Study Abroad programme from Northeastern University (Massachusetts, USA).

"It was a unique place to study that offered beautiful scenery straight out of the movies. I was particularly interested in UC's location between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean. UC's strength in engineering courses and the variety of classes offered was also something I found attractive, specifically the new Global Humanitarian Engineering course as it's a program that isn't offered in many places around the world."

The balance between study and free time to do things that people enjoy is something that Kestral has come to appreciate about her time studying at UC.

"I enjoyed the fact that UC classes involve less time outside of the classroom practicing and more time learning in a classroom or lab setting, although it was very different to have so much free time outside of class! At UC, there always seemed to be time for the important things in life, time to do something you enjoy, and time to appreciate the outdoors."

Kestral made the most of this free time by taking up a number of volunteering opportunities and delving into the social side of UC. This included joining the Student Volunteer Army (SVA), something she feels has given her experiences she would not have otherwise had.

"SVA was a great way to meet others who were interested in similar activities as well as travel around New Zealand a bit. One of my most memorable moments during my time here at UC was the marae overnight stay with SVA. Our traditional welcoming onto the marae was very spiritual and something I won't soon forget.

"I also got to volunteer at Cultivate Christchurch, an urban farming social enterprise. I enjoyed working outside in a green space that was such a contrast to all the construction going on in the area, as well as working alongside people from all walks of life to better the community together through farming. The experience made me rethink all of the different ways you can make an impact on your community."

Kestral feels that her time at UC has also positively impacted both her professional and personal life, and that these things will influence her outlook on the future when she returns home.

"Having the opportunity to work as a research assistant in the Civil and Natural Resources Engineering department has helped me to see what academics do on a daily basis and has opened my eyes to the possibility of attending graduate school, which I probably wouldn't have considered before this experience.

"In the future, I know that I'd like to stay in the environmental sector and focus on trying to reduce the impact we have on the environment while still helping to maintain the quality of life that people in developed communities are accustomed to."

Despite giving much of her time to the community of Christchurch, Kestral still found time to experience some of the outdoor environment of New Zealand.

"One memorable experience was during a tramping trip down on Stewart Island, when my friends and I heard a kiwi call for the first time. Even though they seem small and helpless, their call definitely doesn"t reflect this!"

Kestral believes that her Study Abroad experience in Christchurch is "unlike anything else in the world" and urges other students to step out and make the most of opportunities like these.

"UC is one of the best experiences you can get that combines academics with outdoor adventure. It's a place where you not only get to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, but meet some of the most down to earth people. The experiences that you get in the classroom as well as during your free time are as unique as you choose to make them!"

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