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Student story

Renee Ung

20 July 2023

"Be open minded to try new things! That way, you can get the most experience and exposure out of your time here…"

Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology with Honours
Speech-Language Therapist, Palmerston North Hospital


Originally from Penang, Malaysia, Renee wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, but wasn’t sure which programme to choose from until she met a representative from the International Recruitment Team who introduced her to the Bachelor of Speech and Language Pathology with Honours at the University of Canterbury (UC). 

High-quality education and affordability were the top things on Renee’s checklist when it came to choosing the right university.  UC ‘ticked all the boxes’.  

”New Zealand is filled with jaw-dropping sceneries and offers the perfect package for me as I enjoy road-tripping and outdoor adventures. The exchange rate between the Malaysian ringgit and NZ Dollar makes NZ an attractive and affordable study destination compared to other countries.  This is one of the reasons why I chose to come to New Zealand,” she says.  

Renee experienced a smooth enrolment journey from Malaysia to New Zealand and was connected to the Speech and Language department and other international students once she arrived at UC.  

“The Speech and Language department at UC was really helpful in helping me plan my studies in a way that is cost effective yet efficient for me.  All the lecturers and staff are very friendly and supportive.  I find it very cool and inspiring to be learning from amazing lecturers and researchers who are experts in the field.  

“Placement opportunities with real patients and clients in a wide range of settings is something I really enjoy.  I like having the practical opportunities alongside lectures. It helps me to learn better and apply the theoretical knowledge to real-life settings. It also broadens both my personal and professional skills.  I noticed how much I have grown as a person so far into this degree.  It prepares me for the future and gives me a sense of working life as a speech-language therapist.

“A smaller class cohort allows me to connect and make friends easily as I came to NZ alone without knowing anyone.  Great support systems such as the International Relationships team, UC Speech and Hearing staff, and Student Care are fantastic.  UC staff are always looking out for students’ wellbeing and it makes a huge difference in both my study and personal life.

“A beautiful campus close to the Avon river, ducks, cherry blossoms on campus, makes you feel like you are in nature whilst studying.  The facilities on campus such as bicycle parking, heat and eat stations, community garden, and free gym membership are fantastic.  Coming from Penang where the ‘go green’ movement is a huge focus among Penangnites, I especially like the sustainability movement at UC as it feels a bit like home and is also something I believe in. 

“I like how you can experience different sceneries and do various activities in Christchurch whenever you want.  You can go to Port Hills or Taylor’s Mistake for a hike, stroll around town, take a walk in Bottle Lake forest, picnic in the gardens or Hagley Park, watch performances at Isaac Royal Theatre, and head to the beach for a nice swim or lay in the sun. Coming from Malaysia which is a tropical country, I’ve also been enjoying the 4 seasons here in NZ, winter being my favourite, especially when you experience snow.  I enjoy learning about the different cultures in NZ as it broadens my knowledge and be more culturally responsive.  

“I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things such as farming, fishing, and kayaking.  Back in Penang, I love going to markets.  It’s great that I can continue to enjoy myself here by visiting the Saturday farmer’s market and the Bush Inn night market in Christchurch.”

Renee has been awarded a number of Scholarships at UC including the UC International First Year Scholarship, the prestigious Tan Sri Datuk Oh Siew Nam P.S.M P.J.N Malaysian Scholarship, and Eamon Malloy Scholarship. 

Apart from attending lectures and being on placements in several clinics such as UC’s Speech and Hearing clinic, Burwood Hospital, and Ruru Specialist School in Invercargill, Renee also works part time in a café on campus and as a private tutor in Christchurch.   She is also the New Zealand Speech Therapy Association (NZSTA) Student Representative for UC, a member of the Golden Key International Society, and the Secretary of the Operation Friendship Club.  She is involved in several other clubs including the CMSA (Canterbury Malaysian Student Association), SpeechSoc, Asian Kiwi Society, and volunteered at the SPCA Christchurch.  

“In the future, I hope to share my knowledge and raise awareness about people with communication and swallowing difficulties at both the local and international level. I believe that one of my roles as a speech-language therapist is to help advocate and support those that struggle with communication and swallowing be heard by society,” she says. “I am very excited and look forward to see where this will take me in the future.”

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