Xin (Kate) Ren

'I have received support and love from Kiwis and friends from other countries...'

  • Kate Ren

Studying towards a PhD in Education


Tell us about your student journey to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Originally from Hefei, Anhui, China, I gained my dual bachelor’s degree in Educational Psychology and English Literature, and master’s in Interpreting and Translation. I worked as a language teacher for several years in both New Zealand and China, during which I taught students from various age groups, from pupils to adolescence. I love my job as a teacher, and I would like to improve my professional skills both in teaching and supporting students to help them better learn.

New Zealand was a remote country for me when I was in school, I had only read about it from a geography textbook. It became real to me after I got a job opportunity in Dunedin in 2016 to teach Mandarin. It was a life-changing experience working in NZ. I was amazed by the breathtaking views of Aotearoa. Besides, I was lucky to meet some Kiwi friends, who are now as close as my family here.

After finishing the one-year teaching contract, I went back to Beijing to continue my master’s study, while at the same time applying for a PhD studying position in NZ. I received the reply of interest from my current supervisor instantly, it feels like I was meant to be back in NZ again!

What inspired you to pursue a PhD degree in Educational Psychology?

My passion and experience in teaching and supporting students inspired me to pursue a PhD degree in Educational Psychology, which helped me to understand what facilitates the process of learning, and how we can learn better.

Besides, my own learning experience during the COVID-19 pandemic inspired me to conduct my current project on exploring students’ learning experience during and after the pandemic. 

As one of the first 250 Postgraduate students to be able to travel back to New Zealand since the pandemic outbreak, has there been support on hand from UC?

I went back to China in January 2020 for a family reunion during the Chinese Lunar New Year. The planned one-month break was extended to a year unexpectedly due to the global pandemic. We tried several ways to return to NZ, including transferring through Thailand (self-quarantine in the hotel) for 2 weeks but failed due to the last-minute announcement of the NZ border travel ban.

After struggling and waiting for nearly a year, with the better situation in both China and NZ, I was lucky to be selected by UC and Immigration New Zealand as one of the first 250 postgraduate students travelling back to NZ.

Before and during the long process, I have received unconditional support from my supervisors (Dr Valerie Sotardi and Associate Professor Cheryl Brown). Without their help, I would not have finished my thesis confirmation online while being stuck in China. Besides, the support and effective communication from UC, and the student support team from International Relations Office really helped me to carry along the way.

What do you like about campus life? 

Studying on campus is a great experience. My workspace is located in Rehua, which is a recently built building with modern design and advanced facilities. Studying at UC is enjoyable as you can reach the balance between academic life and social activities, with workshops running every once in a while, and there are social events helping students to interact with each other. 

Tell us how you found life in Christchurch and New Zealand as an international student.

I have visited different cities in both North Island and South Island, and Christchurch is one of my favourites. It meets the perfect balance between city life and beautiful natural sceneries. The city has its special history and atmosphere. Taking a walk in the Botanic Gardens or along the Avon River is my favourite thing to do here.

Most importantly, I have received support and love from Kiwis and friends from other countries. The community here is inclusive and friendly.

Sriparna Saha

Sriparna Saha

'Geology is a lot about storytelling...'

Emily Arps

Emily Arps

'I particularly enjoy working in mental health promotion...'