Wananga landing Wananga landing

Learning from an ex-change of scenery

31 January 2024

With international opportunities back on the cards, UC students are taking flight to bring broader world perspectives to their studies.


For accounting student Cassidy Ray-Matthews, enrolling in university was always going to be as much about learning as it was about building her life experiences. “I've always known that I wanted to go on an exchange”, she says. Working towards her Bachelor of Commerce she prioritised good grades to give herself the highest chance of being selected. COVID19 soon put a halt on all travel at that time, but fast forward to 2022 and Cassidy was successful in her application and joined the first cohort of exchange students spreading their wings post-pandemic.

UC suggested Singapore as the destination because the papers Cassidy would take at university there could be cross-credited. Cassidy says, “I was just stoked to go anywhere!” Aside from working for a couple of years in Melbourne, her only travel experience had been a few weeks in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia at age 18. This awakened the travel bug and gave Cassidy the confidence that she would be able to handle the longer period of an exchange.

In Singapore from August ‘til December of 2022, Cassidy recollects how much university there differed from New Zealand, “There’s only one class per week of each subject but they’re three hours. In each classroom is less than 50 people so you know everyone by name, including the professor. Attendance is compulsory. As is participation in the classes; you have to talk and give your opinion, which was terrifying at first. But that's actually one of the things that really stands out to me that I’m really grateful for.

Pretty much every week you had to contribute in some way and it gets easier with practice. It has really transferred into my life now; I'm a lot more confident speaking in public or in groups. I think it’s actually quite common in a lot of universities just from talking to my overseas friends from different universities. They don’t really do the big lecture hall style like New Zealand.”

Cassidy also made sure to intersperse her studies with life too. “It was so fun. I lived in a hostel with three other girls and bunk beds in a room so that I had more spare money to travel with. My roommates and I, right at the start of our exchange we booked our flights for every second weekend to a new place. Singapore is so good for cheap travel – you can get lots of places for less than a hundred dollars. We went to Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines together.”

She believes these opportunities were just as beneficial as the on-campus learning.

From Singapore, Cassidy jumped on another opportunity via the Asia New Zealand Foundation – a summer internship with KPMG Vietnam; KPMG being one of the ‘big four’ accounting firms was an ideal opportunity for an accounting student. “My semester in Singapore had ended. My last exam was early December but I didn’t need to be back at UC until February,” says Cassidy. “It was the perfect fit.”

Cassidy says, “I was working in the tax team which was really interesting because obviously the tax system is completely different in Vietnam. Although I was relieved to find out the basic principles are the same everywhere – like corporate tax, personal tax, GST or VAT.” Cassidy mined opportunities to learn from every task, no matter how simple or ad-hoc; like proofreading documents in English which taught her a lot about Vietnam's economy and how businesses operate. Soft skills like personal presentation and professional conduct were also chalked up.

The travel has not stopped since, with Cassidy off on another semester abroad, this time in Portugal at Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics. After that it will be time to graduate, which motivates her a lot, “I’ll never have another chance to do an exchange.”

The benefits of these experiences? “I think overall it's made me a much more confident person. I now pursue things I never would have before.” Cassidy believes it has set her up well for entering the business world, especially international business. She says, “I feel like every time you travel you add a tool to your toolbox. You become a better communicator, a better friend, a better worker.”

Overseas, people would ask Cassidy about where she was from and she would proudly tell them she was Māori and from New Zealand, but that was as far as it went. “I didn’t really know anything about Māori culture and that's embarrassing to admit.” It became a little bit of an identity crisis in a way. “When I came back, I made an effort to learn and speak more te reo in everyday language. I encourage my dad to learn about his whakapapa too.” “UC has lots of Māori programmes. For example a few weeks ago they had an exam study session for Māori students that I never would have thought to go to before.”

Cassidy is a recipient of Te Kura Umanga | UC Business School Global Experience Award, which provides financial support to assist with the costs of participating in eligible learning abroad experiences. Support is currently being sought from alumni and friends of the school to continue and expand the reach of the award. To find out more about this, contact Kalyb Masoe-Hewitt, Development Coordinator at or 03 3692915.

This story was originally published in the 2023 edition of Tīpako magazine

Find out more about global opportunities at UC Business School

What to read next
Privacy Preferences

By clicking "Accept All Cookies", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.