UC’s virtual graduates get to celebrate IRL in record-breaking graduation week

11 December 2020

The University of Canterbury (UC) is hosting two special Graduation Celebrations on Monday 14 December for hundreds of graduates who missed graduating in person in April and again in September.

Ella Austin completed a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours

UC Engineering graduate Ella Austin celebrated her virtual April graduation alone in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

UC’s annual April Graduation ceremonies were cancelled and a special September Graduation celebration was postponed due to the pandemic lockdown and change in alert levels.

Timmy Kwok, who graduated from UC in 2019 with a Bachelor of Criminal Justice degree, organised a virtual graduation ceremony on Zoom for friends who had been due to take part in UC’s April Graduation ceremonies, and graduated in absentia.

“Organising the virtual graduation was extremely rewarding,” he says. “Being able to celebrate my friends’ achievements with family and friends was a great experience.”

Many of the virtual graduates are celebrating in real life (IRL) in UC’s record-breaking December Graduation week at the Christchurch Town Hall. Almost 3000 graduates and graduands will cross the stage in six graduation ceremonies and two celebrations from 14-18 December. (1News story here.)

Among the virtual graduates crossing the stage IRL on Monday will be:

Ella Austin, Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Civil Engineering and a Diploma of Global Humanitarian Engineering

My graduation celebrations during lockdown were by myself in a quarantine hotel in Auckland as I arrived back into New Zealand from working in Washington DC two days into Level 4 lockdown. The Pullman Hotel sent me a small bottle of champagne after my Mum called to pass on congratulations on the day of the April graduation! It was lovely but quite a lonely celebration, which makes me extra excited to share the graduation celebrations with friends and family.

 I’m looking forward to continuing with the Downer NZ graduate program and gaining experience in different sectors of civil engineering. It’s amazing how many different opportunities are out there! In the future, I hope to pursue further qualifications in development engineering (thanks UC for introducing me!) and gain experience overseas. My UC degree has already opened doors abroad when I worked for Stantec in Washington DC in the same office as a UC alumni! The world really is a crazy place.

What were the highlights of your time studying at UC?
One of the things I really appreciated about my study with UC was the opportunities that courses gave me to get out of the classroom to get hands-on, practical experience. As an Engineering student, this was an ideal way to learn and develop skills for my career. Two of the highlights from my time at UC were a 10-day practical block course as a part of the Diploma of Global Humanitarian Engineering and the 4-day survey camp that all Civil and Natural Resource Engineering students complete as a part of ENCN261. Both of these experiences gave me the opportunity to work in an engineering environment with my peers and solve problems in real time, as well as discover new areas of engineering I found I was interested in! I still look back on the lessons I learnt in these courses to help me with engineering problems I encounter as a part of my graduate position.

My exchange to the University of Sheffield was a really special part of my time as a UC student. The UC Outbound Exchange Award kickstarted my exchange and enabled me to travel around Europe while studying in the UK. The people who I met abroad (including my now partner!), as well as my UC friends who I travelled with, really made my exchange a phenomenal experience. From freedom camping in the snow in Scotland, to exploring Russian subway stations, to Italian summer nights and everything in between, travelling on exchange was an unmissable experience that UC provided me with (I promise I did some study in there somewhere!). The University of Sheffield also had courses in subjects that UC doesn’t cover, so it was a great way to diversify my degree (although you need to carefully check the entry requirements to courses at exchange universities!)

Will you be joined by friends and family for the Graduation celebration?
I’m excited to share the success in completing my qualifications with my friends and family at the graduation celebration, assuming it can go ahead. My family were a big support from back home and my friends were the ones who dragged me through studying in those tough times when I really needed it!

What are you up to now?
I have been working as a graduate engineer for Downer NZ since the end of the first lockdown. I get to work on site full time as a part of their environmental team on the Turitea Windfarm, which has been a challenging and rewarding placement. It has been great to put my engineering skills to work and see the impact that I can make as part of the team.

Victoria Watt, Bachelor of Science majoring in Geography & Environmental Science

What were the highlights of your time studying at UC?
Where to begin! I was first enticed to study at UC by getting the Go Canterbury Scholarship where I was able to meet heaps of cool people and go on trips to get to know Canterbury! I was then offered the opportunity to be a Go Canterbury Student Leader for the remaining two years of University, and was supporting first-year students as they navigate their new learning and social environment. During my studies I became the secretary of the Geography Society which was awesome to get more involved with my degree and the people in it! There has been so many highlights from my time at UC and I am so grateful for the experience!

What are you up to now?
I am super stoked to be working as a Consents Planner at Environment Canterbury (ECan). ECan has been a great first job out of University, with a great culture and plenty of mentoring and learning opportunities. As well as job security during the uncertain times of Covid and being able to work throughout the lockdown in a home office situation.

What’s next?
I am hoping to get some more work experience and save some money to travel, if the world ever opens up again! I am otherwise pretty happy to progress in my career at ECan.

For further information please contact:

UC Communications team, media@canterbury.ac.nz, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168

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