My Space Anthropology: A Journey Of Learning From India To New Zealand

My Space Anthropology: A Journey Of Learning From India To New Zealand

Sherin Jose talks about her transformative, unplanned journey from India to New Zealand in the field to study and understand humans.

Sherin JoseUpdated: Monday, July 01, 2024, 12:19 PM IST
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Sherin Jose |

I never thought of pursuing another qualification, especially from abroad. While working at a CSR company, I realised studying anthropology would enhance my perspective and approach in the social or community welfare sector.

This was followed by applications, and with the support of my family, I boarded a 27-hour flight.

New Zealand is beautiful, and the Kiwis are welcoming and polite. I appreciate cultural differences, and it's a key skill in anthropology.

Education system

Attending the carefully planned orientation week before classes commence is a fun way to meet fellow students as you complete your enrolment process.

The first day of class is usually a nerve-racking ordeal. Not knowing who to expect in class as your classmate in the chair beside you or as your lecturer on the podium in front of you is frustrating. But the ice broke within minutes in my ethnically diverse classroom environment. By the end of the second lecture, we had WhatsApp groups to pop a ‘hi’ or discuss the course content. As we covered topics, especially in a course like Anthropology, we found ourselves saying, ‘Oh really, that happens in my country too’ or ‘That’s interesting, this is perceived very differently in my home country.’ All this to say, that we quickly realised that we are not that different after all.

The teaching styles of New Zealand and India differ, that necessitated a change in my learning approach as well. Adapting to the academic language was a learning experience, and within a semester, I had grasped it. I also expected our readings to be based only on experiences in New Zealand. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find course readings incorporated texts from India and other countries, making all international students feel included and not isolated.

The lecturers for my course are extremely professional yet approachable, along being flexible and fun. They are not unaware of the struggles of an international student and go beyond their professional limits to help students. I recommend building good bonds with your lecturers and tutors to improve your studies. The unwavering support of my lectures and the encouraging nudge from my classmates have made my academic journey worthwhile.

Highlights of my journey

Discovering my ability to live independently, along with my studies, has been the biggest highlight of my journey. Becoming part of the New Zealand community through various volunteer roles has helped me find purpose beyond academics while staying true to it.

Initially in New Zealand, everything felt new and exciting vibrant culture, campus, friendly people, and stunning scenery. Over time, I discovered scenic gems like Hamilton Gardens and learned to appreciate the little things, like the friendly neighbourhood cafes or the incredible night sky. It has definitely become a place I call home away from home.

I am staying very close to the campus, which allows me to access the campus amenities at any time, ensuring I am always on time for lectures. All essential amenities for an international student, including Indian shops, convenience stores, cafes, laundromats, bus stops, ATMs, garages, parks, sports clubs, and the gym, can be accessed on foot. Other shopping centres and restaurants are an easy car or bus ride away. 

New lifestyle and homesickness

Although living alone can be liberating, it can also become overwhelming at times. Eating a comfort meal, in my opinion, immediately uplifts your mood and transports you back home. Funnily, my flatmate’s meals, more than mine, taste exactly like homecooked meals, so I do not miss my mother’s meals very much.

Alternatively, I decided to never be too busy for my connections back home. So, talking to your family, speaking your Indian regional language, and hosting virtual watch parties are some things I do from time to time. Participating in the many cultural events at The University of Waikato is also a fantastic way to meet fellow Indians and feel at home. The considerate and generous sense of community in New Zealand also makes it easier to manage the feelings of loneliness that we naturally experience. 

Challenges faced in New Zealand

I am grateful to not have faced any significant challenges as an international student. Help was always a call away. If a student can cook their meals (and it is advisable to learn basic kitchen skills), there should not be any challenge. Alternatively, there are cafes, restaurants, and tiffin services that are easily accessible.  In the beginning, I bought groceries for a month, but with a busy university schedule, I found it more efficient to shop on the days I intended to cook and only buy the ingredients and quantity needed for that cooking day.

It took me a few months to learn about fixed expenses. To meet those expenses, I have been working part-time, mainly as a tutor at the university. The other way to save money is to look out for deals with student discounts and sales. Keep an eye out for activities arranged by the different clubs at the university, which are usually free or at a highly subsidised fare.

Advise for prospective students 

Firstly, I commend your willingness to study abroad! I strongly recommend studying abroad - if you can, you should. 

If it is your first experience away from family, in a culture different from India:

·   Prepare yourselves mentally for the changes that are a flight away.

·       Expand your friendships beyond your local Indian communities – include the locals in your inner circle.

·       Politely yet confidently ask locals to repeat slowly, if the accent is a challenge – most locals are considerate and willing to help.

·       There will be some things beyond your control but that does not make you a failure. It takes courage to cope and move towards success. Keep at it.

The author is pursuing MA in Anthropology from University of Waikato, New Zealand

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