Past student exchange stories

Hear from past Language Study Abroad students about how their experiences changed their lives.


My name is Connie and I spent last summer in Kunming, Yunnan, China. Yunnan is the home of the city of 'eternal spring' and Shangri-la, heaven on earth. Because of the distance from the capital, there is less English spoken and I was able to fully immerse myself in the language. I lived in the university district, which was full of interesting cafes, shops and street stalls, and the night markets that are quickly closed down at the sight of the police strolling the streets. Whilst I was in Yunnan, I travelled throughout the province to many of the smaller villages and rural areas. I visited Lijiang, a UNESCO heritage site—it is an ancient Chinese village that has been retained in its original form and Tiger Leaping Gorge, hailed as the eight wonder of the world. I also went to Shanghai, a complete juxtaposition to my previous experiences, where I saw towering skyscrapers and amazing wealth. There is no other way to learn Chinese than to go to its homeland—language learning is not scripted, you adjust to hurried and dense accents and learn to piece together information through necessity. I would thoroughly recommend this opportunity.


My name is Emma and I was granted the incredible opportunity to travel to Italy by the School of Languages and Cultures' WFHSS Study Abroad for Language Learners course. If I had to look at my life on a timeline, the summer that has just been would, hands down, be the highlight of my entire existence. I was placed in small town Perugia, but activity was everywhere. Italy is a world to explore the senses—food, architectural beauty, rhythmic language and people, people, people. I loved every minute of it. The mornings were filled with intense language learning classes, which improved my conversational Italian markedly, while the rest of my time was spent recreationally. I read Italian books from the market, layered myself up in ten thousand layers (thank heavens, because I may have been indulging too much), and got up to mischief with all the foreigners in Perugia, Roma, Palermo, and Bologna—places I’d read all about and finally got to see. I am so grateful for the lifelong friends I made who I Skype heaps, miss even more, and will definitely visit in their birth countries one day. If you want to apply then just go for it, because no matter what language you learn, the culture difference is fun beyond your wildest dreams.


My name is Felicity, I am a BA student majoring in history with a minor in French. During the past summer, I had the opportunity to travel to New Caledonia, a French speaking territory in the Pacific. I was nervous before I left, as I was the only student participating from Victoria University of Wellington, but I made some excellent friends from both Australia and New Zealand. While in New Caledonia, I participated in a three week French course, as well as having time to explore the beaches and markets. I feel that through this course, my French has improved drastically, particularly my ability to express myself orally, as well as my listening skills. The classes were interesting, and definitely challenged me and left me with a sense of achievement by the final week. Aside from class work, we went snorkeling off the beautiful reef, cycling in the national park and visited several museums, including the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. I would recommend this course to any student who wishes to challenge their language skills in a French environment.


My name is Hanneke and I am studying a conjoint programme in Law and Chinese. I have been lucky enough to participate in two courses over the summer trimester study. Firstly, in Beijing for one month. The language course coupled with the adventures and challenges of living in Beijing was a fantastic way to improve Chinese and also just have a lot of fun. After completing my second year of Chinese and realising how much my Chinese had improved in Beijing, I decided that I could not miss the opportunity to go back to China, so enrolled in the School of Languages and Cultures' WFHSS Study Abroad for Language Learners. In Kunming, we were living right in the University campus and mingling with Chinese students everyday. There was a lot of opportunity to practise bartering with shopkeepers and lots of exciting new foods to try. With such long summer holidays, the study abroad courses are the perfect opportunity to really get ahead and get inspired about studying languages.


My name is Henrietta. My ‘summer’ was spent in wintery Düsseldorf. I had an inkling that immersion was what I needed to improve my German, but the benefits I noticed after my short seven weeks were far beyond what I could have ever guessed at. I had the opportunity to study at an international language school where I met great people, and in my spare time got to travel around the country as well visiting six German cities all up. My confidence and fluency in the language has improved markedly and I am now able to have much deeper and more interesting interactions with people when speaking German. I also had the unique and invaluable experience of tracing my family history and making connections with relatives there as my Grandmother’s family were refugees from Cologne. It was great knowing that the effort I put into the trip and my study would also contribute to my degree. The work I did for the WFHSS points gave me the chance to reflect on an intense, important experience. My time in Düsseldorf proved to me the huge advantages and value in language learning as a key to culture and history. It has left me looking for a way back.


My name is Rebecca and I spent three incredible weeks in January in Jaén, Spain. In Jaén, I studied a language course at the local university. The classes were good, but long (5 hours a day, but with breaks)—I would always look forward to lunch in the university cafeteria after (for less than 5€ you could get a plate of food, a drink and a small dessert). I also met another Kiwi over there and we quickly became very good friends. In my free time, I enjoyed walking around the city with my new friend and discovering my temporary home. The food there is cheap, most nights for dinner I would buy a drink or two and eat the free tapas or buy some extra food to go with it—still cheap and it was nearly always very tasty. In the weekends, I visited Cordoba, Ubeda and Seville—making the most of the local trains and buses. My time in Spain gave me a better understanding of the culture as well as improving my language skills—I would recommend this experience to anyone wondering what to do over the summer, it truly changed my life.


My name is Schyana, and in the NZ summer holidays I flew halfway around the world to Kassel, in the middle of Germany! I was lucky enough to have been awarded a DAAD “Winterkurs” scholarship to take part in an intensive German language course. I also enrolled in the Study Abroad for Language Learners Programme FHSS 310 while I was there. From December 2014 to February 2015, I engaged in classes organised by the “Institut für Sprachen (IfS)”. During my time, I not only greatly improved my German language skills—I was immersed in the culture, enjoying getting to know the people, the food, and the beautiful landscapes. I also learnt some useful “Alltagssprache” (everyday language), and made so many friends from all over the globe, who shared my passion for German. I even got to travel on the weekends, visiting Paris, Straβburg, and Amsterdam for the first time ever! My time in Germany was so valuable and worthwhile, and I cannot wait to go back—ich liebe Deutschland! I would highly recommend applying for the Study Abroad Programme. It is an incredible opportunity that you can put towards your degree, and is guaranteed to lead to unforgettable experiences.


My name is Sian and last November I spent a month in Kunming, China. It was an exciting prospect to immerse myself in a new culture and enhance my language skills. The School of Languages and Cultures' WFHSS Study Abroad for Language Learners course provided a balance between study and exploration of the city. Fifteen hours a week were spent in class, speaking Chinese and learning reading and writing skills. Afternoons and weekends were spent exploring markets, shops, plentiful street side food stalls and diversity of this multi-cultural city. I was also able to visit other cities like nearby Dali, which is an astoundingly beautiful and clean village-like city. By the time I left, I felt so much more confident in using the language skills I had learnt as well as learning a lot about a completely different culture to my own—it challenges you to think more deeply about the world we live in. Overall, I had an exciting and worthwhile exchange to China, and would highly recommend it to other students looking for a new and challenging experience.


My name is Summer and I am a BA student majoring in Japanese and Media Studies. This summer, I studied at the specialised languages and international relations Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS). By taking the School of Languages and Cultures' WFHSS Study Abroad for Language Learners course, I was able to challenge and improve my language skills through the three hour morning classes taught entirely in Japanese, as well as build confidence in speaking Japanese through small, everyday interactions, such as asking for help in train stations, ordering off menus and talking with shop assistants. Through this unique opportunity, I was able to experience many different sides of Japanese culture, including shopping for Lolita fashion in Harajuku, traditional hospitality at a ryokan with a hot spring in Nikko, enjoying the architecture and serenity of the Toshogu Shrine complex and visiting Hachiko amongst the hustle and bustle of neon and people in Shibuya, as well as everyday life attending a prestigious university, commuting and buying conbini dinners. I recommend this course as a chance not only to improve language skills, but to experience and appreciate a totally different culture as well as a personal challenge. I also highly recommend the katsu curry at the TUFS cafeteria!


My name is Trish and in January I travelled to Jaén, a provincial capital in Andalucia, Spain, to attend a 3 week Spanish intensive course at the university. There is a mandatory placement exam on the first day, but there is an opportunity to discuss your placement if you are not happy with their assessment. The course has one 5–6 hour class each day with the same teacher throughout, and a final exam. I was in a class of 14 students from 7 different countries. It is a modern university with 18,000 students, but January is exam month, and there aren’t many students around. I liked Jaén, it was traditional in many ways, with an interesting historic centre with remnants of the Roman and Moorish eras, an afternoon “siesta”, free tapas with drinks and late meals. People were friendly and helpful. I stayed in a pensión near the station and it was a half hour walk to the university and 5 minutes to the main shopping street. It is easy to visit nearby cities, like Córdoba, Granada and Úbeda during the weekends. I found it to be an incredible experience, with everything in Spanish—English is just not an option anywhere in the city! I learnt a lot, I made many good friends and I came away with much more confidence from the 3 weeks of using Spanish naturally both in the classroom and in daily life.