Dutch national Sem Eijwoudt was two years into a degree in physical education at Fontys Sporthogeschool Eindhoven when the opportunity arose to study overseas.
“As part of my study in the Netherlands, we’re free to study whatever we want for one semester,” Sem explains. “I love adventures, travelling and nature, so I decided to go to New Zealand. I chose to study at Ara because it has a partnership with my school, and it offers a programme in sustainability and outdoor education with some very nice courses.”
Those courses involved getting out into some wild locations around the South Island of New Zealand. Sem rates these experiences as highlights of his exchange.
“The five day tramp was really cool. We walked 80km, climbed mountains, crossed rivers, had lunch in the most beautiful spots, slept in huts, played cards, got soaked in the rain, got dry again, learned new skills and most of all, we had a lot of fun throughout the trip. Everyone on my programme was very kind and relaxed, and during our trips we got to know each other better and spend quality time together.”
Sem enjoyed the practical nature of his studies at Ara. “Instead of just learning things out of books and in the classroom, you actually get to experience and see all the things that you learn. This practical way of learning makes it easier and way more fun to learn new things. In my opinion, this should be done much more in schools. Also, the tutors are very helpful; if you need them, they’re there for you. They create an environment in which you can learn efficiently and it’s OK to make mistakes and to learn from them.”
Sem says there was a good atmosphere at the city campus in Christchurch. “You feel an international vibe because there are lots of international students, and there are lots of different people generally because of all the different programmes that are offered.”
Sem is now back in the Netherlands completing his physical education degree before deciding on his next step. Whatever that next step is though, he knows one thing. “My time in New Zealand taught me to enjoy life as much as possible, to not worry too much and to cherish the time you have with friends, family and loved ones. Do the things that make you happy and live your life your way.”