Returning to Aotearoa New Zealand—my journey

Returning to Aotearoa New Zealand—my journey

After going home to China to be with family during the pandemic, international student Rachel Dong wasn’t sure if she’d make it back to Wellington to finish her degree in person. Thankfully, the Government’s border exemption meant she could return to her studies here at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, having studied online for most of 2020. In this myView blog post, she describes how the journey unfolded.

A gift from the hotel congratulating me on completing the first week of Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ).

Studying in Wellington—the first time around…

Hi, I’m Rachel. I’m an international student here at the University in my final year of doing a double major in Psychology and Criminology.

Moving to Wellington in 2019 and making new friends taught me so much about my own potential. After starting as a Commerce student, I’ve decided to change my career path and pursue Science instead. Like a lot of other students at Te Herenga Waka, I was in New Zealand during the COVID-19 lockdown last year and had to transfer my studies online.

My year took a challenging turn when I had to go back to China for family reasons. It was an exhausting journey flying home and I was anxious about wearing a mask the whole time during the long flight. It was also difficult getting on the plane knowing I might not be able to come back any time soon.

My favourite place to hang out and have conversations with my friends—the big stairs in the Hub at Kelburn campus.

While in China, I stayed enrolled at the University and continued my studies online. It was better than I expected—I realised I could concentrate better with online studies than being in an auditorium filled with people. Obviously, I would have preferred to have the choice of studying at campus, and the social life that goes with that but that wasn’t possible for me last year.

Staying connected to the University was easy because of the daily emails I got. The University’s social media pages helped me stay up to date with what was going on in Wellington. The hardest part was that most of my lectures were around 5 am, which meant I needed to wake up at least around 4 am to do some revisions and get ready. It all turned out to be worth it though. Throughout the experience, meditation helped a lot. I was also able to keep in touch with my friends via social media which was a blessing.

Returning in 2021—MIQ and getting back to life as a Wellingtonian.


In April, I found out about the Government’s border exemption for international students. I was excited for this announcement! I completed my application with the help of V-ISA (the International Students’ Association) and the Wellington University International office. They helped me with the process of returning to New Zealand and provided useful information along the way.  

The view from my window at the MIQ facility in Rotorua, where I spent two weeks after returning to New Zealand.

Luckily for me, my experience of coming through Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) wasn’t too bad.  A typical day at MIQ started at 7 am, when I would have my breakfast. Then I’d do uni work on my laptop and wait for my temperature test at 9 am. After that I’d go for a walk in the back yard. Lunch was served at 11 am, and dinner at 6 pm. Everybody was expected to follow the rules and those rules were all for good reasons.

I checked out of MIQ in May. I was delighted to reunite with my friends again, and I’m so grateful to be back continuing my studies here. My advice to other international students is to reach out to the international office or V-ISA if you have any questions, and to hold on to the hope of returning! There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Rachel Dong is a third-year student from China. She’s studying for a Bachelor of Science majoring in Psychology and Criminology.

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