The grass is literally greener

The grass is literally greener

At the start of 2022, first-year American student Ali Cook was in London wondering when the NZ border would open. In March she got a life-changing phone call—she was off to study in Wellington. In this myView blog Ali talks about her lucky break and how she’s finding life in the capital.

Ali stands in front of the University’s iconic Hunter Building, which sits in the centre of the Kelburn campus and once housed the entire University in the early 1900s. 

Choosing New Zealand and Wellington’s iconic university 

Kia Ora, I’m Ali Cook and I’m originally from Charlotte, North Carolina.

I had always dreamed of coming to Aotearoa. When I first started researching university options during COVID-19 lockdown, I thought—now is the time to live out my dream. I study politics and I figured the capital city would be the best place to go. I fell in love with everything Wellington has to offer even though I hadn’t been here yet! Te Herenga Waka appealed for its diverse international community and global-civic approach. I wanted to be joining a community of people who know what it’s like to be far from home.

I got my acceptance while the NZ international border was still closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. I started Trimester 1 online and combined my studies with a whole new adventure—backpacking around Europe and then moving to London. I stayed with a family friend there and waited for the good news. Online study went smoothly but I couldn’t wait to get here for real…

Discovering the delights of the capital

When I arrived in Wellington, I knew I’d made the right choice. I was quickly exploring the waterfront and weekly farmer’s market, as well as checking out the national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa. I found that Lambton Quay and the vibrant Cuba Street area are great places to hang with friends and go to local events. Wellington is a very accepting city and very colourful. You can wear what you want to wear, be who you want to be, and nobody’s going to judge you. You never have to worry about someone’s opinion, because it doesn’t really matter! Everyone’s doing their own thing here. It’s laid back and genuinely cool. 

Ali really likes cats—which makes the Kelburn campus a perfect study destination, with a few friendly cats basking in the sun around campus. 

Study, life in a hall of residence, and then going flatting with my friends

When I first arrived at my hall of residence, they somehow knew an American girl was coming. A friendly guy called Sam knocked on every door in the hall to figure out which one was mine so he could introduce himself to me. It’s the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me.

It’s gestures like that which make a hall community great. When you see a new face, you always say hello or strike up a conversation, which makes it easy to make friends. My flatmates are all people I met in the hall! Since we moved into a house together, we’ve enjoyed touring different parts of Wellington and it’s been fun having them on this new part of the journey.

Great university staff and friends mean I always feel like support is close by

At uni, my study schedule provides a good work-life balance. It’s nice to have tutorials to ask questions, meet people, and go deeper into the subject matter.  It can feel like a big deal to move to a new place and pick up your studies somewhere else. I’ve found the lecturers and staff here to be incredibly helpful. There are staff who you know you can go to for anything. If you’re thinking about making the shift to Wellington, my advice is simple: Make the most of the opportunity to have a fresh start in a supportive environment!

Ali Cook stands at her favourite spot on the Kelburn campus, a path behind the Student Union building that offers students a sweeping view of the city harbour. 

What I’m looking forward to now

Looking towards the future, I want to keep growing here in the Wellington. I love the city and everything here and I would love to get involved in the PhD community. I still stay in contact with family and friends back home and we’re all confident that I’m in the right place for me and my journey.

Finally, I’d just like to say that there is a possibility for a life in other places, even if you can’t picture it because you haven’t had it yet. What’s meant to be in your life will follow you here. Don’t let anything hold you back.

Interested in hearing more about international students’ experiences at Victoria University of Wellington? Reach out to one of our International Student Ambassadors 

Ali Cook is a first-year student studying for a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science and Philosophy

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