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Published by Afterschool.my on Dec 13, 2021, 03:14 pm
Starting their journey from Sarawak to Christchurch
Choosing the right university can be a challenge for many people, but not for the Kiddney siblings who hail from Miri, Sarawak. Their reason for choosing the University of Canterbury in the South Island of New Zealand was simple - UC had the exact courses they were looking for that would give them favourable career opportunities, and thus began their tertiary education journey almost 9,000 kilometres away from their hometown of Miri.
Janice and Greg Kiddney, two Malaysian Iban siblings currently studying at the University of Canterbury in the city of Christchurch, share their strong sense of connection to the land and the experiences that make New Zealand the perfect destination to pursue their degrees.
New Zealand (also known as Aotearoa (which means the Land of the Long White Cloud in Maori ) is quickly emerging as one of the places to study. Besides being a beautiful country that is rich in the Maori culture and filled with memorable adventures, New Zealand is home to some of the world’s top universities.
Inspired by the first female Iban psychologist, Cecelia Essau, Janice is currently pursuing her Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, where she recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Psychology in 2020.
Learning Beyond the Classroom
Greg on the other hand decided to pursue his undergraduate studies in Geography and Environmental Science as he has always been passionate about the interactions between humans and the natural environment and its impact. He joined the university in early 2020 and is currently in his second year of study.
Greg shares, “The skills and experience I’ve gained throughout my time in New Zealand, and my degree have made me highly employable globally and across different industries.
“New Zealand is also an excellent outdoor backyard for those wanting to study the Natural/Physical Sciences. There are different climatic zones and natural landscapes in New Zealand, which diversify the type of learning I receive in the areas of Geography and Environmental Science. Furthermore, there are natural hazards throughout Aotearoa (for example, earthquakes) that I can study, especially its impact on communities,” says Greg.
Elaborating that New Zealand offers a good balance when it comes to educating its students, Janice says, “The tertiary education system in New Zealand does not focus solely on the academic side of things, it also showcases consideration towards a student’s wellbeing as a person.”
Greg chimes, “You get to travel throughout the country with your friends, meet a diverse range of people in your time here, and constantly learn something new about New Zealand. I went on multiple hikes throughout the Canterbury region with Uni mates who also enjoy the great outdoors!”
Greg Kiddney during a surveying field trip
Janice echoes her brother’s feelings about studying in New Zealand saying, “It’s such an amazing experience as there are many opportunities where you can discuss with your lecturers about your ideas or ask questions without hesitation. The lecturers and tutors are very engaging and non-judgemental. Not only that, guest lecturers (in my case, clinical psychologists) were also open to having discussions after class. This provides you with a realistic prospect on what is expected in the working world.”
Greg elaborates, “It’s a safe and innovative environment to learn something new every day. You will get opportunities to discuss your understanding and engage your ideas with the lecturers. Also, you can challenge your lecturer’s point of view. This environment makes UC a university that values diverse ideas, creativity, and strong connections with the university whanau (family).”
In addition to that, New Zealand has an excellent range of scholarships and post-study offers for international students who are work-ready and wish to continue living in New Zealand after graduation.
Whanau means Family
The siblings had wonderful experiences meeting and interacting with people from around the world and learning about the different cultures. “New Zealand is very accepting when it comes to having students from different cultural backgrounds. I discovered a new and extended whanau (family) here,” Janice says, further elaborating that when she first moved into the university accommodation, having an accepting student body helped in creating the balanced lifestyle she so thoroughly enjoys.
Greg, who joined UC after his sister shares a similar experience, but one that is further enhanced by having his sibling by his side. “My sister has always been a strong supporter of whatever I’ve done. She’s part of my close circle, and having a sibling helped me adjust well to my life in New Zealand,” he says.
Janice adds on explaining that New Zealand is a really great place to have your family by your side because it is a society that places emphasis on the importance of family relationships.
A shared appreciation for indigenous heritage
As Malaysians, Janice and Greg found parallels between both their home and host countries. New Zealand’s inclusion of the Maori principle of Manaakitanga (which means hospitality, kindness, generosity or support for others) resonated with the siblings’ own indigenous culture.
Janice and Greg have roots in the rich indigenous Iban community. Greg explained that from a geographical and environmental science standpoint, both the Iban and Maori communities share a traditional ecological understanding or knowledge of the land.
Janice (left) in the traditional clothes of her Iban community from Sarawak, Malaysia.
“Both Maori and Iban are indigenous people, both groups are obligated to protect and nurture the surrounding natural environment,” says Greg.
“While ‘Pulau Galau’ (local term used in reference to the preservation of native lands) is seen as a legal act within Sarawak, it shares the same value of Kaitiakitanga (guardianship and protection). Both communities believe in caring and protecting an area such as a lake, river, or forest. In Maori culture, this role has been allocated to an iwi (meaning tribe in Maori),” he elaborates.
Continuing to draw further similarities between the two cultures, Janice raised the example of the Maori health model and the familial traditions of the Iban.
“The Maori health model, known as Te Whare Tapa Wha, consists of four cornerstones made up of whanau (family), taha tinana (physical health), taha wairua (spiritual health) and taha hinengaro (mental health). If an individual does not have any of these cornerstones stable, the person needs guidance on making sure his pillar is stable.
“To shed some light how this is very similar to Iban people: the longhouse (A long communal village house traditionally built on stilts. These communal houses may contain up to 100 individual families in separate ‘apartments’) was built to strengthen family connection, rituals were performed to strengthen spiritual health because we connect deeply with our land (so do the Maori).
“Mental health was looked after by carrying each other when one does not feel strong and physical health is always taken care of due to the nature of being hard labourers back in the day. It is amazing to find a home away from home, to find a place where there is a level of understanding that needs no explanation. To see how our traditions and customs were very similar to those of the Maori culture was such an eye-opening experience.”
The hongi is the traditional Maori greeting which involves two people pressing their noses and foreheads together.
Greg opines that learning about the Maori culture has enriched his student experience through his interactions with different communities in New Zealand. Being Sarawakian, he is no stranger to seeing different ethnic groups work, live and communicate with each other harmoniously in Malaysia, and he is glad that he can find such a culture in New Zealand as well.
“New Zealand is proud to be a place where people from different walks of life can safely interact with one another and receive a world-class education. This means that everyone gets the same opportunity, regardless of who they are. Multiculturalism in academia is celebrated, by welcoming different ideas on particular topics and by encouraging students to discuss why different people have such beliefs,” shares Greg.
The activities held at UC is further testament to this fact. Multiculturism is celebrated in various ways through events on campus such as Language of Choice Week, International Food Festivals and International Fashion Shows, amongst others.
Janice and Greg, who are making the most of their academic experience in New Zealand, encourage school leavers who are deciding on where they should study to give New Zealand an opportunity.
“Definitely give New Zealand a go as it will never cease to amaze you, not only in your personal growth but career growth as well,” says Janice.
For more information on how to Study with New Zealand, click HERE.
Thinking of applying to a New Zealand University? Speak to an ENZ Recognised Agency in Malaysia HERE.