Testimonials of Students
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Thariq Rifki

Diploma in Information and Communications Technology (Applied) Level 5

International student Thariq RifkiThariq Rifki says his UCOL qualification, the Diploma in Information and Communications Technology, helped him a lot in finding his job as Help Desk Analyst at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.

Before coming to study in New Zealand, Sri Lankan born Thariq completed a Diploma in Computer Hardware Engineering and was inspired to pursue a career in IT.

The 21 year old says he did a lot of research on study options before finally deciding on UCOL. He also met Bruce Osborne, UCOL’s Director of International Business, in person at a seminar in his home country Sri Lanka, and was able to discuss the opportunities available to him.

“My time at UCOL was challenging, interesting and enjoyable. The lecturers and staff were always nice, friendly and very helpful,” says Thariq. “I found that the study was very hands-on and practical and this gave me lots of practice before entering the IT industry”.

“Because UCOL is situated in the centre of Palmerston North, the ‘Student City’ of New Zealand, it makes things much easier as everything is within a short distance. Palmerston North is the best place to be a student,” he says.

Thariq missed his family when he first came to New Zealand but he soon made many new friends and that helped him a lot. “My parents have been right behind me, especially my Mum, and have supported me in the successes I have achieved so far.”

In his job at the Open Polytechnic, Thariq has the opportunity to learn new systems with the support of the Senior Engineers. He also assists the students, staff and adjunct markers deal with technical difficulties.

“Another great part about my job is that, as a staff member, I am able to enrol in any Open Polytechnic course free of charge!”

Thariq intends to build on his IT skills in his current role, and work towards a senior position in the company.

Roe Cie Soon

Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design Level 7

International student Roe Cie SoonBachelor of Computer Graphic Design student at UCOL, Roe Cie Soon has wanted to study in New Zealand since she was a child. “I love the environment in New Zealand and UCOL Whanganui has the best environment for studying because there is the Whanganui River right beside the school as well as quite a few art galleries nearby”, she said.

Before coming to New Zealand Roe Cie lived in Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur and worked in an art studio. “I enjoyed my work but studying in UCOL is much more enjoyable”, she said.

Roe Cie has enjoyed drawing and painting since she was a child. She still loves it and feels a sudden peacefulness come over her whenever she starts to draw. She enjoys travelling as well as drawing and says that is why she is at UCOL in New Zealand, “so I can apart to a different culture and be inspired by it.”

She says one of the best parts of studying at UCOL is the wonderful library with many collections of design books that she finds very useful for her study.

When Roe Cie graduates in 2013 her future goal is simple: “To enjoy life, while doing what I love.”

UCOL’s Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design is jointly awarded by the Whanganui School of Design and the University of Waikato in recognition of the design technology and research relationship established between both institutions.

Gilbert Hilario

Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN-BN) Level 7

Gilbert Hilario has used his New Zealand Nursing registration to secure a job in the Vascular and Colorectal surgery ward at Palmerston North Hospital.

Gilbert was a registered nurse in the Philippines and came to New Zealand to study Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses and Short Course Competency Assessment Program to attain his New Zealand Nursing Registration.

He started UCOL’s Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN-BN) at UCOL in September last year and was invited to join the Short Course Competency Assessment Programme. “I did the RN-BN simultaneously with the CAP course,” he says. “It was hard work but now I have my registration, I can do the job I love.”

The 28 year old says there’s nothing he would rather be than a nurse. “Nursing is fun and of course stressful,” says Gilbert. “The best part is seeing your patients get well. Especially when they tell you how much they appreciate the care you’ve given them.”

Hans Peter Hartl

Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN-BN) Level 7

International student Hans Peter HartlForty two year old Hans says his decision to study towards his RN BN qualification in New Zealand was easy.

“UCOL offered the academic pathway I was looking for towards my nursing registration,” he says. The fact that his wife could work and his young children could go to school here during his yearlong study was also a determining factor.

Hans worked in the Mental Health field in Germany for 20 years, six of those as a nurse manager.

He and his wife had visited New Zealand and thought the Kiwi way of life would benefit their young family.

He says the admission process and move to UCOL from his small hometown Metten in Bavaria, was ‘clear and transparent’. His admission process was administered by an agent in India and went very smoothly.

“We were worried about moving to a ‘big city’ as Metten has a population of about 2000,” he says. “But we settled in quickly and really love it here now.” Palmerston North where Hans is studying has a population of around 80,000.

Hans says UCOL’s RN-BN teaching approach has a good structure and guidance. “It is very manageable.”

He hopes to continue working in the mental health field. “It is my passion and where I have all my nursing experience.”

Hans admits getting used to the variety of accents of his RNBN classmates was an unexpected challenge when he first started at UCOL. “We have all ‘grown’ together,” he says.

The RNBN programme attracts nursing students from countries as diverse as China, India, Korea, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Amandeep Sandhu

Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN-BN) Level 7

International student Amandeep SandhuAmandeep has completed her one year RN-BN qualification at UCOL and is now working at MidCentral Health in Palmerston North.

The Indian-born 26 year old came to UCOL as an overseas student to study for the Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN-BN) Level 7, on top of her Indian Nursing qualification. While she studied she worked part time as a caregiver in the hospital wing at the Julia Wallace Retirement Village in Palmerston North.

Amandeep came to UCOL because it is one of the few New Zealand polytechnics that offer the RNBN programme. She thrived in the positive learning environment and made full use of the on-campus facilities. “The Library and the Learning Hub are open until late,” she says. “I lived close to UCOL so it was almost like having all the facilities at home.”

Amandeep shared a flat with a couple who came from near her home in Northern India. “I didn’t miss home because I socialised with other International students from India.”

After she finished her UCOL qualification, Amandeep successfully applied for her New Zealand Nursing registration.

Beyond her work at MidCentral Health she has hopes of one day studying for a Masters in Nursing degree and eventually teaching nursing in the tertiary sector. “I have a dream to work as a teacher at UCOL.” 

Chunsik Eum (Robert)

Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN-BN) Level 7

International student Chunsik Eum (Robert)The lure of New Zealand’s laid back lifestyle and beautiful landscape was a factor in Robert’s decision to study half a world away from his homeland of South Korea.

Robert enrolled for the Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses course at Palmerston North UCOL, a nursing degree upgrade that will took him a year to complete.

Robert qualified as a registered nurse in 2005 at the Red Cross College of Nursing in Seoul and has three years experience working in surgical and burns units in South Korea.

“I wanted to become familiar with the Western nursing environment and practices,” he says. “New Zealand appealed to me and UCOL had the perfect programme to further my career plans.”

Robert received great personal support from the Korean church in Palmerston North he attended regularly. “I also improved my English through the language classes they hold there.”

He was an active member of the local Korean community, playing in their soccer team and enjoying the fellowship of Koreans from all walks of life.

Robert says he benefited from the teaching style at UCOL. “You get guidance but there is the opportunity to think for yourself. You can reflect on what you have learnt and have independent thoughts.”

Ultimately Robert would like to share his nursing skills around the world and work in regional development in underdeveloped countries. 

Qinwen Zhang (Iris)

Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses (RN-BN) Level 7

International student Qinwen ZhangThirty one year old Iris says UCOL’s teaching environment gave her a feeling of independence. “We followed the lecturers’ instructions but they encouraged us to think for ourselves,” she says. She found the approach to self-motivated study gave her freedom and was quite different to her previous nursing study experiences in her homeland of China.

Iris spent five years nursing in China before deciding she wanted to work in an English speaking country. “UCOL was one of the few places in New Zealand where I could study for my RN-BN,” says Iris. “I had also heard about the beautiful landscape and the cost of living is very reasonable.”

Iris spent a year at an English Language School in Christchurch improving her language skills before starting her nursing studies at UCOL’s Palmerston North campus.

Iris felt well supported by UCOL’s Faye Garnham Centre. “The staff at the student support centre were very helpful with practical advice. As an International student, I sometimes needed help to understand the Kiwi way of doing things.”

She enjoyed learning about a different health system and understanding the cultural aspects of nursing in a foreign country. “It was like a bridge between two cultures and helped me feel more comfortable,” she says.

Iris graduated with her RN-BN qualification and completed the Short Course Competency Assessment for Registered Nurses which enabled her to register with Nursing Council New Zealand. “I’d love to get permanent residency and stay here,” she says.

Lakshmi Mahalingam

Diploma in Veterinary Nursing

International student Lakshmi MahalingamLakshmi Mahalingam says the Diploma in Veterinary Nursing at UCOL has exceeded her expectations and the programme’s regular work experience placements are a highlight.

“I spent two weeks at Wellington Zoo last month and it was amazing,” she says. Twenty one year old Lakshmi has always wanted to work with animals. After a short time studying to be a veterinarian in her home city Mumbai in India, she decided that vet nursing suited her better.

“I chose the UCOL programme in Palmerston North because it fitted perfectly with my career aspirations and it costs less to study in New Zealand than other countries,” says Lakshmi.

She is enjoying UCOL’s open learning environment and teaching style, which is different from the approach taken in India. “Here we are free to question and interact with our classmates and lecturers,” she says. “It took a little while to get used to that.”

Lakshmi admits her shyness was a barrier when she first arrived at UCOL in January last year. “I knew no-one and I found it hard to understand the Kiwi accent,” she says. “I just decided to ‘get over it’ and start talking to people.”

That approach has worked and Lakshmi glows with confidence. She now shares a flat with two New Zealanders, regularly tramps with the Massey Alpine Club and is thriving in her vet nursing class.

“I am a different person to the one that arrived here last year.”

Ling Li Lim (Mandy)

Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design

International student Ling Li Lim (Mandy)Ling Li Lim (Mandy) feels she blended the best of both worlds by travelling from her homeland in Malaysia, to study in New Zealand.

Two years at a Malaysian College gave Mandy the basic computer skills and the inspiration to travel abroad to get a Graphic Design degree qualification.

“In Malaysia the emphasis was on gaining the skills and then coming up with the concept.

“UCOL’s Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design programme is more conceptually driven. You learn the skills to make your concept happen,” says Mandy.

“My UCOL lecturers gave me great guidance and support, but I was free to express myself and be creative.”

Previous students recommended the UCOL’s Computer Graphic Design programme to Mandy and she has enjoyed her stay in Whanganui.

“Whanganui is a very easy place to live. I love the fresh air, green trees and grass. And there are four seasons, not like at home when it is hot all year round.”

“It was good to learn to be independent and experience a new culture,” she says.

Mandy is keen to apply her 3D animation skills in the industry. She hopes to work in New Zealand for a year and then return home to Malaysia to establish her career in web or graphic design.

Alvin Liew

Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging

International student Alvin LiewAlvin Liew may miss the food from his homeland of Sabah in Malaysia, but he is thriving on his photographic studies at Palmerston North UCOL.

Alvin arrived in New Zealand in February and began study towards his Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging in Semester One.

The 35 year old completed a three year Diploma in Photography at the Malaysian Institute of Art (MIA) in 1998. He spent the intervening years as a photographer’s assistant and working for a large Malaysian publishing company before deciding to continue his formal photography studies.

Alvin’s previous relevant studies and work experience entitled him to cross credit sufficient papers to earn his UCOL degree after one year of full time study.

On his arrival, Alvin was immediately impressed with the equipment and facilities supplied for the BAVI programme. “International students also receive a lot of support and are encouraged to socialise and experience the New Zealand way of life.”

His decision to study in New Zealand at UCOL was driven by a mixture of course content and financial considerations. “It is cheaper to study in New Zealand than in many other countries,” he says. “The BAVI programme offered me the chance to improve my skills and increase my knowledge.”

Akshay Pandey

National Diploma in Engineering

International student Akshay PandeyAkshay Pandey may be more familiar with living in New Zealand than most International students, but his UCOL studies still provide him with a challenge.

Akshay has been in the country for three years but still remembers his impressions as a new student in Palmerston North.

“The first year was difficult. It was hard getting used to the Kiwi accent and making new friends,” he says. “But I feel comfortable here now. I joined a cricket club and am flatting with other students.”

Akshay originally came to New Zealand from his home in New Delhi India, to pursue his love of flying. He spent one year in aviation industry before deciding to redirect his studies towards electronics and electrical engineering.

He is presently in his second year of the National Diploma in Electrotechnology at Palmerston North UCOL.

“The course is intensive and you have to work hard at it and keep focussed,” he says. “You can’t afford to miss one class.” Akshay says however, the course is taught well and he has received plenty of support from his lecturers. There is a lot of ‘hands on’ practical work, and he has discovered, “If you do it with your hands, it will stay in your brain.”

Understandably Akshay misses his family as he has not been home during his three years of study. He plans to return home for a visit once he graduates from UCOL, and then hopes to continue his studies and earn a degree qualification in electrical engineering.

Chinese Students

Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design

Chinese studentsFive Chinese students from Guanzhou School of Fine Arts are studying for the Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design at UCOL’s Whanganui School of Design.

The five students have already done six months of extra English study at UCOL’s partner English school in Palmerston North (ETC) before starting at the Whanganui School of Design at the end of July in 2009. Li Jiayu said that while the workload at ETC was lighter than they were used to in China, it had helped them to improve their use of English and everyday language.

After ETC, the five students were helped by UCOL’s International Department to settle into their accommodation, find their way around town, and to become familiar with their new environment.

Chris Gibson, the computer graphic design tutor is delighted and impressed with their progress. He credits this to their strong Fine Arts background, their willingness to learn and their ability to work together as a group.

The first few weeks in the classroom at Whanganui School of Design were hard, but one month later they are very comfortable in the classroom and at UCOL. They are all extremely confident that they will be successful students in this programme.

Naween Premadasa

NZ Diploma in Business

International student Naween PremadasaNaween Premadasa gave up a good career and travelled halfway across the world to further his education, but the UCOL graduate says it was all worth it.

“I enrolled at UCOL from Sri Lanka as an international student as I had heard that the class sizes were smaller and the lecturers more approachable because of that.”

The more intimate class size made a great difference when it came to subjects Naween was unfamiliar with.

“I think the UCOL lecturers played a huge role in my success. Accounting was something I had previously thought was too difficult for me to pick up, and now I am a straight A student. The lecturers are very real people with valuable experience.”

The next step is for Naween is to choose the best career path for him and his family. He’s very interested in pursuing a career in accounting.

“I am studying my final paper to be an Accounting Technician which is recognized by NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants and then I can work as an Accounting Technician and also continue with my studies. It will be a step down for a short while but I’m a very competitive person by nature and I know I will get where I want to be in five years time.”

Since this interview Naween has graduated from UCOL and has been proudly presented with the “Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand Award for Excellence in Academic Performance by a Graduating Student in the New Zealand Diploma in Business Programme”

Amornrat Tangkittiphattharaporn

Hospitality, Baking and Pastry and Professional Cookery graduate

International student Amornrat TangkittiphattharapornAn enterprising UCOL graduate has found a recipe for success by blending her native Thai and adopted New Zealand cultures in a cake mixing bowl.

Amornrat Tangkittiphattharaporn, a graduate of UCOL’s Hospitality, Baking and Pastry and Professional Cookery programmes, has now established her own bakery business, Dailylicious, operating from her sister’s Palmerston North restaurant Chada Thai.

Amornrat offers two distinctive cake styles for her Asian and New Zealand customers. “My Asian clients tend to prefer the lighter consistency Thai style cake,” she says. “But Kiwi customers seem to like denser, moister cakes.”

Amornrat was destined to make a career in the food industry. Her parents own a noodle shop back in Thailand, “I grew up with noodles, but my real love is baking,” she confesses.

The 27 year old recently returned to Thailand to participate in a one week short course on cake decorating at the UFM Baking and Cooking School. It was there she perfected the art of crafting flowers from butter cream, a skill that she now uses to adorn her client’s custom made cakes.

She thoroughly enjoyed her culinary studies at UCOL and was particularly impressed with the student kitchen facilities. “It was great having an individual workspace and easy access to cooking equipment and appliances.”

At UCOL Amornrat was also called on to demonstrate some of her Thai cooking techniques to her fellow students when they were studying Asian cooking. “I was happy to share my culture with my classmates.”

Mark Gilbert

Diploma in Furniture Design and Making

International sutdent Mark GilbertMark Gilbert relocated from the UK to New Zealand in 2007 to undertake “the best furniture design and making course of its kind in the world.” Today, he works a technician at UCOL and hopes to one day become a lecturer so he too can ‘Pass On The Passion’.

“In my case it’s what made a man move his wife and three children to the other side of the world, leaving family and friends behind and giving up all that he has ever known,” Mark says. As an international student, Mark’s fees were not subsidised, however he says that the programme is still a lot cheaper than similar courses in the UK.

Mark says that UCOL’s Diploma in Furniture Design and Making has it all. “There was something for all levels and abilities plus the lecturers encourage you to develop your own ideas and style. The passion has been passed on and I’m sure it will always be with me."

“I was looking for a missing piece of my jigsaw but instead I got a whole new jigsaw with many pieces to put into place. I can see what the picture is now.”



Sandeep Singh Rana

National Diploma in Science

International student Sandeep Singh RanaSandeep Singh Rana moved to New Zealand from India in July 2006 to study the National Diploma in Science at UCOL. After completing his studies in three semesters instead of the usual four, Sandeep was offered a job as a lab technician at Fonterra Research Centre in Palmerston North. He now tests milk and milk products for various purposes using different analytical techniques in the chromatography and composition sections of the department.

Sandeep says that the skills he learned at UCOL are directly applied to his new job. “As there is a large practical component it prepared me well for the work I do today,” he says. “It gives a good understanding of scientific concepts and technology.”

In a country like New Zealand where dairy farming is the main part of economy, Sandeep believes that there will always be work opportunities. “Vineries, the meat industry, research centres – they will always need technicians and UCOL offers practical courses that teach the things that are relevant to current industry.”

In the future Sandeep hopes to study management to further his career with Fonterra.


Gurpreet Singh Brar

National Diploma in Electrotechnology Engineering Level 6

International student Gurpreet Singh BrarGurpreet Singh Brar started his second year in the National Diploma in Electrotechnology Engineering, Level 6, at UCOL Palmerston North.

Gurpreet says UCOL is a good place to study and make friends. “The tutors are very good, I have good classmates, and the environment is really friendly.”

He is really enjoying the programme, and when he graduates, his skills will line him up for a career in a strong industry with a wide range of career opportunities. “Electrotechnology is a good career. You can be in power engineering or electronics, or telecommunications. There are so many careers you can go into.”





San San Tan

Veterinary Nursing

Another student from Malaysia, San San Tan wanted to go abroad to study and decided on New Zealand, because she wanted to experience a new culture. San San had always wanted to work with animals, and had a science background so she chose the vet nursing course at UCOL in Palmerston North. During her placement in a local vet clinic, San San found the practical skills she'd learned at UCOL helped her get her first vet nursing job. "I started work at my placement vet clinic as a locum straight after I finished my course." San San has enjoyed studying in New Zealand. "The people are good, they're fun. And I've enjoyed experiencing New Zealand culture: it's quiet and peaceful, and there's not so much rushing."

Trevor Salang

Certificate in Professional Cookery Level 4

International studen Trevor SalangAward winning Head Chef at The Gallery restaurant in the city of Palmerston North.

 Trevor Salang took a different path in life. He first learned to cook on Borneo Island with only a machete as a cooking implement. He is now a UCOL graduate, with a Certificate in Professional Cookery Level 4, and an award winning Head Chef at The Gallery restaurant in the city of Palmerston North.

His earliest lesson in cooking came from his father and his grandparents who still use traditional tribal methods, with a wood fire and two metal bars to stop the pot from dropping into the fire. “From my father I learnt how to kill chickens, wild boar, catch fresh fish and gather vegetables from the forest, and cook them with nothing but a machete."

Trevor came to New Zealand when he was 16, finished secondary school and decided on a career as a chef. He liked the idea that he could also develop his artistic bent through food presentation.

Trevor would like to try his hand working overseas in a few years time. “One day I would like to have my own restaurant – always serving a superior product.”

Tiffany Chew

Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design

International student Tiffany Chew's design workMany 100s of UCOL alumni in Malaysia stay in touch with their alma mater in New Zealand and many of them are now in key positions in teaching or in the Malaysian design, film and television industries.

UCOL students from Malaysia – studying either as International students or as people who have immigrated to New Zealand – have become very successful.

Tiffany Chew is a good example. While she was studying at UCOL’s Whanganui School of Design in the beautiful city of Wanganui, she won the students’ section of a top national design competition.

Her work, called Spinobot (which stands for spin about) took the Tertiary Student Award in the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) Business Internet Awards. The awards acknowledge innovation and excellence in research and development in digital and interactive media.

Tiffany created Spinobot in her final year of study for a Bachelor of Computer Graphic Design. Now back in her homeland, she works for a leading interactive design company in Kuala Lumpur, developing websites and other online resources.

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