Posted by Carolina Lara
I arrived in Auckland on the 25th of October 2014 on a beautiful, sunny spring day carrying 53 kg luggage, after a total travel time of 30 hours. My first real experience of the kiwi culture was seeing someone barefoot at the airport, “that is weird” – I thought, but eventually found out it is something quite common. What it is also common is rain. It rains a lot. A LOT. You cannot of course trust the weather forecast and you do need to have a raincoat with you and an umbrella, just in case (this I would say has been the best advice I received before coming here). The duration of the PhD programme is three years, but I was advised to consider it to be four years which will make it the longest period being away from home, despite the fact this is not my first time living abroad. But it always feels like the first time.
I am part of the cohort of approximate 30,000 Mexican students doing a postgraduate programme abroad, the United States being the preferred destination, followed by Spain and other European countries. Of those, it has been estimated that 5-7% of students never return to live in Mexico. The number of international students coming to New Zealand has increased in the past few years, for example, PhD student numbers have increased from 1,665 in 2008 to 3,838 in 2014. The main sources of NZ international students are China and India, with South Korea occupying the third place.
So far my experience living in NZ has been quite good. I will not lie, being away from my family, friends and dogs might be something I could never get used to. And although I have made good friends here, the dogs… It is not all bad here though! I am lucky enough to be part of an amazing lab group and research team and of course and I have learnt many new things and done other things for the first time. From funding applications that would take me a week to get ready – including hundreds of corrections from my supervisor, presenting my research in front of a big audience (and not being able to understand one of the questions because of the language barrier), be immersed in the urban ecology field along with all the new bird and plant species that I am still learning and getting to know, dealing with Mexican and Kiwi bureaucracy (at the same time) and last but not least, acknowledging that everything takes quite a bit time to be resolved in New Zealand, but usually with a satisfactory outcome.
This has been a great year out of three still to go and my first field season is waiting for me! That and the many adventures and experiences yet to come.
Carolina Lara M. is a PhD Candidate within the Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. Her research interests focus on seed dispersal networks within fragmented landscapes. She is supervised by Margaret Stanley, Jason Tylianakis, Karine David, and Anna Santure.