New Zealand 🇳🇿: To exchange or not to exchange?

Considering doing your final semester master thesis abroad? Well, think big: The Master’s in Bioentrepreneurship exchange programme is exclusively with the University of Auckland in New Zealand! It’s a bit of an all-or-nothing deal, so there’s definitely lots of decision-making to do. Let’s dive into my pros and cons list and figure out if this adventure is a go or a no-go!

To exchange 👍

✅ It’s a unique opportunity 

The MBE programme may be the last chance to experience a semester abroad as a student. Especially in a remote place like New Zealand, the student umbrella becomes a strong benefit when receiving guidance and recommendations on how to navigate your time abroad. It is one thing to book a trip to New Zealand and solo travel, but it is a completely different experience to do your thesis placement and travel as a student. I believe it provides a better overview of what living in New Zealand is really like, and you start feeling more like a Kiwi (New Zealand local) yourself (speaking from personal experience here 🤠🥝). Besides, two people are selected to write their thesis abroad (and it just so happened that one of my closest friends Antonella and I were selected together 👯‍♀️) so you would not be alone on this journey.

✅ International exposure and connections

The thesis is written alongside a company of your choice that will help you with your research and provide valuable insights. The exposure you get to the life science landscape in the APAC region depends on two main things: 1) The company and 2) You. For example, the company we collaborated with to write our thesis was incredibly kind for inviting and sponsoring us to attend the annual Life Science Summit in Wellington. The event lasted a few days and was one of the most valuable learning experiences I have ever had. I came out with an understanding of the biotech trends in Oceania, a deepened knowledge on how the venture capital world works, and numerous valuable connections with industry leaders. However, I had to push myself to come up and speak to people, ask questions, and make the most of the event. Networking can get exhausting at times, but it is one of the most important things in the business world 🌏.

✅ Personal and professional growth

I have moved between quite a few countries throughout my life, and noticed that each place has a unique social dynamic and cultural aspects that must be taken into account when interacting with locals. For example, I noticed Kiwis are much more transparent and open about their personal lives than Swedes. It then becomes more acceptable for me to share my personal stories without me making the situation awkward and feeling like I’m oversharing😅. I definitely feel like spending a semester abroad contributes to shaping you as a person and makes you a more well-rounded person. On a professional level, international experience is always beneficial, if not desired. For example, some graduate roles in large pharmaceutical companies explicitly state that the ideal candidate should have some international experience, such as an exchange semester. Although these job descriptions should not be your main motivation to go on exchange, it can be a small encouraging thought 😊.

NOT to exchange 👎

🚫 There is A LOT of planning

I wish moving to Auckland would just be as simple as that – you fly across the world, settle in the student housing, and submit your thesis somewhere between swimming in Cathedral Cove and bungee jumping in Queenstown. But it really isn’t. You have to apply and secure your student visa (bureaucracy is never fun), find your own housing (felt almost impossible in Auckland), secure the collaborating company to write your thesis (can be quite time-consuming) and figure out other things such as bank, SIM card and mode of transport within New Zealand. You may receive some guidance from both universities, however, you cannot rely on that alone. Of course, all of those things are definitely manageable, but you definitely have to be comfortable (or perhaps get comfortable) with planning ahead. This is also one of the reasons why it’s nice to travel with a classmate, you can distribute responsibilities efficiently. I can write another blog about how Antonella and I planned and managed our exchange – give me a like or message me if you’d like me to write more about it!🤠

🚫 It’s expensive

While groceries and dining out in Auckland may come at a lower cost compared to Stockholm, expenses for activities and travel can quickly accumulate (especially considering the pricey airfare to New Zealand in the first place). It’s important to note that the university doesn’t offer any grant options for this specific exchange, and despite our efforts, we couldn’t secure alternative funding sources. The fact that you can’t easily hop on a flight and go back home makes it even more important to plan your budget💰. 

🚫 Missing out on opportunities in Sweden

Unfortunately, we can’t have it all😭. BUT that’s okay because I am here and made this pros & cons list for you so you can choose😇. One of the main reasons that made me doubt whether I should spend my last semester in New Zealand was the possibility of missing out on a great career opportunity in Sweden. For example, I had the opportunity to continue my thesis research at a large pharmaceutical company called Roche. This would have definitely looked good on my CV. In general, Stockholm is a great place to kickstart your career, especially as a graduate from Karolinska Institutet. Admittedly, staying in Stockholm might make spotting the right future opportunity a bit easier. On the other hand, one of the recent interviews I had mentioned that being in New Zealand differentiated me as an applicant. I guess it depends on whether you’re up for an adventure😉.

Like most things, going on exchange has its own wins and challenges. I decided to go (and dragged Antonella with me 🤠) because believe there is always a million reasons not to do something. I have also always wanted to go to New Zealand and just chose to cease the opportunity. However, this decision depends on your personal and financial situation, where you are in life and what you’re looking for. For me, New Zealand has definitely been one of the most eye-opening experiences😍.

Fausta - Bioentrepreneurship

Fausta - Bioentrepreneurship

My name is Fausta. I am originally from Lithuania, but spent most of my life in Canada, so the Swedish winters do not scare me! I’m the blogger for the Master’s Programme in Bioentrepreneurship here at Karolinska Institutet. I am also a camping enthusiast and a huge fan of exploring new hidden cafés to visit in Stockholm. I am excited to share my experiences and adventures in Sweden and hopefully provide some useful tips and tricks!

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