‘Welcoming and tolerant’: A Nepali MSc in Energy student’s experience of New Zealand

'Welcoming and tolerant': A Nepali MSc in Energy student's experience of New Zealand

“Kia Ora,” Saurab Lama greets us virtually via email. As a 28-year old Nepali currently studying abroad in New Zealand, he has lots to say about how different the two countries are — and many good things about his host country.

“I think it is the mix of international students that I have found the most appealing during my studies in New Zealand,” says Lama. 

Lama getting a Maori welcome in the University of Auckland. Source: Saurab Lama

Lama chose to study at the University of Auckland (UOA) as he wanted to be a country as peaceful and picturesque as Nepal. He found that in New Zealand. We spoke to Saurab to find out more about his new life in New Zealand:

Tell us about yourself. What drove you to study in New Zealand? 

I have an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from a Nepali university. I’m now pursuing a Master of Energy at UOA. This is my first ever experience abroad. Now that I’ve been here for one and a half years, Auckland has become my home away from home. 

I considered a few things before deciding on New Zealand. The first being the degree I wanted to study — I have always wanted a postgraduate degree that looks into renewable energy technologies as a means of combating climate change, and the University of Auckland provided exactly that. 

Secondly, the QS Rankings listed UOA as 81st spot worldwide. It ranked first in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2020. Another thing was the language. I wanted to study in a country that was English-speaking. 

Finally, I wanted to be in a country that has a reputation of being welcoming and tolerant to people from all the world and that has a lot of nature to be explored, just like I’m used to in Kathmandu. I come from a country famed for its mountains and natural wonders, like Mount Everest. New Zealand is a country rich in natural scenic beauty, and a place I could be one with nature. 

What do you like most about studying in New Zealand?

I enjoy making friends with people from all over the world. The diversity of cultures and nationalities in classrooms is a true reflection of how New Zealand is as a country itself. 

Lama at the University of Auckland, a top post-secondary institution in New Zealand. Source: Saurab Lama

Then, there is the vast number of activities that you can do here: go for hikes around Auckland’s parks, birdwatching, kayaking, sitting at the beaches, watching the sea, or cycling around the city — the possibilities of outdoor activities connecting you with nature are endless.

Was it hard to apply to your course?

It was very straightforward for me, to be honest. My correspondence to the UOA Faculty of Engineering was fairly speedy. They were prompt with responses and very patient to all my queries. The online process was also very easy. The only thing that took time and patience was physically mailing the copies of my academic transcripts and certificates. 

What are you studying? Give us a little more insight on it.

I am currently studying for a Master of Energy degree at UOA, with a focus on renewable technologies towards greenhouse gases emissions mitigation. This degree combines a multitude of disciplines including energy technology and resources. It also includes energy economics and comprises a research component all students have to go through with. 

Lama getting his Master in Energy at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Source: Saurab Lama

I am extremely passionate about using my technical knowledge and acumen towards developing renewable energy technologies and strategies. By using these, I hope to help to contribute to a carbon-neutral future of the world. 

Tell us about your most memorable time at UOA.

I have so many incredible memories — it’s simply impossible to write them all down. My most important memorable moment was to be able to experience the welcome ceremony (known as Pōwhiri in Maori) during Orientation Week. Being welcomed and greeted by the traditional “Hongi” (a Maori greeting), gave me goosebumps. 

I truly believe that welcome helped me settle down, and start my education off on the right foot. I felt excited about living and studying in a foreign country for the first time in my life. It also gave me a sense of belonging to be part of the university family, which provided me with a springboard to get acclimated quickly and perform to the best of my academic abilities.  

What activities do you enjoy doing most here?

I love travelling. I would jump at the chance during breaks in between semesters to try and explore all corners of New Zealand. I love outdoor activities like hiking, and have been lucky enough to do some of the best hikes here. Being into sports like football, tennis and rugby, has kept my activity level busy. 

Another hobby of mine is photography, and New Zealand is the perfect place for me to practise. Now that I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean, sitting on the beach is another pastime I can’t make do without. 

Do you have any advice for others planning to study in New Zealand?

I recommend any prospective students wanting to study here to be patient and kind to yourself, it takes a lot of mental fortitude to make the jump to pursue an academic degree in foreign country. Challenges will arise, and these are some of things we, as international students, just have to face — like being homesick. 

Whatever you do, looking after yourself always comes first, mentally or physically. Make friends, reach out and talk to people. Never stop working on the human element of life, it’s always going to be work in progress and you will thank yourself for making those reliable friendships and connections at the end of the day. 

Another piece of advice would be to urge anyone planning to come to New Zealand to take some time to explore the beautiful nature, the people and the culture. Make the most out of it, and embrace everything new you learn here. Ultimately, magic happens outside of our comfort zones. 

Saurab Lama, a stellar student has big goals to help develop renewable energy solutions back in Nepal after his studies in New Zealand. Source: Saurab Lama

Do you have any plans for the future?

My plans for the future would be to return back to my home country so I can practice all the knowledge I’ve gained from NZ. I would try to develop renewable energy solutions, and climate change mitigation strategies in Nepal, working with local communities in how to apply renewable energy into their lifestyle. 

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