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From Where You'd Rather Be

AUT’s exchange coordinator Shivani Rajan speaks to past, present and future exchange students about their thoughts on studying abroad.

How does the idea of traveling while you study sound? Like a dream come true, right?

AUT’s exchange programme has been sending students overseas for the last 16 years. That’s a pretty long time and it got me thinking about the many who have come and gone through this programme, where they are now, and how their overseas exchange has affected their lives.

I checked in with past, present, and future exchange students to talk about their previous experiences and/or future plans for exploring the big wide world.


“My exchange to China was an eye opening experience. It enlightens you in a way that being a tourist cannot. As an exchange student I was forced to live a life I wasn't accustomed to. Since the exchange, I've come to love living in China. Study goals aside, the life experience you gain is absolutely priceless. Do not miss this opportunity. Do a year—six months is just a tease. I came back to China after graduating from AUT to teach English and I haven't looked back.”

– Israel Lagatule, China, 2014

“Exchange was the first thing that sparked my travel bug. Each year I get more inspired, meaning I’ve now travelled, worked, studied and volunteered in 40 countries and counting. Exchange has shaped my career in international education, my relationships (managing long-distance friendships in particular), and pretty much every aspect of my adult life. If you’re up for the challenge, the rewards are endless.”

– Monique van Veen, Netherlands, 2010

“Doing an exchange was amazing. I felt truly free. It changed me. I gained confidence, met incredible people, learnt a new language, and a totally different way of seeing the world and appreciating my life in New Zealand. If you're thinking about doing an exchange, you should absolutely go for it! It's worth every cent. An exchange will help you in all sorts of unexpected ways, especially if you are still figuring out who you are and what you want to do. It will be tough, it will be amazing, and if you go with an open heart and mind, the experience will make you.”

– Holly Grover, Mexico, 2011

“Through doing an international exchange, I now have connections all over the world who have offered couches and beds to stay on when I go travelling. They’re also helping line-up job interviews for me in Europe, Canada and the US, which is amazing! The exchange has given me heaps of connections all around the world and has opened my eyes to so many different cultures. My exchange has left me with a massive travel bug and a need to go try new challenges and to meet new people.”

– Stefan Silva, Canada, 2017

“My exchange taught me to be spontaneous and to just go where life takes you. Before my exchange I thought I had to have everything planned out about my life but it’s totally amazing how studying abroad really turned my life in a different direction, for the better. It may seem scary but if you are on the fence about doing the exchange, make a spontaneous decision and go see the world! I promise that you won’t regret it and you will find things out about yourself that you never knew and it will change you for the better. Why stay in Auckland and study when you can go across the world and study while exploring?”

– Berme Jordan, USA, 2015


“I think applying for an exchange can be very daunting because you want to be organised and prepared but it definitely doesn’t work that way. I can confidently say that, that feeling is a big part of the fun. After a week on exchange, I have done more with my life than in multiple years. Nothing is common or normal but that is the point of an exchange—to broaden your perspective and to put yourself out there.”

– Devon Toi, Netherlands, 2018

“Applying feels very exciting, especially during the preparation stage, but once my exchange was right around the corner, I become a little anxious and felt nervous. I started worrying about what I will do when I land and the different lifestyle over there.”

– Oliver Zhao, Canada 2018

“Honestly, I didn’t think my exchange would’ve been half as good as it has been so far and if you get this opportunity, embrace every part of it! I am and it’s been the best time of my life so far. Even though it is scary to leave lil’ NZ, it will be the exact same when you get back, and you’ll make an amazing international family while over here. Trust me, go for it! Best decision I could have ever made!”

– Poppy Siermans, USA, 2018

“If you don't have enough money, save and go next year. If you don't want to leave your girlfriend/boyfriend behind, just remember they’ll most likely still be there when you get back. If you’re just afraid, then all the more reason to apply because it has been amazing for me so far to meet new people, experience new things and cultures and truly appreciate New Zealand like I never have before.”

– Kale Buchanan, Netherlands, 2018

“One of the barriers I have faced has been really funny and entertaining—the language barrier. There have been times in conversation with Americans where I have said something and they have stared back at me like I’m an idiot. That’s because I’ve just said an extremely Kiwi sentence full of slang. It’s funny to teach them some of the wild words we use such as ‘yarns’ and ‘Maccas’.”

– Keegan Allen, USA, 2018.

“To the AUT students who are sitting on the fence about applying, I would say go for it! Even thinking about going on an exchange proves you’re willing to push yourself. The application process is quite lengthy so even after applying, you still have a couple of months to think about it. Forget the worries and hype yourself up! Think about the friends you could make, the stories you could tell, the Insta-worthy photos you could take, anything that gets you excited.”

— Serene Aun, Germany, 2018


“I chose to apply for an exchange because I was looking for something new to do. I think every university student gets to a point where they want to change up their normal day-to-day routine. When the opportunity was put into my hands about possibly going on exchange, I couldn’t resist. Spending time overseas is definitely in my future plans and hopefully it will happen earlier than I thought.”

– Olivia Truscott, UK, 2019

“I decided to apply for an exchange because I have always had a dream to travel, with a final goal of moving to another country. To do this, I must also find a way to get overseas connections, and I saw the exchange programme as a great opportunity to experience another culture—plus the chance of acquiring said connections.”

– Taylor Gray, Japan, 2019

“I am most looking forward to living and studying in a new country and making new friends from all around the world. I hope that studying abroad will increase my independence, confidence and worldly knowledge to make me a more approachable and employable individual. And skipping a New Zealand winter for a European summer is definitely a perk.”

– Justine Vincent, Germany, 2019

“I wanted to apply for an exchange because it seemed like a brilliant way to combine my studies with my desire to learn about other cultures and their ways of thinking. It also seems like a really good opportunity to grow as a person as I develop my own outlook on life.”

– Tessa Boyd, Netherlands, 2019

So there you have it. Sounds like all these exchange students, whether past, present or future, are pretty happy with their decision to study overseas. If you can see yourself doing an exchange too, email Shivani at for more information.

Happy travels!

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