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Loving university life at Otago

For alumna Hana Connell, the move to the University of Otago earlier this year has been a challenging, exciting and exhilarating experience. However, her transition to tertiary study was made easier due to the strong foundations built at ACG Tauranga, and for that, she will always be grateful.
ACG Tauranga alumna, Hana Connell

Boasting one of the top human science departments in the country, Otago University has been a winning choice for ACG Tauranga alumna, Hana Connell.

Initially opting to study health science, Hana enjoyed the physiology-based papers so much that she’s transitioning to a physiology major next year. Not only that, but she has set her sights on becoming a specialist cardiac physiologist.

“It’s good to know that when you go to university, you can apply for the subjects that interest you the most, but your decision is not totally set in stone,” says Hana. 

“I’ve found subjects that I really enjoy and have chosen to change my path slightly to incorporate these. It turns out I love learning about how the body works. Some of my labs involve some pretty confronting experiences, but I enjoy the understanding that comes from them. Now I’m learning about what I’m genuinely interested in and what I want to do as a career. I think that’s pretty awesome!”

One of ACG Tauranga’s foundation pupils, Hana left the sunny Bay of Plenty to head south at the start of this year. A resident at St Margaret’s College – famed for serving the best hall food in Dunedin - she is quite literally living in the heart of the university campus.

“The Otago campus is centralised and very much student-focused. I’ve had some really fun experiences, and my friends and I are always out and about finding new things to do. I’ve joined the university laser tag club, and we also do lots outside of campus, like going to the markets, St Clair beach and the botanical gardens.”

While being away from home has been “a big challenge” for the family-oriented teen, she’s making the most of all that Otago student life offers.

“It’s very different to high school, you have a lot of freedom, and you are accountable completely for yourself. I enjoyed the connections we had with our teachers at ACG Tauranga – they cared about each and every one of us. That’s very different to university. It’s not that the lecturers don’t care; it’s just that they’re not focused on you as an individual. At uni, you make your own success; no one guides you or focuses you on what’s required. But, having said that, I am enjoying the environment and the independence!”

And thanks to the outstanding study foundations that were laid during her years at ACG Tauranga, Hana has taken the workload in her stride.

“I think that ACG prepared me extremely well in terms of both workloads and in teaching me how to cope with things like examinations. The way we are assessed at university is very similar to the Cambridge external exams, where most of your grades for the year rides on a big final examination. I haven’t found the workload any larger than my A-Level courses, and I’m really grateful that I was already up to that standard before getting here. I know a lot of other students struggled with the workload transition from high school to tertiary study.”

In addition to setting her up with great study habits, ACG taught Hana the value of resilience.

“That was the most important lesson I took away from my time there – study hard and don’t give up. Sure, it may get tough at times, and yes, you may feel exhausted, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.”

And while Hana is firmly focused on success in her studies, she has discovered much more to university life than learning and lectures.

“University isn’t all about the academics. Of course, it is a big part, and you should work hard, but it’s also a place to have fun, meet cool and interesting people and have some awesome experiences. So make sure you study hard but also enjoy your time, and definitely learn how to type!”