Several Things to Learn From Auckland, New Zealand

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The author, Wisnu Setia Dharma

Nowadays, many young Indonesians want to study abroad. Aside from the academical degree, there are many things actually to learn while studying overseas. In this article, contributor Wisnu Setia Dharma shares what he learnt from New Zealand, especially from his daily life observation and several values that he obtained. Let’s check it out!

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As a matter of fact, this country taught me more than I could expect. From the initial aim to learn about how a construction project is managed here, turns out, I received an exquisite intangible life lesson.

Hi, for you who still have a doubt to study abroad, I hope this article might give you a little boost. Frankly speaking, I didn’t know much about this country (or this city) as well before I came here, even the information of life essentials was not researched intensively (pardon my laziness, blame my job haha). Long story short, I got a friend who gave me pieces of information and earned my tickets through New Zealand Scholarship, Alhamdulillah!

While there are already many stories about how the scholarship goes, what do they feel of studying here, or how challenging to live here, I’m trying to provide another side of the story. In this article, let me try to tell you what I learn from New Zealand, not from the formal course which I received, but from daily life observation and perhaps some values due to some incidents. Hop-On!

The art of saying thanks

How often have you said thank you for the people who were doing their job? And to what extent do you say it? Just one on one conversation or almost shouting?

As you’ve expected from one country that promotes tourism, the people are relatively more delightful. But, here in New Zealand, I think they are just more.

Firstly, from an effortless gesture and verbal, they are easy to say “sorry” and “thank you”. For example, they say thank you to the driver whenever they got off from the bus, and they say it loudly (almost shouting) even in the crowded situation. Imagine you were in the bus (let’s say Transjakarta) then you step off at Halte Karet Kuningan at rush hour, from the passenger door you shout “Terima Kasih”, have you ever done that?

Inside the AT Bus
Inside the AT Bus

Well truthfully for me, I have never done that in Transjakarta (sorry!), and because of that reason, I admire what New Zealanders (or Aucklanders specifically) has given me an excellent example to be grateful for merely that little activity. As we know that the drivers were doing their profession and they were getting paid for that, it is just lovely to see how Aucklanders respect their services by saying “Thanks”.

Secondly, they seem reluctant to make others feel bad. Thus, they say “sorry” quite easily. How easy? Well, for example when you bumped into someone in some packed out situation, let’s say a supermarket, the other person would quickly say sorry without hesitation even though you knew it’s your fault. It just makes you respect people more and more.

The warmth of tolerance and solidarity

Around one month since I’ve arrived here, there was a horrible accident that happened while terrorism gunned down the Moslems on 15th March 2019. Despite the gun-law problem which was owned by this country, the people show something I’ve never felt before. Firstly, The PM publicly declared that this horrible act was “a darkest of the day” in New Zealand, it was an act of “terrorism”, and later she said, “the family of the fallen will have justice”. This statement surely gives hope that humanity still exists surpassing the political stance, and it is admirable to see how the government of New Zealand really out some efforts to heal the victim community. After the incident, for about two or three months, the polices spotted guarding every prayer space in Auckland. The focus on victim community enlights me, it brings the memory how many terrorism incidents happened in our beloved country, and yet we focused on the suspect, even almost everyone knew the terrorist name. Yeah, we often forget that the victim should be our priority. Healing them and prevent future incident should be our primary focus. Let the terrorists’ name being forgotten but remember the justice shall be upon them.

Speak the names of those who are lost, rather than the name of the men who took them” – Jacinda Ardern, dubbed from theguardian.com

Secondly, as Moslems, we’ve been showed affection which surpasses any religion, ethnicity, and any other differences. At that time, the University of Auckland held a Jum’ah prayer at the university centre as a symbolic act that we are accepted and safe here. Guess what, and the people showed solidarity by “guarding” outside the building where we had a prayer.

The crowd in front of prayer building
The crowd in front of prayer building

Also, there was a long march which justifies that such incident is not accepted in New Zealand. All the people from different ethnicity, different nationality, different religion gathered in Aotea Square (centre of Auckland City). They had a long march to show that all people are accepted, and there is no place for hate here. Frankly speaking, this is the first time I’ve seen such solidarity act.

The Long March
The Long March
Stand Strong Christchurch
Stand Strong Christchurch

It’s just too safe to travel

Boasting its natural beauty, New Zealand promotes tourism by centralising to its nature. However, outdoor activities can be hazardous in some countries. Let’s say due to poor maintenance or insufficient information about it. In contrast, New Zealand did an excellent example of how to manage its natural gifts. I can say it is incredibly safe to travel here, either you drive or hike.

For driving, since this country applies the right-hand side, Indonesian people will bear less problem in adaptation. However, we need to pay more attention to driving rules here since it’s a bit different from Indonesia. For example, the “give way” sign in the roundabout and one-lane bridge and also the speed limit. Especially for me, I learnt it the hard way by getting stopped by the NZ police two times (which I wasn’t proud of!). Fortunately, the information could be easily retrieved from the website, such as https://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/driving-in-nz/. And as the driver, we shall just obey and don’t try to be edgy (just don’t!)

Driving to Mount Cook Area
Driving to Mount Cook Area

Also, if you keen to hike, there is a clear sign, and a reminder during the hiking, which makes us consider whether we are prepared enough to complete the hike or we shall turn around. Not to mention the safety measure such as bridges and railings are well maintained.

Updated information regarding the closure
Updated information regarding the closure
Sign during the hiking
Sign during the hiking

Well-being mindset

Have you ever been heard about mental health? Truthfully we may experience some mental health issues at some point in our life, whether we like to admit it or not. While in our country, this discussion about mental health is not so widely “acknowledged”, New Zealand put a severe measure to battle it. For example, the University of Auckland stance in well-being concern.

I am grateful for the opportunity to study in University of Auckland which holds the 1st rank in University impact ranking 2019 by Times Higher Education by scoring a top-notch in Good Health and Well Being Category in Sustainable Development Goals.

THE University impact ranking (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/university-impact-rankings-2019-results-announced)
THE University impact ranking (https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/university-impact-rankings-2019-results-announced)

Personally, I think this score resembles actual pursue from the university to maintain good health and wellbeing of the students. It doesn’t mean that they make everything easy for you (e.g. exam or assignment). Still, it does mean they make everything is accessible for you to maintain your right states of mind, such as free counselling on university health care or the best lecturer you can talk to.  For example, after the Christchurch incident, most of my lecturers sent an email said that if we were one of the affected students from the incident, we may focus on healing ourself and may submit our assignments anytime we feel we are better. They also encourage us to talk to them if we were worry or having difficulties related to their course during that time. Asking for “excuse” like this is normal and sometimes acceptable in Indonesia as well, but I admire how the university’s effort to reach the students during the difficult times, without any obligations for students to ask for it. They really concern about well-being as well as the academic performance of their students.

The Construction Industry

On-Going Construction Project on Sunday
On-Going Construction Project on Sunday

Frankly speaking, this is the main reason why I’m here. As a country who faced the risk of natural disaster, it is just fascinating how the construction industry is executed here. Here are some main lessons :

  1. To adapt the rapid transformation and challenges, they adopted agile and lean project management to manage the construction project, thus making the project team more versatile to change while keeping the project within the scope, budget, and time goals.
  2. Overtime could happen, but they usually avoid it, with this mindset every project is planned during the regular working hours and really is achievable
  3. No matter how big or small a project is, the standard and level of project team quality remain high.
  4. Risk of natural disaster is real. Thus they manage it by using state of the art technology (such as BIM) and ensure every project team from managers to labour are understood how the safety standards should be executed.

In the end, studying abroad is one of the notable milestones of my life journey, aside from the academical degree, there are just way too many things actually to learn while you were here. In term of academic, perhaps Indonesia offers relatively similar materials, but, the intangible lessons from overseas life are solid reasons to be here. So, keen to try? 😊

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Photos provided by the author