Otago: An opportunity of a lifetime for marketing student

Since arriving in June, American student Lauren Buniva has been making friends and immersing herself in all that New Zealand has to offer. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

She won’t be here for long, but there’s little doubt that Lauren Buniva is making the most of her opportunity to study at the University of Otago.

It’s an opportunity that came about thanks to a scholarship she received from Champlain College back home in Vermont earlier this year.

In June, Ms Buniva was awarded the inaugural Sarah Ramsey Scholarship which provides financial support to a Champlain College marketing student wishing to study abroad.

Champlain College’s Study Abroad Director Noah Goldblatt says the scholarship, awarded annually, honours the memory of Champlain College student Sarah Ramsey who passed away last year.

“The goal of this scholarship is to enable a student to have a transformative experience abroad in much the same way that Sarah had with her own study-abroad experience.”

For Ms Buniva, the decision to travel over 15,000 km from home to study was a relatively easy one. Passionate about the outdoors and sports, she knew New Zealand would be a good fit.

“I plan on pursuing a career in outdoor/action sports marketing and this place seemed perfect for that culture,” she says. “I was also attracted by the tremendous amounts of travelling I’d be able to do. This, combined with stories I had heard of the country’s wonderful people and Dunedin being a college student’s heaven, made New Zealand and Otago my first and only selection.”

Since arriving in June she has been making friends and immersing herself in all that New Zealand has to offer. She says it’s tempting for international students to get caught up with typical tourist fare, but for her short stay, she wanted a more authentic Kiwi experience. She credits advice she received back home with helping to set her plans on the right track.

“Before arriving, I received valuable advice from friends who had previously studied in New Zealand that some of the most memorable experiences I’ll have are with the people and amongst the culture. Consequently, I made the conscious effort to spend my first month or so sticking around Dunedin to try and immerse myself in the culture and meet as many local Kiwis as possible.”

Just a few months into her time at Otago, it’s already feeling like home, she says.

“The more time I spend, people I meet, and places I travel, Dunedin, and the larger New Zealand, slowly has felt more and more like home.”

Though she is enjoying her time in Dunedin, she admits that Otago is quite different from the small private college she attends back home in Vermont.

“Otago’s size is exciting because there’s always new people to meet and things to do, but it doesn’t feel as intimidating as I thought a large university would feel. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the campus is beautiful, as well.”

Ms Buniva’s time at Otago comes to an end in November when she returns to Vermont to continue her studies at Champlain College. She already knows she’ll have a lot of people to thank for making this opportunity of a lifetime possible.

“Just a huge thank you to my family, friends, staff at Champlain and the family and friends of Sarah Ramsey for their incredible support and enabling me to make this dream a reality.

“I’m continuously amazed by all that this country has to offer and I can’t help but feel grateful for this opportunity.”

Article by University of Otago

Published by Sarah Ramsey Strong

About the Sarah Ramsey Strong Fund: This permanent fund was established in memory of Sarah Elizabeth Ramsey by her family and friends after she passed away unexpectedly in 2013. The Fund celebrates Sarah’s inspiring and passionate creativity, zest for life, and her love for traveling abroad, and continues her legacy by supporting Champlain College scholarships and other student focused programs.