Frequently asked questions

What clothes do I need to bring?

Make sure you bring the right clothes for the Central Otago seasons. In winter, you will need: warm clothes, hat, gloves, waterproof jacket, a scarf and sturdy, rubber-soled shoes or boots. In summer you will need: light clothing, swimsuit, sunscreen, sunhat and sunglasses. Also, don’t forget to bring any items you will need for study, home or leisure.

How much does it cost to live in Central?

The costs of living in Central Otago will depend on the type of accommodation you choose. Choices  include homestay with a local family, sharing a house with other students, or backpacker-style accommodation. As a guide, accommodation costs range from $85 to $250 per week. Other living costs will include your food, transport and leisure expenses. See more detail here – Living in Central. Accommodation..

Can I work in New Zealand? How much will I get paid?

Many students find the time to fit in a part time job in around their studies, and often a job may be found which is relevant to the study programme. For example, many horticulture students find weekend and holiday work at vineyards and orchards in the area, and staff will assist where possible. Cookery students may find work in restaurants. The legal adult minimum wage in New Zealand is $14.25 per hour (before tax).

How do I get a bank account?

In New Zealand we commonly use EFTPOS cards to pay for items, rather than carrying much cash. When you get here, one of the staff will take you to a bank to open an account and get an EFTPOS card so you can buy the essentials and withdraw cash from ATM machines.

Do I have to pay tax in New Zealand?

Yes. Soon after you arrive at Central, staff will guide you through obtaining a tax number from the Department of Inland Revenue (IRD). Having an IRD number is essential if you want to get a part-time job while you are here.

Do I have to buy books, if so how much will they cost?

Most study resources can be found online on our Moodle pages. Books can be sourced from our Central or Dunedin libraries.

What happens if I get sick?

We have an excellent public health service in New Zealand. When you need to visit the doctor you make an appointment and take your Otago Polytechnic Central student ID card with you. The treatment is charged to the Polytechnic, which then claims the expenses back from your medical insurance company.

What are the days and hours I will be studying?

There is no definite set pattern for course days and times, but 9am to 3pm would be a normal day, and usually four days per week (Monday to Thursday). Cookery and snow programme students’ hours can be very variable.

Where can I buy food?

There are large supermarkets in Cromwell and Wanaka, called New World. They are very friendly, and everyone will soon come to know you there. They have a wide range of foods, including meat, fruit and vegetables. If you can't find your favourite foods from home there, there are online shops within New Zealand where you can buy those essential flavours from your home cuisine.

Are there churches I can attend in Cromwell and Wanaka?

There are Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian churches, with regular services.

What sports clubs can I join while I am living in Central Otago?

There are many local sporting teams and clubs – cricket, rugby, tennis, badminton, swimming, cycling, climbing, tramping, all of which would welcome new members. In winter, we have several fantastic skifields nearby, while in summer fishing can be very rewarding – you can obtain a fishing licence at the sports shop and catch yourself a fish or two!

What is the weather like in Central Otago?

We have four stunning and distinct seasons. The hottest time in summer is December to February when daytime temperatures may reach 35 degrees celcius. Summer is the time of the cherry-picking season. Autumn is March to May, when the leaves on many trees change to red and gold colours. In winter, from June until August, it can get cold, well below freezing at night. A woolly hat, warm coat and sturdy shoes are essential. Spring starts in late August, when the apricot, cherry, pear and apple fruit trees are covered in amazing blossoms.

How can I get around?

Cromwell and Wanaka are small towns, so it is easy to walk to most places you need to go. There is no public transport, but there are a number of companies running small buses between local towns. Lots of students ride bikes around town, and we do have bikes available to loan to you in Cromwell for a small deposit. It is also easy to buy a cheap bicycle, which we can help you with. In New Zealand we must wear helmets while biking.

Is there access to computers, e-mail and the Internet on campus?

There is wifi on campus, and Skype is available on the computers in our up-to-date computer suite and classrooms.

How does the New Zealand qualifications system work?

You can see full details at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website.

Can I drive a car while living in New Zealand?

You can drive a car in New Zealand if you hold a current, valid driver’s licence from your home country or an international driver’s licence, and you've not received a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand, and your overseas licence is in English, and you don't have a New Zealand driver licence yet.

If your licence or international driving permit doesn't meet these requirements, you must apply for a New Zealand driver’s licence to drive in New Zealand. If you'll be in New Zealand for more than a year, you need to gain a New Zealand driver’s licence. If your overseas licence is still current, or expired less than 12 months ago, you can apply to convert it to a New Zealand licence. We strongly suggest you gain a NZ licence soon after you get established in Cromwell.

In New Zealand, we drive on the left hand side, and it is compulsory to wear seatbelts. We don't allow the use of cellphones while driving.

What can I do if I don't understand the work in class?

Otago Polytechnic offers support for reading, writing and understanding English. Many of the resources are on our learning management platform called Moodle, and some have recordings of the lecturer's voice so you can listen to the lecture again.

There are a number of strategies you can use which will help develop your English skills:

  • Ask your lecturer for help. “Could you repeat that please?”  “Could you speak a little more slowly?”  “What does -----mean?”  “Could you write that word down for me?”
  • Your lecturer may be able to help you after class, or just ask your classmates to help you. Perhaps you will be able to help them, too
  • Use a dictionary/electronic dictionary in class (but remember you cannot use them in exams)
  • Make a list of new vocabulary in your subject as you learn them
  • You will probably have to do extra study as well, especially learning vocabulary for your subject.

Keep working to improve your English – good English will be the key to your success! Work on your grammar, speak in English whenever possible, read English books and newspapers, and watch English movies and television when you have free time.

Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students

Otago Polytechnic is a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students. Go to the Ministry of Education website for further information.