Weiyi (Tony) Li
'Forestry Engineering is one of the most interesting and active engineering degrees...'
Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Forest Engineering
Graduate Forester, PF Olsen, Rotorua
Tony's choice of study stemmed from his love of working outdoors and an active lifestyle.
'I hate to stay in front of a computer screen all day,' he says. 'Forest Engineering is one of the most interesting and active engineering degrees, in terms of outdoor activities.'
Along with his active approach to study, Tony got himself very involved with UC's community. When he wasn't working on his studies, he took part in research programmes through the School of Forestry, worked as an NZ Aid private tutor and as a voluntary tutor for UC's Bridging Programme courses. He was also made a year representative for Forest Engineering students, which involved working with faculty to improve the quality of courses.
Tony's initial interest in UC came from word-of-mouth from a friend in China who was a past graduate. After finishing high school in Wuhan, China, Tony became invested with studying Engineering at UC with the Wuhan Sister City Scholarship.
'UC's top Civil and Natural Resource Engineering department attracted me initially but I later found myself pulled to the School of Forestry by its unique degree design and comprehensiveness,' he says. 'I could not have done it without the support of my scholarship.'
While at UC, Tony made the most of the opportunity his scholarship gave him, including becoming a NZ Aid Tutor and a tutor for the Pacific Development Team PASS programme helping fellow students. Along with being invited to the Golden Key International Honour Society for good academic grades, Tony was awarded a School of Forestry Dissertation Prize in recognition and support of his studies.
During his last two years of study, Tony had the incredible experience of going on a one-year exchange to Virginia Tech in the USA, with the support of a UC International Mobility Outbound Exchange Award.
'I definitely enjoyed this whole-year trip to a different country and also had a chance to study completely different subjects that are not offered in UC, for example wildfire management. At the same time, I also had an opportunity to get familiar with professors in VT and open my way to postgraduate study in the future. 'I would definitely recommend others to take this opportunity to learn, and enjoy your life in another country. Now I am an informal ambassador between these two universities and I often receive emails from VT students who are thinking about going to UC for an exchange.'
Tony is proud to have landed a job as a graduate forester in Rotorua, in Aotearoa New Zealand's North Island.
'Getting a job in the forestry industry is easy in some ways but hard in others. It's easy because there are usually more jobs than graduates each year, but it's hard because relevant practical work experience is super important when looking for a graduate position,' he says.
'During my interview, over 70% of the time was spent answering questions about my internship for Resource Management Service. Given that, UC's requirement about practical work experience is actually helping us.'
Tony recommends internships while at university as a good way to gain valuable experience.
'I would say work experience is the most important thing after good academic grades. Forest Engineering and Forestry Science students have plenty of opportunities to gain experience, so indeed do go and learn something during summer breaks.
'My current role as a Graduate Forester will give me a chance to work for different departments in my first year, providing a comprehensive view about the industry and company. After this I'll be assigned to a specific role with my preference and my managers' feedback.'
Tony feels his background as an international student from China will benefit him when developing his career in New Zealand, especially since China is one of this country's biggest markets.
'This is a fast-developing industry and there are many opportunities, especially in international trading towards China.'
Tony was quick to make himself at home in New Zealand.
'Christchurch was a peaceful and convenient place for me to sit down and really learn something. UC has comfortable and convenient facilities and friendly, helpful staff. I enjoyed the quiet study environment.
'Rotorua is of course a good place to live and there are a lot of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking and fishing. A lot of things that I would like to do but time is always not enough! I have just started to learn mountain biking in the famous Redwood area with my colleagues. Of course, moving to another city without knowing anyone is a big challenge, and I am still trying to meet more local people.'
Tony's main advice for international students is: 'If you're planning to work in New Zealand after graduation, "give your employer some reasons to hire you rather than a local graduate" is a thing you should always keep in mind.'