Q and A with Jennifer Andrewes
Firstly, can you give us a little background on your childhood and how you came to choose Otago University?
I grew up on the hills above Otago. My father lectured for many years in the French Department and was the Director of the University’s Language Learning Centre for many years, so we grew up in the University sphere and it was inevitable that I went to Otago.
What do you remember about your residential college or flatting experience?
I lived at home for the first two years, but in my third and fourth years I flatted in Grange Street, and I was lucky enough to have some really good flatmates and stayed in the same flat for two years.
Do you have any particular highlights or favourite memories of your time at Otago?
I loved the independence of studying at Otago; starting to make your way in the world, and getting a perspective on the many different views that people have of the world.
How did Otago help shape your life and career success?
I did French and History at Otago, and I think I was fortunate to have great teaching staff. I was lucky enough to win a French Government Scholarship to teach English in France for a year after finishing my studies. I also think the skills that I learned in history, including the ability to interpret information and good writing skills, have served me very well.
Why did you choose to work in communications?
I’ve always been interested in people and stories, so it was good combination. I like to be at the centre of an organisation and get an understanding of how it ticks, and how things work and to connect people with the stories of that organisation, and I’ve always loved writing.
And you worked with Winston Peters?
For a few years through the 1999 election I worked for New Zealand First, which was an interesting time as they went from 29 to 9 MPs. I was one of only two staff that were kept on during this time. I think I was kept on mainly because I was able to turn my hand to a range of work, and this was due to good foundational skills that Otago had instilled in me.
You uprooted your family and moved to France?
My husband and I moved to Wales and were there for six years, and our first two sons were born there. We had lots of holidays in Europe and planned to still go back there regularly after returning to live in Wellington. We wanted our kids to experience living in another culture, and spent seven months in France over two years from 2014, which led to writing my book Parallel Lives Four Seasons in the French Pyrenees.
What values are most important to you in your life today?
Kindness is the biggest value for me. I don’t think we could have done what we have done without the help and support of others. People are always very generous, and through travelling you are forced to ask for help from others.
What are your goals for the future?
The plan is to work out how we can spend more time living and working in France. We have a house there and we love spending time there. At the moment we spend 6-8 weeks every year in France, but we want to gradually increase that to three to six months a year. So we need to work out how to make that lifestyle financially viable.