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Emma Douma

BSc(Hons First Class), PhD in Physics
Teaching Fellow, Department of Physics, Otago University

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I decided to study at the University of Otago because of its great reputation, the high student numbers meant I would enjoy a unique and varied experience and it was also the closest university to home.

I initially enrolled in economics, but because I’d enjoyed physics and maths at school, Mum suggested I take a physics paper. After one paper I never looked back and became a physics major.

I had a great group of friends that also took physics, we formed our own study groups and now they are all over the world pursuing their career goals! Third year is when we really started clicking as a large group of students studying together rather than in several small groups. We started socialising outside of class and the physics BYOs kept us sane during the stressful parts of the semesters. Having any excuse to catch up with friends be it for a coffee in the middle of the day or a theme party in the evening… it was great! I also enjoyed the fantastic study spaces available (science library was like a second home for all of us).

Otago has so much on offer - there are so many clubs to choose from and the short courses run at OUSA are fantastic. I tried my hand at various types of dance and even learned archery. I did a summer studentship in physics and got to see what Dunedin was like when all the students left for summer break. Campus felt like a ghost-town but I got in some quality sightseeing around Dunedin.
In my postgrad years I started to be more active in the physics department, contributing to community engagement activities and team building among other postgrads.

Since graduating, I have been working in physics education, both online and face to face. Learning physics now allows me to teach it, but going through with so many people and working in study groups really helped me see how differently people learn (crucial for my current employment) and it also taught me great work ethic and time management (you don’t want to fall behind in lectures or readings otherwise things go sideways pretty quickly!).

My employers have been very impressed with my ability to communicate the complex ideas taught in physics and my logical thought processes. I attribute this to the many problem-solving and reasoning skills learned at Otago.

My advice to you? The experience you can get at Otago is like no other. Dunedin really is a student city and student discounts are a thing almost everywhere (whether you just want to grab coffee with a friend or are looking for a new pair of shoes, flash that ID card). Make sure you get out of your bubble and take part in the many activities happening around campus (or in your college). Try something new, a club/activity/volunteering etc, you will learn so much about yourself if you do. And most importantly of all DON’T FORGET TO STUDY! With so much happening around you, make sure you carve out some time to put towards studying and getting the achievements you want from your course.