Policy professional Herman Visagie has two words for students both starting and leaving university: don’t panic.
“When you leave school it’s almost impossible to know what you really want to do for the rest of your life, so in your first year at university do as broad a spectrum of subjects as you can and try to do something you like,” he says.
The same advice applies on graduation. “Don’t freak out if you don’t know what you are going to do when you get to the workforce. Otago gives you a solid background, so keep your eyes and ears open and opportunities will present themselves.”
Coming to Otago, Herman wanted subjects that would lead to a professional career. He chose Law, planning to match it with what he eventually decided to do even if he did not practise, and International Business, which would give him a global outlook on life and allow him to learn a new language.
“I’d studied European languages at school and wanted a change. Mandarin was an exciting alternative and a real challenge, and obviously a logical language to learn, given the way the world was going.
“I really enjoyed both law school and business school. People were on top of their game and always willing to help find the right academic path for you, which was good for me because of my odd mix of courses.”
On graduating with double law and commerce degrees and a Diploma in Mandarin, completed in China, Herman joined what was the Ministry of Economic Development as a policy analyst. He is now an Associate Director at the New Zealand Bankers' Association, an industry lobby group.
“Both my degrees allowed me to do a bit of everything and gave me a really solid framework and foundation to understand both the legal and business worlds,” he says. “The skills I learned at Otago have been extremely useful in both jobs.”
Herman is also involved with several China-related organisations and plans eventually to spend time working in Asia.