Geography was Nat Christensen’s favourite subject at school, but he didn’t focus on it when he first started a BA at Otago.
“In my first year I did a real mix of things. I wanted to take the opportunity to try out different subjects, not just those I loved at school but also things I wanted to find out more about.
“It’s important to pursue your interests as much as you can early on — not just in study but also in clubs and organisations and groups. You have so much freedom and the chance to choose what you want to do.
“Trying different things is incredibly valuable and gives you a sense of what’s going on in the world around you.”
Geography still won out. “Geography at Otago was even more enjoyable than doing it at school, especially the human geography side of the department, which was my real interest.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the staff at all of the departments I spent time with — Geography, History and Theology. They push you academically and look after you pastorally — there’s a great sense of community.”
Nat’s social circle revolved around flat mates he’d known from school and fellow students, and he kept busy with youth work at a local church and jobs in a supermarket, a brewery, and then at Otago Museum while he was doing his MA.
Then he was accepted into a graduate programme for policy advisors in central government.
“The public service looks for diversity of backgrounds and Geography is the perfect degree for that. There’s not always a clear path at the end of the degree but you can end up doing anything with it because you gain so many key skills employers look for. You learn to work independently but also get a good sense of how to work with others as a group.”
He is now a policy advisor with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. “You need the ability to distill complex ideas into something you can pass on to others easily, which is one of the key skills Otago teaches you.”