Tutor Q&A: Why I Chose the University of Otago

Throughout high school, Danielle Desvaux de Marigny, became a leadership and extra-curricular guru, heavily involving herself in social justice projects and multiple school initiatives, all the while completing her International Baccalaureate for which she received impressive results. Currently, Danielle is studying at the University of Otago, New Zealand’s oldest university.

Continue reading to discover more about Danielle’s extracurricular prowess, her journey to Otago, and what she loves the most about being a tutor and mentor with Crimson Education.

When you were in high school, did you ever think you would be studying at The University of Otago? If so, when did you start thinking of attending that university?

I started thinking seriously about attending the University of Otago in the middle of year 13, my final year of high-school.

Was there a meaningful moment that made you feel you could attend a top ranked university?

Yes, I did a range of career and personality testing at high school and the results were quite inconclusive as the testing said I could do anything I wanted. The career lady said that I should apply to some of the top universities in the United States as she said my extra-curricular activities and academic results would be sufficient to have a good chance at getting in. I however decided to remain in New Zealand and attend the University of Otago as this meant being closer to home and I am still considering doing a post-graduate degree in the United States.

How did you choose your university? What questions did you ask yourself?

I chose The University of Otago because it has a very diverse and prominent science curriculum and is the oldest university in New Zealand, and it is also the first to admit women into university. I was interested in staying in New Zealand for undergraduate study because I have always thought that it is a wonderful place to start my university learning journey, after which I plan to possibly study overseas for postgraduate study.

What academic strengths or extracurricular activities do you feel helped you to secure an offer at your university?

Academically, I received 41/45 in the International Baccalaureate curriculum, which exceeds the expectations for entry into any of the first-year programs at The University of Otago. I also carried out a range of extra-curricular activities such as:

  1. Shave for a Cure.

I was the head prefect in charge of the Community Relations Committee. This involved months of organisation and coordination with Shave for a Cure. We achieved great success raising awareness about leukaemia and raising an excess of $5000 for Shave for a Cure.

  1. Project Samoa.

As the student leader for the IB CAS initiative, I worked with a team to raise money for a primary and secondary school in Samoa. The project ran for more than 2 years and we carried out many fundraisers such as car-washes and movie nights. With the funds raised, we were able to purchase books, sports equipment and computers for the schools in Samoa. We delivered these in person as we went to Samoa in 2015, which was an eye-opening and rewarding trip.

  1. Habitat for Humanity.

I was involved in the planning, logistics and social media side of the Habitat for Humanity ‘Big Build’ that our school hosted on our front school field. After a year of planning, I managed to participate in the physical building of the house itself.

  1. Model United Nations (MUN).

I participated in MUN in both years 12 and 13 in Auckland, representing Rwanda on the Security Council one year and Syria the next. In 2014, I won "Best African Country".

  1. Advanced Senior Debating.

I was selected to be in the Top Advanced Debating Team at Takapuna Grammar School for 2014 and 2015, which was an excellent opportunity for me to hone my questioning and persuasive skills.

I also played 1st XI hockey at high school and senior tennis.

Are you involved in any initiatives/clubs/organisations at your university?

I was in the Ball Committee for my College of Residence, which allowed me to create connections in Dunedin and learn organisational skills for a big event. This was an invaluable experience for me. Working towards the admission to the programs I would like to get into next year excluded me from volunteering to the extent to which I would have liked last year. However, this year I plan to be involved more heavily in World Vision, local charitable projects in Dunedin, debating and the Physiotherapy Students’ Association 9which will involve working with a sports team and organising the dances for Physiotherapy students at Otago University).

Why do you think it’s important for other students to step outside their comfort zone and attend a top ranked university?

I believe that students should aim to enhance their prospects for the future, and as a result, should apply for as many universities as they possibly can so that they have their options open for the future. I know from personal experience that stepping out of one's comfort zone is the best way to grow and stretch yourself, after which opportunities that one could have only dreamed of may open for the future.

What do you love most about studying at The University of Otago?

I love the atmosphere of being a student at the University of Otago as it is located in the only city in New Zealand (Dunedin) that is truly based around the University. Students make up a large proportion of the population in Dunedin, and they are, therefore, embraced and given many opportunities that I do not believe I would have gotten if I had attended a University anywhere else in NZ (such as the true "scarfie" experience, the snow in winter, and the very rich student culture).

How has studying at your university provided you with unique opportunities?

The University of Otago has allowed me to connect with other individuals from around New Zealand and the world who have similar goals and aspirations to myself. Indeed, many of the people who come to Dunedin want to make a difference in the world in their own way, whether that is through medicine, science or law. I have made invaluable friends and memories in my first year of university and I look forward to seeing what further opportunities the future holds.

What made you want to become a tutor/mentor with Crimson?

After gaining 41/45 in the International Baccalaureate, I felt inspired to help other students to achieve their best, just as I received help from friends and teachers in achieving my best.

What do you love most about tutoring/mentoring students?

I have loved many aspects of the tutoring/mentoring job, including seeing the satisfaction from the students when they understand a new concept, as well as when they achieve their goals. Reflecting on what the student has learned at the end of a topic or project is very rewarding as we are able to see the changes in understanding and learning that have taken place as a result of our hard work and dedication. I very much feel like I am on part of the journey with my students as I try to invest into them and feel delighted as they succeed.

What advice do you have for current high school students considering their future study options?

My biggest piece of advice for current high school students would be to push for what you want most because with hard work, dedication and a plan you will undoubtedly eventually get to where you want to go! Your ideals for the future may change, but as long as you keep pushing yourself to be more and do better, you will keep achieving greatly and you will feel rewarded by your successes along the way.

What would you like to do once you finish university?

I would ideally like to be an expert in the field of physiotherapy and nutrition, helping people to strive for their goals to attain maximal health and well-being, as well as helping them to recover from traumas such as surgeries. I would definitely love to work in a hands-on job with people. I would love to consult/teach in this area as well.

What do you do for fun?

I love to tramp, swim, water-ski and play sports like badminton, hockey and tennis. I also love baking, reading and relaxing with my friends and family.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the following achievements:

  1. Gaining 41/45 in the International Baccalaureate Diploma, and coming within the Top Scholars of New Zealand.
  2. Being awarded the "Best All-rounded Student" for both years 11 and 13 at my High School, winning the Chubb Cleverdon and Spooner Cups. I also won the Zonta Year 12 Leadership Award in 2014.
  3. Being awarded in the top 10 schools who raised money for Shave for a Cure in 2015.
  4. Being the "Student Leader' for Project Samoa, in which we raised funds for, and visited, a primary and secondary school in Samoa.
  5. Being in the Advanced Senior Debating Team at school, participating and winning prizes in MUNA, and then being chosen to be one of four faculty advisors on behalf of Crimson Education to train and facilitate 28 students going to Harvard and Yale Model United Nations in early 2017.
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