Top NZ actor Sam Neill talks to film students on campus

Sam Neill visits Canterbury students
Sam Neill visits Canterbury students

One of New Zealand’s greatest and most famous actors Sam Neill was on campus today talking to cinema studies students. He also spoke on the amphitheatre lawn behind the Music building about the Arts and how helpful an Arts degree is out in the big wide world.

The University of Canterbury has gone a long way to making him a major ally in the future development of Creative Arts. The lecture with the Cinema and Film students was perfect and he really connected with them and excited them about that form of creativity.

Afterwards, he spent a long time talking with students, he signed umpteen autographs, they took heaps of selfies and he then gave an inspiring speech at the beginning of the School of Humanities and Creative Arts lunch.

His visit was a tremendous success – the film students we were rapt. Sam is charming and an engaging raconteur.  He had words of personal counsel to share with students who someday may venture into careers in the New Zealand film industry and/or the acting profession.

When a person of international repute, such as Sam Neill, actually takes time out from their busy schedule to chat with our students who have chosen to study film at the University of Canterbury, it lets them know that their work is, in fact, important and that their voices will be heard.

It is also very important that Sam grew up here in Christchurch, and is an alumnus and Honorary Doctorate of the University of Canterbury. This is where he was first exposed to the acting profession.  He is an important role model for students and undoubtedly can inspire them to excel in their chosen careers in film.

UC Diversity Week – What it’s like being a UC student in a wheelchair

Kia ora everyone! With Diversity Week just around the corner we are hearing from students about who they are and how they experience our campus. Last week we heard from Josiah about why belonging is important.

Today, we hear from Imogen, about what it’s like being a UC student in a wheelchair.

Hi! I’m Imogen. I’m a 2nd year student who coincidentally has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to navigate campus, so finding a university that could accommodate my needs without hindering my experiences was vital for me. Considering course fees, hall costs as well as my wheelchair, I decided staying in Canterbury and living with my parents would be the most financial beneficial option, also let’s not forget the advantages of living with your parents! No cooking, cleaning or mandatory social niceties! But also from a mobility aspect Christchurch and the campus, is one of the flattest universities in New Zealand so it seemed the best choice.

Now I’m not looking for a pity party or that dreaded word inspirational. I get enough of that from complete strangers on the bus thank you! I personally don’t feel inspirational, or brave; quite the opposite actually, I’m just me and I get on with my life anyhow. Starting university, I was petrified like every other person at Orientation. But I had different issues to think about than others when deciding where to go to university. For example, is the campus mainly flat? If not are there accessible ramps and or lifts? Do the lecture theatres have space to accommodate wheelchairs whilst allowing the students to feel part of the discussion? Did the university have good emotional and physical support systems for those students in need? Thankfully at the University of Canterbury the answer to all these questions was YES!

The comfort and wellbeing of the student is at the forefront of the Disability Resource Service team’s mind when they gain more students. The members of the team were my first impression of the University and all I can say is WOW! Do they know how to welcome you! From help with academic workload and special examination conditions to safety procedures in the unlikely event of an earthquake, and giving private tours of the campus to point out all the wheelchair access points into all buildings around campus. To advice about appropriate clubs the Disabilities Resource Centre and their extremely capable team could not have helped me feel more comfortable with managing my disability and university work.

Okay I can hear you saying, “But really what’s the university like access-wise?”  I’m serious! The university itself is generally very accessible, and you have to take into consideration that the campus is currently under construction like most of the city. So there are obstacles everywhere but what place is all flat? There are lifts or ramps into every building and nearly all the lecture theatres are wheelchair accessible, unfortunately not all in the Engineering block are. Also most lecturers and tutors are accommodating when it comes to giving you slack if you’re late to class and helping sort out special assessment conditions.

When starting university I was terrified, my favourite mantra – “Suck it up, how old are you?!” – was used a lot in those first few weeks. This internal pep talk helped me to wheel outside my comfort zone. But through attending several orientation events (I may have been forced by a friend initially but you’ll have a ball once your there, honest) and joining clubs I’ve found great friends. Clubs are a great way to get information and get an overview of all the campus. My one objection is there’s NO UC FILM SOCIETY! What’s the world come to? Maybe I’ll start one, who knows…

Thanks for that advice Imogen! Look forward to seeing you at Diversity Week coming up on March 16th.

Diversity Week

UC student and CanTeen president wants to help young people

University of Canterbury student Rachel Allan has endured some serious challenges in the last few years. However, her circumstances have led to her realising her passion for helping young people, which she does every day as the CanTeen president, as well as being a Social Work student. Rachel joined CanTeen in November 2007 when her older brother Ben was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He sadly died in January 2010, but Rachel was inspired to help others cope with their own trauma.

Her journey to becoming CanTeen president took place over seven years. She joined the committee within six months of becoming a member and was elected as president of the Canterbury West Coast branch within a year. After the passing of her brother, she was elected onto the national member advisory committee, and from there was elected as national president.

Through her experience at CanTeen, Rachel realised her love for helping young people – so she decided to enrol to study a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Canterbury in 2012. She is proud to be a UC student, saying “I love our UCSA and I love the culture. I love all the social events and the campus is pretty amazing”.

As president, Rachel hopes to create more awareness about the support that CanTeen offers – especially for non-patient members, such as siblings. She says “there’s a public perception that the patient and their parents are the only ones who need support around childhood cancer. There’s a real gap in the understanding around siblings”.

On being CanTeen president, Rachel says “I love that I’m making a difference in someone else’s cancer journey – being in a position where I can help someone who’s been where I’ve been. It’s being able to make sure that whatever CanTeen is doing is getting better and more effective”.

After being through some tough times, she has some advice for her peers on coping with life’s challenges. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is around gratitude and appreciating what you have. I think if you’re grateful for what you have, more good stuff will come your way. Life happens when change happens – so you’ve got to learn how to embrace change”. What wisdom from a 23 year old!

To see my full interview with Rachel click here.