University advice from NZ’s 2018 Emerging Leaders Award Winners


The Emerging Leaders Awards is an annual event hosted by NxtStep and Talent Solutions to celebrate New Zealand’s best and brightest, well-rounded tertiary students. The finalists are invited to an assessment day in Auckland and attend the award evening that night, where the 7 award winners are announced by the key sponsors.

We spoke with Cameron Wells (Science Award Winner), Kaylee Bird (Law Award Winner), Kiri Lenagh-Glue (Digital & Tech Award Winner) and Tom Maslin (Engineering Award Winner) to ask about their university experiences so far!

What has been the best advice you received while at university?

Cam: Find what it is that makes you want to get out of bed in
the morning – once you’ve found your passion, you’ll put everything you’ve got into working for it and the success will follow.


Kaylee: Don’t completely fill up your schedule. It can be exhausting and can mean that you don’t get the most out of your lectures. Make breaks for yourself.

What has been the biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?

Cam: Learning to manage time and keep up-to-date with everything has definitely been the biggest challenge!

Kaylee: Take care of yourself! Your journey through your degree is yours and yours alone – you need to do what is best for you.


Kiri: Be careful with over-extending yourself. Be honest and realistic about what you can actually do.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you had known or done?

Kiri: Don’t worry if it feels like you don’t know what you’re doing. Chances are, almost all of your classmates are in the same boat.

Tom: I wish I had attended all of my classes. It was easy to get behind, which made life pretty stressful, constantly cramming for tests and assignments.

How would you summarise your university experience to date?

Cam: It’s definitely the best decision I’ve ever made – I’ve had a tonne of fun, met some incredible people along the way and have been involved with some amazing projects.

Kiri: You definitely get out
what you put into it. That doesn’t mean just study, study, study... Socialise and take up opportunities as they arise.

Tom: It’s very independent compared to high school. Going to classes, studying, and completing assignments is completely up to you. I love being more independent and going at my own pace.

How did you pick your degree?

Cam: I spent a couple of Friday nights following a doctor around in the local Emergency Department while I was at high school... I “caught the bug”.

Kaylee: I went to Uni Open Days and collected every brochure I could find, went home and threw out the ones that sounded incredibly boring. I was left with two – business management and law.

Tom: I’ve always had a fascination for robots, which led me to study mechatronics engineering.

How do you manage your time to create a life balance?

Cam: Don’t stop doing the things
you enjoyed doing at high school, whether that’s sport, music, or playing tiddlywinks! So many people give away things that used to be important to them and end up “lost” because of it.

Kaylee: Make commitments that involve something you love doing. This way, even when I am busy there are things in my life that are not JUST university and things that bring me joy.

Kiri: Knowing when to work hard, but also knowing when I need to take a day off and treat myself, and help myself recharge.

What advice can you give to someone who is about to start their first year of university?

Cam: Make sure you enjoy what you’re studying and not just doing it because your friends are doing it too!

Kaylee: Don’t take on more than you can chew! It can be all too easy to overcommit yourself in a heartbeat.

Tom: Take all the opportunities you can: join as many clubs as you can, one of my club contacts got me living in Japan for 3 months at a ski resort.

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