Student profiles

Find out what study in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies is like—read what our students have to say about their experiences.

Kaitlin Maddever - Current BA student


My studies in Linguistics and NZSL have taught me to see things from different angles.  Language and accents are different all over the world, as well as within our communities. But there’s no reason that people should be looked down on for the way they speak. This applies just as well to perspectives, leading to a healthy dose of tolerance and understanding. That is a serious advantage that I didn’t have before studying Linguistics.

New Zealand Sign Language is one of our country’s three official languages and is used by the Deaf community within New Zealand. Learning NZSL as a hearing person was eye-opening. It’s too easy to encounter only people who have similar lives and opinions. Linguistics and NZSL Studies has enabled me to see more than just that, and to be respectful of the many different experiences people have.

Shelley Dawson - Current PhD student (Applied Linguistics)

Shelley Dawson

I am constantly intrigued by my students’ varied journeys as they navigate the intricacies of the target language and negotiate ‘who’ they are amidst new linguistic, sociocultural, and ideological backdrops.

Now, as I forge my own identity as a researcher, I am afforded access to unanticipated depths as I investigate this relationship. My study centres on the trajectories of exchange students, focusing on the crucial, yet under explored transition period. Through a detailed analysis of interactions, I aim to uncover the complexity involved in finding one’s voice in new surroundings and to link this to wider societal contexts. It is a privilege to be part of my participants’ journeys, and to be part of such a supportive and stimulating academic environment at Victoria.

Mae Lewis - BA and GCertTESOL graduate

Mae Lewis

After graduating from Victoria with a BA in Linguistics and a GradCert TESOL, I travelled for a few months and eventually settled in Santiago, Chile, where I have spent the past two years teaching English in a private British school. One thing I love is how relevant the courses I studied at university are for my job. Every day of teaching I draw on skills and knowledge from my qualifications, whether helping students with their pronunciation, thinking about the influence of a student's first language, or thinking about the vocabulary load of a text and deciding which words to pre-teach. The GradCert TESOL has been especially valuable for helping me with teaching methodology and classroom management strategies. Teaching in a different culture has been a huge learning experience. Every job will always have its challenges, but I feel well prepared to meet them. It has been challenging but rewarding - and there is nothing quite so rewarding as seeing your students improve.

Tiffany Stenger - BA and GCertTESOL graduate


I completed a BA with a double major in Linguistics and Second Language Education (now TESOL) at Victoria University of Wellington. After working voluntarily as an ESOL home tutor for English Language Partners, I decided that teaching was the right profession for me. To take the next step towards this profession I then completed a Graduate Certificate in TESOL (GCertTESOL) followed by the Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Adult Literacy and Numeracy) (GDTALN). The GCertTESOL built nicely on my undergraduate TESOL and provided both theory and practical teaching experience. It also gave me the confidence to complete the GDTALN and then to work as an ESOL tutor for beginner refugees and migrants. I now work in adult education at a local polytechnic (Whitireia NZ).

My degrees have given me the competence and confidence to stand up in front of a class and teach material that I have carefully designed and developed and also to know I have a huge bank of knowledge and resources to support me. Another invaluable skill I developed through these programmes is how to be reflective. I use reflection through every stage of my teaching process. I am able to step back and be my own ‘critical friend’; to constantly ask myself what am I doing and why? What has happened and why? I use this technique to further improve my teaching skills so I can provide my students with the best possible learning experience. I have found it very interesting to see how much the two teaching fields of TESOL and Adult Education overlap. As I teach a high percentage of English as Additional Language (EAL) students alongside native English speakers, I constantly weave back and forth between the concepts and principles of my two qualifications. Having them both enables me to view resources and plans from different perspectives ensuring that they meet the needs of all of my students.

Carmen Harji - BCom and GCertTESOL graduate


Carmen enrolled in several undergraduate courses in linguistics and TESOL as part of her BCom in International Business at Victoria University of Wellington. After completing the BCom, and inspired by these courses, Carmen enrolled in the Graduate Certificate of TESOL, a 12 week programme taught over the summer trimester.

Carmen’s personal interest in geographically isolated and traditionally resource-constrained teaching contexts led her to work with the Ladakhi Women’s Travel Company in Northern India’s trekking base of Leh. Their mission is to provide young Ladakhi women with a livelihood whilst challenging traditional work roles in the male-dominated industry of mountain guiding.

Carmen’s work with this company involves building the basic language capabilities of porters in a lower English proficiency class through to addressing wider societal issues such as climate change, development and gender equality in classes for more proficient trainee guides.

Carmen identifies the practicum component of the GCertTESOL as being of particular value. As she says, it “gave me the confidence to lead classes and experiment with ways of managing a class to provide maximum opportunities for actual language use in the classroom. I could not have asked for a better start to my teaching career.”