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Source: University of Otago

Alumna Rebekah van Kerkhof is grateful for all the support she received from the University after her concussion. Photo: Dave Bull.
Rebekah van Kerkhof’s a tertiary education journey started like most – she spent her first year of study at the Otago Business School trying to get involved in all the programmes on offer.
“I made friends, joined clubs – quickly realised that I’d joined too many clubs and so I spent some time dropping out of clubs. The usual antics most people get up to at University,” Rebekah says.
However, things took a turn when Rebekah was concussed towards the middle of her second semester.
She needed speech therapy, occupational therapy and other medical treatments to help recover from the incident and make it through the mid-semester exams that were coming up.
“It was only because of the amazing staff in the Disability Assistance Office that I made it through,” Rebekah says.
“It was probably the worst grade I have ever gotten, but I passed the class and I’ll always be super grateful to the people who helped me get through that.”
Overcoming this enabled Rebekah to continue her studies and eventually achieve both a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in Marketing.
Rebekah van Kerkhof
Going through this challenging time left Rebekah with a variety of tips and tricks she wanted to share with anyone considering studying at Otago University.
“PASS [peer-assisted study sessions] were an absolute lifesaver,” Rebekah says.
“I had a great facilitator in first year that helped me so much and so I would definitely recommend taking advantage of that programme.”
In her second year, she took part in the University of Otago’s employability programme, OtagoExtra, and is convinced the skills she learned there are the reason she gets compliments on her CV.
Rebekah says she was unsure what she would do when she left University and so decided to do a “panic Master’s”.
“I’m actually so glad I made that decision,” Rebekah says.
“It gave me the time I needed to have plenty of conversations with people in the Department of Marketing about which direction I should go in. I also ended up receiving a research assistant scholarship within the Department.”
Rebekah recommends students apply for summer scholarships as her experience, as a research assistant for the 2020 New Zealand Consumer Behaviour Lifestyle Study, was “absolutely amazing”.
Studying for her master’s enabled Rebekah to tutor at the University, running two tutorial streams in semester one for a Consumer Behaviour paper, and two streams in semester two for an Integrated Marketing Campaigns paper.
“I absolutely loved this experience. It kept me out of trouble and I got to know and help some really cool students.”
Ultimately, Rebekah believes that by trying your best, and taking hold of the opportunities and support network available at the University, you can make your time as a student not only successful, but memorable.
“The University has been instrumental in preparing me for the future,” Rebekah says.
“Things that I wouldn’t have expected, like being able to confidently present an idea, adaptability, resilience, being able to take feedback without taking offence, leadership, teamwork, and most importantly, critical thinking.
Rebekah encourages graduates to apply for jobs they are passionate about. Photo: Dave Bull.
“Often times employers don’t need to see that you are an expert in an area, they would rather have a fresh graduate with a proven ability to learn, motivate themselves, and play well with others in a corporate environment.”
Rebekah has been offered a role as a global trainee in the Hilti Outperformer Programme. Hilti is a multinational company that researches, develops, creates and markets a host of products, services and software.
After a rigorous, seven month-long interview process, she accepted the position and will initially spend 15 months as an account manager at their office in Auckland.
She will then spend six months in Singapore doing project work, and a further three months in Europe, America or Africa also doing project work.
Hilti will station Rebekah outside New Zealand for a few years, with the intention of building her up for leadership in an accelerated timeframe.
Rebekah advises graduates to apply for jobs even if they think they might not be qualified for them.
“I certainly did not think that I would be qualified for the role I’m going into,” Rebekah says.
“But I was passionate about what Hilti was doing and I really wanted to work for their company.
“It’s always worth putting your name forward.”
Department of Marketing
Peer-assisted Study Sessions (PASS)
OtagoExtra Programme
Disability Assistance Office
Hilti Outperformer Programme: Explore the Global Trainee Programme with Hilti North Asia

MIL OSI