You did what?!! The benefits of collaborating with students on risk behaviours outside the classroom

Ms Jane Gunn-lewis1, Ms Louisa Samson1

1Arcadia University, Queenstown, New Zealand, 2Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand

For most students, studying abroad is a special semester where exploring and engaging with the local environment is where most learning takes place. Students’ engagement results in personal growth and a sense of achievement and empowerment. For this reason, universities in NZ and Australia promote the local environs as part of the study abroad experience and work hard to ensure students feel part of the local community and engage socially. At the same time, students are increasingly accountable for their behaviour both on and off campus. The challenge is having students engage in the local environment but also make good decisions and stay safe. How can we encourage wise choices in students when most providers do not even know the risks students are taking or what they perceive as risky?

In this session we examine the results of a questionnaire given to 170 American students studying at a New Zealand university about topics such as drinking, drugs, driving, casual sex and adventure activities. Results were not what we expected. For example, over a quarter of our students reported hitch hiking. We compared these results with a smaller cohort in Australia and Spain, and found that risk behaviour is partly dependent on destination. Lastly we share the response of the University of Otago to address a ‘risk behaviour’ (hiking). We suggest that collaboration with faculty, international and domestic students, along with an emphasis on ‘education’ rather than ‘regulation’ can lead to not just safer behaviours but increased personal growth and good decision making while building a sense of campus community.


Jane Gunn-Lewis began as a lecturer in English language at Basel University, Switzerland and then moved into learning support and international education at UNITEC Auckland. Jane moved to Queenstown with her family for a lifestyle change in 2000 and has been with Arcadia since the inception of their NZ programmes in 2001 and manages to squeeze in as much skiing and hiking as her busy schedule with US study abroad students allows.

Louisa works as an International Student Adviser and also coordinates International Orientation at the University of Otago.  Previously she worked in Marketing and IT before leaving New Zealand in 2008 to live with her family in Tahiti for 8 years. During this time she worked as an English Language Teacher at a French speaking high school and at the Chamber of Commerce in Papeete as well doing translation work. She was also part of a youth association coordinating events and providing pastoral care to young people and their families. Louisa is passionate about her work supporting international students and the importance of an effective and meaningful orientation programme.  She is very excited to be attending and presenting at her first ISANA conference.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.