27 August 2018
Jordan Vaelei in one of SAE Aucklands state of the art studios
In 2017, 24-year-old Jordan Vaelei from Emeryville, California, made the life-changing decision to move to the other
side of the world to complete his bachelor degree with SAE Creative Media Institute.
Having commenced his studies at SAE’s Emeryville campus, the aspiring recording artist was given the opportunity to
complete his degree at SAE’s Auckland campus. Jordan says that despite having never lived away from home, and missing
his home and family at times, the move has been one of the best decisions of his life.
Jordan completed the first year in the Audio Programme at SAE Expressions, Emeryville. Jordan is now in his third year
of a Bachelor of Recording Arts at SAE Auckland. He joined SAE Auckland just over a year ago.
He says he decided to make the big move partly because he wanted to travel and partly because he knew he wanted to
“I was commuting quite a long way to the Emeryville campus from home. At the end of my first year I talked to my mom,
who is my biggest supporter, and she said, ‘This [Audio Engineering] is what you want to do. We need to find a way to
really make this work for you.’”
Jordan and his mother went to talk to the advisors at SAE Emeryville. They gave Jordan some out of the box options,
including SAE Auckland.
“Once they started talking about the courses I’d be covering at SAE Auckland and the fact they offered project-based
learning I started to get excited. I went home and was reading through all the SAE Auckland info saying, ‘Wow, Mom! Look
SAE Auckland has a community feel and boasts state-of-the-art audio and film studios. Emeryville campus is much bigger,
and offers more of a general education. Jordan enjoys the small, close-knit feel of the campus here. His father is part
Tokelauan. Some of his father’s relatives live in Auckland, so coming to New Zealand offered Jordan a chance to connect
with his heritage.
At first Jordan’s mother was hesitant to send her son so far away, but once they started looking into the transfer
process they both felt comfortable.
“SAE looked after me all the way through. The transfer was smooth. Even when my visa took longer than expected to come
through, SAE had my back. The academic manager at SAE Auckland, Dr Stephen Small, kept in contact with me all the time
and talked me through everything. I only arrived a few days before classes started. It was the weekend but Stephen met
me and welcomed me the day I arrived in Auckland.”
Jordan’s mom Desiree Bilich, and his younger sister came to visit him for a two-week trip over the Christmas holidays.
For both of them it was their first time out of America, and not only did they love Auckland and New Zealand, they went
away knowing that Jordan was in his element doing the thing he loved.
“It was so wonderful to see him doing so well. It was a big learning curve, living away from home, dealing with living
arrangements, transportation, etc. on top of school, but he has done an incredible job. It has been a wonderful
experience for our family. Our trip to New Zealand would have never happened if Jordan hadn’t been a student there.”
“Studying at SAE Auckland has helped Jordan grow, mature and it has been an unforgettable experience. He’s learned how
to live in another country and has made wonderful friends from all over the world.”
The SAE Auckland campus is located centrally in Parnell. Jordan walks to campus from his shared accommodation. Jordan
doesn’t own a car as he says he can walk or bike almost anywhere.
“I’m not a super big city kind of guy, but I can get everywhere I need for school and then bike to the bush or the beach
when I want a break. I love being close to everything. The gym, the library, the campus. The supermarket is right down
the street. It’s so diverse. I love the beach. There are heaps of cool bush walks. The central Auckland Domain park is
and the Museum is awesome. And the beaches – I love beaches.”
Jordan also enjoys the culture here. While he works part-time, he finds he doesn’t feel as pressured as he did back
“It’s culturally very different in New Zealand. There’s a big pool of international people. There are some small things
that are different but mostly it’s fine. It’s laid back. I like the work/life balance here.”
When asked if anything surprised him about New Zealand he says:
“I had heard that kiwis are super nice. But I didn’t know what that meant until I met my classmates. Almost all of them
had already done the first year together, but everyone just welcomed me. I fit right in. I could tell how close everyone
was, but they made me feel right at home.”
SAE Auckland Campus Director, Dr Suzette Major says it’s wonderful to see Jordan thriving here:
“The move has been such a success for Jordan. It’s wonderful watching him become part of the SAE Auckland community.”
Being a global organisation allows SAE campuses to easily transfer students from one country to another. The academic
managers throughout the organisation chat on a regular basis making the cross crediting not only a possibility but also
SAE Expressions Emeryville Campus Director, Elmo Frazer, says that Jordan is the first student to transfer from SAE
Emeryville to SAE Auckland, but he hopes it isn’t the last.
“We are very proud of Jordan. SAE offers students a unique opportunity to study and live in some of the most exciting
cities and countries in the world. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we are happy to welcome students to come and live
and study, while encouraging those who are here to look at all the possibilities that SAE offers”.
Jordan couldn’t be happier with the decision to transfer from Emeryville to Auckland and offers this advice to any other
students considering it:
“Do it. For sure. Don’t hold back. Here at SAE Auckland they have made me feel right at home and I’m doing what I love.
I miss my family and home of course, but this is worth it. It’s awesome.”