Program Overview

Study theatre at New Zealand’s oldest university! The theatre world in New Zealand is thriving, and you will have the chance to take courses in a wide variety of courses. Every Thursday and Friday, there is a performance on campus called Lunchtime Theatre, which is mostly student-generated. Dunedin has many professional theatre companies, including a rep theatre and a young theatre company that was started by recent graduates of the university. There are also internships available in the thriving popular theatre scene of Dunedin. During your time abroad, enjoy:

  • New Zealand’s breathtaking landscape – Beautiful sand beaches, bush-clad hills, and tidal inlets are all near your apartment.
  • Hundreds of clubs, societies, and student organizations – Learn the ropes of wine appreciation in the wine club or rock climbing in one of the student adventure organizations. There are hundreds of options, and plenty of artistic endeavors to pursue beyond the classroom.
  • Live in the heart of Lord of the Rings country – Dunedin is an excellent gateway to beautiful Central Otago and Fiordland, where opportunities abound for hiking, skiing, water sports, adventure tourism (including bungee jumping), and admiring the spectacular landscapes. Dunedin’s coastal location and climate are ideal for a wide range of sports and other recreational pursuits.

“This experience has been the most incredible and life-changing few months. I have made fantastic new relationships and lifelong friendships. The scenery, the classes, and the people were all fantastic and I found New Zealand to be an amazing country to live in.”

Performing Arts Points of Interest

Bunkhouse Theatre

For those looking for a more intimate and local cinema option there is Bunkhouse Theatre on Stewart Island one hour by ferry from Dunedin. The Bunkhouse Theatre is a locally run 53 seat theatre that is know for screening “A Local’s Tail” starring the owner’s dog Lola. Join Lola and others for films and concession food.

Dark Room Bar

Dark Room Bar in Christchurch, NZ hosts live bands almost every day. The venue is energetic, inviting artists of electronic and rock bands alike. The space is blackbox style for performances that fits 60 people standing.

Fortune Theatre

Fortune Theatre if the world’s southernmost professional theatre company has been staging dramas, comedies, pantomimes, classics and contemporary NZ productions for over 40 years. The theatre is located in an old, Gothic-style Wesleyan church. Fortune Theatre produces eight live mainstage productions each year, including comedies, dramas and a kid’s show. The company takes one show on tour around venues in Otago and Southland, and host many touring shows in their studio space.


Meow is a restaurant bar that frequently hosts live music in Wellington, NZ. The eclectic space is inviting and fun for visitors and locals alike. Bands ranges from jazz to rock to punk and the food and drink selection is off the charts!

Metro Cinema

The Metro Cinema screens selected films ranging from commercial to arthouse, MetroCinema is a world class cinema using the latest in studio equipment. The cinema is constantly updating to the latest in digital projection. The Metro will be the last cinema in Dunedin to screen off 35mm film commercially daily.

Neverland Studios

Neverland Studios is a dance studio with 3 locations in Auckland, NZ. The studios offer classes in tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop, contemporary, musical theatre, and acrobatics. The studio is home to hip hop crews, ballet development squads, and jazz/contemporary troupes.

RASA School of Dance

The RASA School of Dance is a dance studio in Dunedin offering classes in contemporary, jazz, hip hop, and tap classes. The studio leads a competition group by audition and tests for the Urban Ignition dance courses.

Regent Theatre

The Regent Theatre is Dunedin’s premier, large scale auditorium for performing arts and cinema for the people of Otago and visitors to Dunedin. The Regent is currently equipped to host live theatre, music and opera, dance, film, and festivals.

Rialto Cinema

Previously a nightclub venue after serving as a movie theatre during World War II, the Rialto Cinema reopened in 1998 as a six scene multiplex. The building of the Rilato Cinema is a category 1 historic place in the registry of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The cinema is decorated with elaborate interior features, and an example of a surviving atmospheric theatre.

Weta Cave

The Weta Cave is an exhibition of of props for “Lord of the Rings” & other films. Visitors can take tours of the location and experience movie creativity plus documentary & studio souvenirs.

PAA Home Base

Our headquarters in New Zealand are at the University of Otago in Dunedin. This is the oldest university in the country and sits alongside the beautiful coast. You will live on campus and join fellow study abroad students on excursions throughout the country during your semester. The beautiful campus is situated in the trendy and artistic city of Dunedin, which provides a range of additional theatre opportunities.

About the Location

This program is offered in collaboration with the University of Otago, New Zealand’s oldest university located in the city of Dunedin. Dunedin lies at the southern tip of the South Island, and is the main city of the province of Otago. Dunedin has a population of 120,000 and offers students the best of both worlds in terms of city life. It has the entertainment, facilities, and variety of larger cities but is small enough to be intimate, friendly, and uncrowded. Dunedin is an artistic center and home to many theaters and theatre companies, some of which have a direct relationship with the university.

Dunedin is also a gateway to Central Otago and Fiordland, where you will discover all the things that make Dunedin famous for being a stellar destination for skiing, hiking, water sports, adventure tourism (including bungee jumping), and admiring the spectacular landscapes.

Dunedin is the second-largest city on the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal hub of the Otago region. For cultural, historical, and geographical reasons, Dunedin is considered to be one of New Zealand’s four major urban centers. With numerous eateries, shopping districts, cafés, and night-owl venues, you’ll always be entertained!


As a Theatre Semester in New Zealand student, you will be living in a single room in the Otago University flats.

The flats are only a few minutes walk from campus and only 10 minutes from the main city shopping center. The flats are all furnished, include a basic kitchen set up where you can prepare meals, and all of the bedrooms contain a double bed with mattress, a desk, chair, and drawers. You will have the chance to live with New Zealanders and other international students, and can immerse yourself in, and learn more about, the Kiwi culture.


While you will live in your own room, you will share a flat with other students at the university. PAA has a small handful of students on this program every semester, who join another handful of study abroad students from our partner organizations to form a cohort that travels together and participates in excursions and onsite activities led by our Site Director.

A Day in the Life

The Participant Experience

The sound of waves crashing on the shore as the tide comes in greets your ears as you walk from your flat to your first theatre class of the day at the university. It’s a beautiful sunny day, and you already have plans to hit the beach with your friends after class. You’re thrilled that you’ve managed to fill your entire course load with theatre classes, including Directing, Voice and Movement, Improvisation, Theatre Technology, Acting, and an independent study where you will collaborate with a theatre in downtown Dunedin. This weekend you will join other PAA students on an excursion with the Site Director to Wellington where you will visit the famous Weta studios where Lord of the Rings was filmed and animated. It’s hard to believe you were missing home when you arrived a few weeks ago. Now you wish you never had to leave!

On Arrival

You will book a flight to arrive at the Dunedin Momona Airport (DUD) on the arrival day. As part of the Theatre Semester in New Zealand, you will participate in an extensive orientation program when you arrive. To better integrate into New Zealand life, we recommend that you take part in the International Student Mentor program, which pairs new international students like yourself with senior international and local students. This will start your semester off with opportunities to meet people and get involved in campus life. Right off the bat, you’ll have a support person and friend to help you adjust to life at the university and to Kiwi culture.

A Typical Day

In addition to taking a full course load, you will be invited to participate in regular excursions and onsite activities led by our Site Director.

For students interested in volunteer work, service learning, and getting involved with the theatre scene in Dunedin, the University offers numerous options. It is also a great place to learn about the native Maori culture of New Zealand, and their unique cultural and performance practices.

The University College staff work hard to provide a packed schedule of events for you to take part in throughout the semester. You will be invited to participate in internal competitions (with trophies for the winners!), including table tennis, foosball, portrait painting, basketball, darts, puzzle making, poker, chess and many other events. There are also “Open Mic” nights and other exciting campus activities.

Host Group

Our Theatre Semester in New Zealand is located at the University of Otago, the oldest university in New Zealand, founded in 1869. The Committee on University Academic Programmes of Universities New Zealand ensures that New Zealand university academic programmes meet quality standards, and provide the necessary accreditation to ensure your academic credits should be accepted by your home university.

The University’s culture is a mix of old and new. The campus is a short walk from the city’s vibrant center, which is full of artistic life and activities. The University has about 20,000 students, with 1,000 international students from over 100 countries! While the university is considered a larger university, Dunedin is not a large city. In fact, the university accounts for about 20 percent of Dunedin’s population. Otago is ideal if you’re looking to live in a real New Zealand college town! It is the only true college town in Australasia, in the sense that the city revolves around the university.

The Students’ Association (OUSA) supports over 100 student sports, arts, cultural, and faith groups. Rugby club, an outdoors club, a student improv association, and arts society are just a few of the many options – there is something for every interest group out there. Clubs and student organizations also provide leadership opportunities and work experience for students involved as committee members and organizers. Twice a year, at the beginning of each semester, all the clubs, societies, and student organizations on campus hold an event that provides students with the opportunity to find out about these active and diverse groups. Take advantage of life on campus and throughout the city by getting involved!

Every Thursday and Friday, there is an on-campus performance called Lunchtime Theatre, which is almost entirely student-generated. Dunedin has many professional theatre companies, including a young theatre company that was started by recent graduates of the university and a rep theatre. There are also internships available in the thriving popular theatre scene of Dunedin, which you can pursue as one of your courses.

Support Staff

Support Staff

Support Staff

Support Staff

Support Staff



“Performing Arts Abroad (PAA) is a wonderful organization that allows you to gain valuable work experience, contribute to a new community, develop lasting relationships, travel and (in my case) learn a new language. PAA creates a comfortable experience abroad with their assistance and support.”

“The in-country staff were incredibly friendly and helpful and supportive. Just great!”

From the blog


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Program Dates

Fall 2018

Session Application Deadline Start Date End Date
Fall 2018 Semester Apr 15 2018 Jun 30 2018 Nov 14 2018

Important Fall 2018 Dates

Spring 2019

Session Application Deadline Start Date End Date
Spring 2019 Semester (estimated) Oct 15 2018 Feb 16 2019 Jun 20 2019

Important Spring 2019 Dates

Program Cost

Description Cost
Fall or spring semester $18,995
Fall or spring semester with Australia Excursion $20,290

Apply today — How the process works

Submit a simple online application

Schedule a live video interview with a Program Coordinator

Upload program specific materials to an online portal

Receive your aceptance decision and begin your journey!

How the Process Works

To apply, click the “Apply Now” button below. You will fill out a simple initial application online and pay a deposit that is refundable if you are not accepted, and will be applied toward your overall program cost if you are accepted (not an additional fee). At this point, we will ask you to send us the following materials:

  • Your resume/CV
  • Cover letter (only for those pursuing an Independent Study as one of your courses)
  • Official University application form
  • Housing questionnaire
  • Your official academic transcript
  • Your availability in U.S. Eastern Time for a 20-30 minute Skype interview. We will contact you with an acceptance decision within two weeks of your Skype interview.
Apply Now

Application Tips

  1. The Skype interviews are our first face-to-face impression of you. Show up on time, dress well, and be personable.
  2. Be very clear in your interviews about your intentions for your semester, and the classes you hope to take. If you are pursuing an Independent Study as one of your classes, be clear about your goals. We work hard to customize Independent Study placements to your needs, and to do this well, we need a clear picture of who you are and what you want out of your experience (and don’t want!).
  3. If you are pursuing an Independent Study, use the cover letter template we will send you to help organize your thoughts for the cover letter. Remember that we will be sending these to university theatre professors for consideration to take you on as their mentee and potential site placements to have you as an intern or visiting researcher, so put your best foot forward!
Request Information

Eligibility Requirements

  • Age

    Participants must be 18 or over the day they begin the program.

  • GPA / Student Status

    Currently enrolled students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher are given priority on this program. If you are not a currently-enrolled student, or have a GPA lower than 3.0, please contact us to see if we can make an exception.

  • Language

    There is no language requirement for this program, as all courses are taught in English. To better acclimate to local life, we recommend learning some key Maori phrases before your departure.

  • Experience

    We give preference to applicants with at least one year of theatre experience. An audition video showing your current skill level is helpful, but not required.

  • Motivation

    We are looking for open-minded, flexible applicants who can clearly convey their passion for theatre and an acute interest in international travel and exposure to new ideas.

Apply Now