December 2011 issue

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Naturally New Zealand

Well-known for its pristine natural environment, New Zealand has much to offer students in the way of great outdoor opportunities and some unusual activities. Gillian Evans takes a look.

A study abroad trip to New Zealand can greatly enhance your CV, argues Tim Mahren Brown at the Campbell Institute, Wellington. “Students who have studied here stand out from other students when it comes to job-hunting – they present themselves as adventurous and creative, which is something many employers value.”

Whatever their reasons for studying in New Zealand, international students are in for a real treat. “New Zealand is a beautiful country,” asserts Giuliana Silveira, Principal of Kaplan Auckland. “It is very diverse and there is something for everyone – from extreme sports to fantastic nightlife to stunning scenery, you name it!”

With their love of the outdoors, locals are keen to introduce students to the breathtaking landscape and exciting activities on offer. “The outdoors is a very important part of New Zealand culture, and the walking is among the best in the world, so if students don’t experience these things while they are in New Zealand, then they are really missing out on a great opportunity,” asserts Mahren Brown.

Nature is also important to Jan Clarke at Rotorua English Language Academy in Rotorua. “For me it is the abundance of nature right on your doorstep that is the highlight,” she says. “I love getting out in the forests or on the lakes. Rotorua is surrounded by forests and has over 16 lakes within an easy drive from the town centre. There is nothing better than an early morning walk in the forest listening to the tui [a type of bird].”

Rotorua is one of the North Island’s top tourist destinations, with accessible geothermal areas, characterised by twenty-metre high geysers, bubbling mud and hot mineral pools ideal for a relaxing dip. It is also a centre for Maori culture, so visitors can experience a traditional concert, haka or hangi [a Maori method of cooking], says Clarke.

Another popular tourist resort, this time on the South Island, is Queenstown. “You can see the lake and the mountains almost from the whole of Queenstown,” says Mioko Yahara at Language Schools New Zealand, who formerly was an international student herself. “It has many exciting activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain-biking, rock-climbing, trekking, jet-boating, bungy-jumping, skydiving and lots more. I like walking along the Lake Wakatipu. It’s also a nice scenic drive along the lake to Glenochy, a small town situated at the end of the lake.”

Another waterside town is Whitianga, situated in Mercury Bay on the North Island, and water activities play a major role in the lives of those who live there. “Local people enjoy a relaxed lifestyle which often includes ocean activities such as fishing, surfing and boating,” relates Tanya Piper at Coromandel Outdoor Language Centre. Further south, overlooking the Pacific Ocean is Napier, known as the art deco capital of the world, according to Chris Wright at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Taradale, just outside of Napier. “We offer a good array of cultural and sporting activities and access to these is somehow easier when you live in a small city,” she asserts.

Napier and its surrounds are ideal for those with a love of water sports – and this is one of the many reasons why Kurt and Christine Schmidli were attracted to New Horizon College of English. “We came here to work at the school because of the fantastic weather and the proximity to the sea,” explains Kurt Schmidli. “We love water sports [such as] sailing, kayaking, swimming and also we were keen to be in one of New Zealand’s best wine regions.”

Another compact yet lively city is Mount Maunganui. “Our city has a nightlife which is more vibrant than you might expect of a city of relatively small size,” comments Geoff Butler at Mount Maunganui Language Centre. “Students have a huge choice of venues where they go out at night, from quiet cosy pubs to multi-room clubs, they can choose whichever they are in the mood for.

Interestingly, one of Butler’s favourite pastimes is going to the beach to collect a type of shellfish called tuatuas. “It’s addictive,” he asserts. “Once you pull up your first tuatua you can’t wait to get your next one, and you get a delicious meal of shellfish at the end. You can cook your catch straightaway [on barbeques provided at the beach].”

The sea plays a key role in the lives of those living on the Kapiti Coast, which stretches northwards from Wellington. “The way of life here is attractive because it is very relaxed and focussed on the pleasures of life,” asserts Steve Burt at Kapiti College in Paraparaumu, just a 40 minute drive from Wellington. “A walk along the beach, a swim in the sea, a game of golf or fishing from the shoreline are as important as anything else.” Paraparaumu itself is a resort town with three golf courses, an airport, shopping mall and, according to Burt, warm friendly people. It is also an ideal location for nature lovers, with Kapiti Island Nature Reserve, home to kiwi and other native New Zealand birds, a short ferry ride away.

Wellington itself, the country capital, is, says Matthew Steele at Grow Wellington, compact yet geographically diverse with dramatic coastlines, bush-covered hills, a spectacular harbour and a temperate climate. “Wellington’s friendly locals are lovers of the outdoors and you can often find them surfing, hiking and mountain biking,” he adds.

Prue Kelly from Wellington High School, continues, “[Wellington has] a big city feel as all the activities take place in close proximity of each other and of the school. We use the city as a learning resource and students visit the facilities like museums, libraries and theatres regularly.” Being the capital, there’s plenty going on, and Annette Cumming at Wellington East Girls’ College, reports that their students are often surprised by how lively the city is and by the number and variety of cultural events.

As well as excursions to all the well-known attractions, Emma Kim at Wellington Business School says she likes to take students on a quirkier trip to “the house shop”. She explains, “We are DIY [do it yourself] crazy, and it is common here to buy land with a house on it – sell the house, [which] they cut it in half with a chainsaw, and take it away on a truck,” she explains. “Then [you] go to the house shop and buy a house you like more – already cut in half – take it by truck to your land and spend evenings and weekends for the next few years doing it up. This is something that is not done in most other places in the world and is quite fun for the students [to experience].”

Commenting on the country’s rich history, Christina Magsig at Quantum Education Group in Auckland says, “Maori tradition, culture and language are immersed in New Zealand life. Things such as carving, weaving, kapa haka [a Maori performance group] and moko [tattoo] are well-established nationally.”

Many schools organise a variety of excursions to give students a taste of Maori culture. At Kaplan Auckland students can go to a Maori performance at the museum or a trip to visit the Maori TV station. Students also enjoy exploring Auckland itself, says Silveira. “Students really welcome the opportunity to be taken away from the city centre to discover what different neighbourhoods can offer.

In contrast to Auckland, which is New Zealand’s biggest city, Maungaturoto offers students a small town study experience. “Our town is called ‘Real Town’ for a very good reason: it is like an old-fashioned kind of town where everyone knows everyone,” enthuses Sally Green at Otamatea High School.

Agent viewpoint

“We have found that students like to come to New Zealand because the study and living costs are cheaper than in some other countries. It is also safer than other countries and students are interested in New Zealand’s nature. We send students to all cities, especially Napier and Auckland. Napier is the most popular city among our students because Napier is not influenced by other nationalities, so students get to feel the original New Zealand atmosphere. It is also a good sized city with a beautiful environment, surrounded by the sea and some beautiful vineyards. I live in New Zealand, and my favourite highlight of this country is the friendly and welcoming character of the people.”
Kana Koga, Yottecott NZ, New Zealand

“Swiss people like to be in a smaller country where they have an overview. They like mountains and the sea. They also appreciate the hospitality and the openness of the people. New Zealand is a big agricultural country with nice farms and great host families. We mostly send students to Whitianga, Auckland and Christchurch for language schools. Most are surprised at the beautiful scenery, big farms, the number of cows(!) and the hospitality of the host families. Students enjoy working on farms, travelling around the country, doing some bungy-jumping and jet-boat riding. I visited the North Island and then transfered with the ferry to the South Island, it was spectacular.”
Hans-Peter Brandenburger, Agroverde, Switzerland

“We started to send students to New Zealand in late 2002, the main reason was we had lived there and loved it very much. We had very few complaints and almost all our students found New Zealand, and its people, very tolerant and accepting. One of the main reasons students choose to study there is because of how safe it is. It has an image of being a clean, green country with friendly people. It also helps that it is such a stunningly beautiful country. We send students all over; mainly to large cities: Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Most of the students prefer Auckland and Christchurch, but increasingly we are having student requests for little towns like Whangamata and Napier.”
Suad Alhalwachi, Knowledge Village, UAE
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