December 2013 issue

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The great New Zealand

With its breathtaking scenery having been immortalised as the backdrop for many blockbusting movies, New Zealand's natural attributes are famous the world over. Couple this with friendly people and top education opportunities and New Zealand is the perfect study location. Gillian Evans reports.

It’s not only visitors to New Zealand who find the country irresistible. Kim Lawry, Director of Coromandel Outdoor Language Centre in Whitianga asserts, “I am a very proud New Zealander and every time I return to New Zealand after travel, I realise just how fortunate I am to live here.”

With its expansive beaches, crystal-clear lakes, snow-capped mountains and deep fiords, New Zealand is one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonderlands. Explaining his passion for the country, Lawry says, “We are a lightly populated country and there are very large areas of natural landscape with very few people. As the country is long and thin, more than 2,000 kilometres, there is a wide range of climatic conditions and this means a natural environment that is not only beautiful, but widely diverse.”

Will Tregidga, Coordinator of International Marketing at the University of Otago in Dunedin, believes that it is not only the country’s immense natural beauty that attracts students from all four corners of the world, but also the quality of its education. “The 2012 Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index ranked New Zealand as the top country in the world for education,” he reports. “This combination [of education and natural beauty] is the main draw for international students to study in New Zealand.”

And to complete the New Zealand package is the friendly and safe environment. Alyson Craig at Dominion English School in Auckland says that students are often surprised at the feeling of safety in the city and the friendliness of the people. Auckland itself takes the title of New Zealand’s largest city. Even so, with a population of just 1.5 million, it is small in comparison to other world cities. But this is an advantage, says Alana Gervan, Marketing Coordinator at New Zealand Language Centres (NZLC), which has schools in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. “It means you can enjoy all the amenities of a big city, but the relaxed lifestyle and friendliness of a small one,” she enthuses.

“Auckland is a fantastic place to study, not only for the variety of schools, but the proximity to so many activities,” adds Paula Hart at Henderson High School, a small high school of 650 students, including 24 international students, just a 20-minute drive away from Auckland. Hart emphasises the importance of extra-curricular activities. “Out-of-school experiences are important for learning too – as one student discovered, 4,358 sheep are not just like little fluffy bundles standing patiently waiting to be petted!”

At NZLC activities include traditional Maori flax weaving, pub conversation excursions, beach barbecues, farm visits, wine tours, native bush walks and surfing lessons. “You name it and we will organise it for you!” exclaims Gervan. The school has just launched an English plus Barista programme where students can learn the art of coffee making while studying English at NZLC. Students at the Auckland campus then have the opportunity to put their new skills to practice during a one-week internship at a local café.

For plenty of choice of restaurants and cafés, Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, is a great study location as it is said to have more bars and restaurants per capita than New York City. “Wellington city has superb delicatessens, cafés and restaurants,” confirms Gervan. “Try some of the tucked-away bars and quirky cafes on Cuba Street to experience some delicious food and local vibe unique to the city.” She also recommends joining the locals at one of the live rugby matches at Eden Park, where you can see the famous All Blacks team play and perform their Haka dance.

“Wellington has a vibrant art, music and café,” adds Gervan, “With only 380,000 inhabitants it’s a small and friendly city and perfect for exploring on foot. It is home to the country’s government buildings and Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum. If you like the outdoors, you don’t have to travel far from the city to experience native bush or beautiful beaches.”

Famous for its golden beaches and breathtaking coastline is the Coromandel Peninsula, a popular holiday destination among New Zealanders. Lawry at Coromandel Outdoor Language Centre says there are 25 amazing beaches just a half hour’s drive away from the school. Some of the region’s best-loved natural attractions are Hot Water Beach, where the natural steaming hot water rises up through the sand at low tide, and Cathedral Cove, where two beaches are connected by a majestic cave through the volcanic coastal rock.

Coromandel’s mantra is “learning by doing”, and as such a whole catalogue of activities are organised for students, from visiting local kindergartens to reading stories to the children to taking part in any one of the school’s 60 afternoon activities, from beach visits and golf, through pottery and bone carving, to windsurfing, kayaking, fishing and horse riding. “Everyone does something they have never done before,” says Lawry.

Southwards along the coast takes you to the Bay of Plenty and the town of Mount Maunganui, which has a distinctive surf-city feel, says Geoff Butler, Manager of Mount Maunganui Language Centre. “The proximity of our downtown restaurant/bar precinct to the beach is a big draw-card for locals and visitors,” reports Butler. “You can swim or surf then walk to a nearby outdoor café for lunch – in your beach clothes is fine, cafés don’t mind sandy feet!”

One of the many highlights for students is an early morning hike up Mount Maunganui. “The view of the sunrise from the top of the mountain is world class,” says Butler, adding, “It has become a tradition for our students to do this hike.”

Tregidga in Dunedin asserts that “the outdoors is a true highlight of New Zealand”. Indeed some of the film The Hobbit was filmed within an hour’s drive of Dunedin, and the Otago region as a whole was used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

With a population of 120,000 – 20,000 of whom are students – Dunedin is the South Island’s second largest city after Christchurch and a buzzing student centre. Having been the economic capital of New Zealand in Victorian times, Dunedin is home to a wealth of stunning architecture from that era, including Otago’s clock tower building and New Zealand’s most photographed building: the Dunedin train station. The University of Otago campus – part of which dates from 1869 making it New Zealand’s oldest university – was rated by The Daily Telegraph (2012) and The Huffington Post (2013) as one of the world’s sixteen most beautiful universities.

With its mix of nature and education opportunities, New Zealand is sure to exceed expectations. As Craig says, “Those who enjoy nature and the outdoors are never disappointed.” gillian@hothousemedia.com

Agent viewpoints

““New Zealand is completely different from Brazil. Students choose to study there because of the lifestyle. People enjoy life better and it is also a calm, safe and culturally rich place. If the student is looking for a high school programme, we can send them to any city but basically it depends a lot of the time of the year. I’ve sent students to Whangarei in the summer, and Queenstown is a popular destination in winter. But most of the students prefer Auckland, because it is a big city with a lot to do all year. Since it’s a small country, the possibility to get to know many different places is a big [draw for] the students. Also, they enjoy getting in touch with the Maori culture. The ones that are sports fans love the rugby matches and extreme sports.”
Viviane Benatti, Australian Centre, Brazil

“New Zealand’s image as a nature-filled, action and adventure location certainly helps with overseas students. With Japanese students, it tends to be the reputation of being very safe as well, of course, a very friendly country. We send students to Auckland, where students enjoy the city life and easy access; Mount Maunganui for the marine activities, beach life, and the fact that there a fewer Japanese students there; and Queenstown for the outdoor activities and amazing nature. As Japan gets dark at 7pm even in the summer, Japanese students are totally surprised how long the days are in New Zealand. Once they finish school they still have loads of time in the evening for sports and activities (beach volleyball).”
Gina Whittle, Gina & Partners, Japan

“In Switzerland we have winter [when] it is summer in New Zealand, just perfect to travel for students if they don’t like the cold season. New Zealand has mountains, lakes and green pasture similar to Switzerland. Most of our students go to Christchurch and Coromandel, but they also like Queenstown. They love the climate (subtropical), the warm water beach and the big trees. I have been to New Zealand, and love Auckland and Coromandel, as well as farms in the south around Christchurch and Ashburton. I will be in New Zealand again this year in November and will visit my students and agricultural/horticultural trainees on the South and North islands. I am very much looking forward to this upcoming trip!
Stefan Brandenburger, Agroverde, Switzerland

Our students like New Zealand because of its beautiful nature and a laid-back atmosphere. We have been sending our students to Whitianga since 1988, Tekapo since 2002 and Nelson since 2003. Whitianga is the most popular town for our students because the local people are always friendly and helpful. Local people always give foreign students a friendly greeting – people living in Tokyo don’t often give strangers a greeting. Students are also surprised to see that some local people don’t put on their shoes when they go out to walk on the streets. There are many things to see and experience that are different from Japan, for example nature, architecture and culture. New Zealand has many ecologically complex nature reserves and is a nuclear-averse pacifist nation, which appeals to our older students.”
Noboru Tanaka, Japan New Zealand Cultural Exchange, Japan

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