May 2010 issue

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Natural New Zealand

New Zealand may be small compared with many other major English language destinations but it has a lot to offer, as Gillian Evans finds out.

As well as having a first-rate education system and a cost of living that is lower than that of many other English-speaking destinations, such as the USA, UK and Australia, New Zealand possesses awe-inspiring scenery. And it is this, according to Kurt Schmidli, Marketing Manager at New Horizon College of English in Napier, that is the main draw for most international students looking for an overseas study destination.

A natural adventure playground, New Zealand is sculpted by rugged coastlines, wide-open beaches, towering mountain ranges, glaciers, lakes and dense forests. And, as Brett Shirreffs, Marketing Manager at Languages International, which has schools in Auckland and Christchurch, points out, you do not have to go far to see it all. “The bonus is that it’s all contained in a pretty compact country, so visitors can see and do a lot in a relatively short amount of time,” he says.

Alicja Skop, Marketing Coordinator – Europe & Latin America at the Campbell Institute, which has centres in Wellington and Auckland, emphasises New Zealand’s “100 per cent pure” image. “[New Zealand] is untouched,” she explains, “and if you want to see pure nature, New Zealand is the best place to visit. I always say that everything that the world has to offer, [can be found] in one place – New Zealand: golden beaches, vibrant cities, diverse cultures living happily together, volcanoes, mountains and lakes, farmland, hot water and mud pools, crystal-clear rivers, an amazing wildlife, rain forests and glaciers… I could go on.”

Situated between two natural harbours, one of New Zealand’s major cities, Auckland, is, according to Juliana Trujillo, South and Central American and European Marketing Manager at Crown English Language Academy/Crown Institute of Studies in Auckland, “considered to be one of the world’s nicest places to live”. The city’s beautiful beaches and the stunning Hauraki Gulf with its many islands provide an idyllic backdrop to learning English. There are also plenty of big city activities for visitors and locals.

“The thing I love the most [about Auckland] is the variety,” asserts Kris-Helena Ngau Chun, Centre Manager at Eurocentres in Auckland. “There are amazing beaches, plenty of great restaurants and cafés, the theatre and beautiful parks where you can have a barbeque, play sports or sit and read under a tree. There are also lots of great places for students to visit like the Auckland museum and Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World. For people who like extreme sports, you can bungy jump from the Sky Tower! The possibilities are endless!”

Perched on the southern tip of the North Island, New Zealand’s capital, Wellington is, says Skop, a “small but boutique” city. It has a thriving arts scene, and is home to Lord of the Rings’ Director Peter Jackson´s Weta film studios. Skop recommends a trip to the Wellington Art Gallery, which has “amazing art shows for children, adults and everybody who is interested in the arts”. The city also hosts many festivals. “If you like festivals and street parties, you’ll like Wellington,” asserts Skop. “There is always something on.” Some of the better-known events include the International Arts Festival, NZI Sevens [rugby], Montana World of Wearable Art, the International Film Festival, Dragon Boat Racing and the Cuba Street Carnival.

Known as the gateway to the North and South Islands, Wellington is an ideal place from which to explore. “You [can] go on the ferry and you are on the South Island or you [can] jump with friends in your car for a road trip and six hours later you’re standing in front of a volcano,” says Skop.

A relaxed lifestyle was one of the features that originally drew Schmidli to Napier. “Napier attracted me firstly for its lifestyle, the friendly people and the weather. I love the outdoors – sailing, kayaking, hiking and the beach. The locals invited me to join their groups and helped me along. I particularly needed it when it came to sailing!”

According to Schmidli, “Napier is big enough to provide most things people want and not to bump into the same people all the time but the region also provides enough space to escape from everybody and find peaceful tranquillity”. The sheer beauty of the area is also something that can surprise students. “Students often say when they are on excursions that they feel as if they have discovered paradise,” says Schmidli.
Like Schmidli’s first experience of Napier, Guy Hughes from Language Schools New Zealand (LSNZ), was so impressed with Queenstown when he visited that he decided to stay. “When I returned to New Zealand [after being away for about three-and-a-half years], I came to Queenstown to see a friend with no particular idea of what to do next in my life. I drove into this beautiful town and immediately decided to live here. I then realised there were no language schools here and figured it would be a very beautiful place for students to come and study. It was a very easy decision to make and the rest, as they say, is history!” Famous for its stunning scenery and abundance of adventure activities, Queenstown and its surrounding area have also been sealed in celluloid history, starring as the backdrop for several scenes in the Lord of the Rings films. “The highlight here for me is the fact that you live in a place that other people only get to take photos of,” adds Hughes.

At the beginning of this year, Language Schools New Zealand’s Christchurch branch moved to a brand new purpose-built facility conveniently situated in a shopping mall so students can walk down the stairs into the mall for cafés and restaurants and are close to the Avon River and the Strip (a famous street with restaurants and bars). Caitlin Adams at the Christchurch College of English Language says that her personal highlight of Christchurch is the annual Buskers Festival that takes place every January. “Buskers from all over the world perform in the city for two weeks, including street performers and evening concerts,” she says.

Justin Mastoyo, Director of New Zealand Language Centres (NZLC) – which has campuses in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – believes that there is something in Christchurch for everyone: “the charm of the Avon river and trees; safe, clean and attractive streets; beautiful ‘old world’ stone buildings; an international selection of shops, cafés and restaurants; and exciting activities close to the city – skiing, horse-riding, swimming with dolphins and seals, sailing, bungy jumping, wine tasting, and many more”. New Zealand certainly leaves a lasting impression on its language travellers. As Schmidli says, “The biggest surprise to most [students] is how much they miss Napier life when they go back home again. Students often come back to visit not just once but several times because of the life-long friendships they have made while they are here.”

Agent viewpoint

“There is a wide range of reasons why our students choose New Zealand as a study destination. Some of them are interested in nature and the cosy lifestyle in New Zealand, while, on the other hand, many Japanese believe New Zealand is a very safe place. Furthermore, high quality education on a low budget is very attractive for not only long-term students but also working holiday people. Auckland and Christchurch are the two top cities as study destinations. People who choose Auckland generally prefer an urban lifestyle and often seek a chance to work in some capacity throughout their stay. Christchurch is a very European-styled traditional and beautiful city.”
Naomi Uchida, Ryugaku Journal, Inc, Japan

“Our clients give us various reasons why they like New Zealand and choose to go there. Some of them just want to escape mainstream destinations, others prefer the moderate climate. Also, the Swiss love nature and are into outdoor sports, therefore New Zealand is the perfect place to combine language studies with their passion. Our clients are genuinely impressed by the friendliness of the people and the beauty of the pristine nature. When I was in New Zealand, although very touristy, I loved the manifold landscapes which I encountered doing the Tongariro crossing. I felt like [I was] on the moon.”
Nicole Aeschlimann, Boa Lingua, Switzerland

“New Zealand is a very beautiful country, with lots of sports and things todo. Brazilians love it. Also, the [rate of] exchange is pretty good and the living cost is not so high. We send students to Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown. Auckland is the most popular destination for Brazilian students. It is a cosmopolitan city with lots of thing to do but, at the same time, is a beautiful city as well. As it’s a small country, students can easily travel during the weekends and holidays and discover much more about New Zealand.”
Luiza Vianna, CI, Brazil

“Swiss students like the similarities between New Zealand and Switzerland – it’s just much bigger and surrounded by beaches! It is a country of variety – mountains, lakes, outdoor sports, beaches, cities, snow, sun, hot, cold, national parks...It also has the absolute best host families! We send students to Christchurch, Auckland, Napier, Queenstown, Nelson and Taupo. Auckland and Christchurch are most popular as they are the cities where they have a bit of nightlife and a good infrastructure – and where the school is big enough to get in contact with a lot of other students. My absolute highlight when I was in New Zealand was the whales I saw in Kaikoura!”
Claudio Cesarano, Globo-study Sprachreisen, Switzerland

“Our students choose New Zealand for various reasons. They love the variety of outdoor activities, such as wild water rafting, bungee jumping etc. Apart from that, the country is well known for the high level of education. Another plus: it’s a safe place to live and to travel, and of course, the Kiwis are known for their great hospitality! The students start in different regions, depending on the programme, but the most popular areas are Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. All of them love to explore the country. Our backpacker participants either get a bus ticket or buy a car to travel the North and South Island.”
Verena Hanneken, Stepin, Germany

“It is a well known fact that New Zealand is one of the safest countries in the world. In terms of education, the high reputation of New Zealand universities is growing and growing among Latin American students. New Zealand has got a strong Asian influence, but still the education programmes and degrees are based on the British System – a great combination. Practising extreme sports really attracts our students. For my students, I think that the [best thing about] the country is the people. New Zealander’s are ‘get up and give it a go’ people. High quality education can be found in many places, but high quality people are not that easy [to find].”
Hugo Galindo, Grupo Gales, Colombia
“New Zealand is very much our favourite destination. The tuition fees are slightly cheaper there than in other destinations [although] living costs are about the same. Friendly homestays are a key selling point as in nearly all other destinations homestay has turned into a for-profit business. Another sales point is the wide range of very colourful and attractive outdoor activities. We mostly send students to Auckland and Christchurch. We also have a soft spot for both Nelson and Napier. Christchurch is the most popular with students.” 
Martijn Dijksterhuis, Study DIY, Taiwan

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