27 Oct 2020

'Great Kiwi Summer' campaign to extend manaakitanga to foreign students

12:57 pm on 27 October 2020

Government agencies have written to every foreign tertiary student in the country encouraging them to stay in New Zealand for the summer.

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Photo: 123RF

The campaign by Education New Zealand and organisations including the Association of International Students and Immigration New Zealand is part tourism promotion for students finishing their courses and part pastoral care for those who cannot leave for fear of interrupting their studies.

Education New Zealand's general manager, partnerships and marketing, Paul Irwin, said the "Great Kiwi Summer" campaign would help ensure students who stayed in the country for summer had a good time.

"It's basically a mix of nuts and bolts stuff around making sure you renew your visa if you need to renew it, tips on well-being, tips on safety, advice if people are thinking about perhaps doing further study, but also tapping into both Tourism New Zealand and regional EDAs [Economic Development Agencies] providing information around what is happening during summer in New Zealand," he said.

He said many students would not have spent a summer in the country before.

"We are totally aware that these students are away from home at a very difficult time so I think if we were Kiwis with our kids overseas in a different country, I'm sure we would want that country to look after our children, so I think that sense of manaakitanga is really important in this situation."

Irwin said latest visa figures showed there were 42,300 foreign students, and about 25,000 had already received direct emails as part of the summer campaign.

He acknowledged the students might be the main group of foreign tourists in New Zealand during the summer.

"These students are tourists and they're also ambassadors for our country when they go home or when they email or are on social to their friends back home, so a happy student is good for the student but also for our country's broader reputation," he said.

Principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, Patrick Walsh, said thousands of students would not be seeing their families for two years and it was a sad situation.

"They do feel very vulnerable, some anxious, about their own families back home, but most of them are philosophical about it," he said.

"We're very grateful that the homestay parents will have them over a period where they are prepared to adopt them and have them into their families and look after them."

He said his school had 30 foreign teens staying through the summer and, like many others around the country, it was organising a special programme of holiday activities and English language classes.

The executive director of the Schools International Education Business Association, John van der Zwan, said usually it was the European and South American school students who remained in New Zealand for the summer but this year would be different.

"Probably all of those students have now gone home, and so the ones that are still here in New Zealand will be ones that probably will be deciding whether to stay so that they continue their NCEA pathways for next year so they're likely to be from China or other countries throughout Asia," he said.

He estimated there were are only about 5000 international students at schools most of them from Asian countries.

The president of the International Students' Association, Sabrina Alhady, said a lot of international students were facing a difficult time.

"Not only because of their studies, but just in general it is very difficult to be away from home and to not see your family for potentially two years as well is going to make things a lot more difficult for them," she said.

Alhady said the association was involved with the Great Kiwi Summer campaign.

"The main thing they're trying to target here is ensuring that international students' needs are being met over the summer, that they know about their options over the summer," she said.

"There will definitely be pastoral care concerns especially in terms of who is going to be responsible for the international students while they're here over the summer."

Alhady said schools and tertiary institutions had an obligation to ensure their foreign students were okay during the summer break.

Change of plans

International students at Rotorua's John Paul College told RNZ the border restrictions had forced them to change their plans for the summer holidays.

Year 12 student Joanna Kim said she was initially upset that she could not return to Korea to see her family.

"But now I'm really happy to go to science camp because I can hang out with students and friends," she said.

Chinese student Yujie Wei said she had mixed feelings.

"At the beginning I was a little bit disappointed that I couldn't go back home and meet my friends and mum, but I'm also happy because I can finally spend my Christmas with my homestay family ... they're like my New Zealand grandparents," she said.

Yujie said would work part-time over the summer months because she wanted to ease the financial burden on her family, and also gain more social experience.

Rotorua schools were working together to organise holiday events for their foreign students and local tourist attractions were providing discounts.

Feng Wang from China said he had not expected to have much to do in New Zealand over the summer, but he was now looking forward to seeing more of region.

"It will be a great opportunity to see this beautiful country," he said.

Year 11 student Andrea Hohne from New Caledonia said the original plan was for him to go home for summer but instead he would be going to Northland for Christmas and then to Queenstown for a mountain bike race.

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