International students welcomed to South Canterbury
International students bring more than $10 million into the region's economy annually, South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith says.
About 120 students from across the world were welcomed into the Timaru district during a special ceremony on Tuesday.
Smith hoped to attract many of their families and friends to visit the region for tourism and business.
Many families sent their children to New Zealand to learn English and build up their knowledge and connections to bring back to businesses in their home countries, she said.
"They bring a huge value to us."
International students brought in between $10 million and $13 million each year, Smith said.
She welcomed students, parents and friends to approach the chamber to discuss business developments and other opportunities, while saying she hoped they would return and "contribute to our economy".
Education South Canterbury chairwoman Julie McLean said international students also brought an multicultural flavour to the district.
She anticipated about 180 international students would study in South Canterbury by the end of the year.
The number of students at Tuesday's welcome ceremony was "just a snapshot of who is already here", McLean said.
This was on par with previous years and there were more international student expected to arrive before the end of term one, she said.
Musical interludes from Craighead Diocesan School, Mountainview High School and Timaru Girls' High School had the crowd clicking and waving their arms in the air.
But Miyu Tateishi, 17, of Japan, kept her arms steady and low.
The year 13 student was the drummer for the Mountainview High School jazz band.
She loved living in Timaru, having chosen to study here four years ago after meeting a Timaru teacher in Japan.
Her Kiwi friends were the best gift she could have from her time in Timaru.
"I will definitely come back."
Dannae Garrido, 19, started studying English at Ara Institute of Canterbury last year and she had already decided New Zealand is her new home.
The Chilean national said it was amazing to be able to swim and be so close to the town.
Dannae, who grew up in Santiago, said she was a resident, but planned to live in this "amazing" region.
At the ceremony, Timaru District Mayor Damon Odey welcomed the students to a round of enthusiastic applause.
Timaru might be the centre of the South Island "but what you didn't know is that it's the centre of the universe", Odey said.
"I hope one day you might decide Timaru is a place to come back to and put roots down."