International students loving Timaru's green spaces and friendly faces
International students spending time in South Canterbury are loving New Zealand's green spaces and more relaxed approach to education.
High school students from Japan, China and South Korea have arrived in Timaru over the past week with a goal of improving their English and making friends.
Craighead Diocesan School director of international students Julie McLean said New Zealand offered international students something America and England did not: buddies to show them around.
Students staying in England and America attended classes in the morning, then activities in the afternoon, but were not able to make any connections with the host students.
"That is the one thing New Zealand is able to offer that a lot of other countries don't.
"The most important aspect of our programme, compared to overseas, is that we give them the opportunity to develop friendships."
Students were staying in the school's hostel or with families, which enabled them to become a part of the family.
"Language development occurs 24 hours a day."
McLean said there were eight Japanese, five Chinese and five South Korean students on exchange at Craighead.
There were more Japanese and Chinese students at Roncalli College and Geraldine High School, and all of them were on short stays as part of their summer programme, McLean said.
The were 150 South Korean students staying all over New Zealand for two months as part of a Government-organised programme which was in its third year.
"They're all really here for cultural experience and to improve their English," she said.
Three students that spoke to Stuff each expressed an appreciation for New Zealand's more relaxed approach to education.
South Korean student Sara Kim, 14, said New Zealand had a nice environment, and Craighead offered many different subjects such as art and music.
South Korean students were very focused on their yearly exams, and Kim felt they would enjoy the less stressful environment in New Zealand: "I don't want to go back," she said.
Chinese student Jenny Zheng Yu, 16, came from Weihai, Timaru's sister city. She liked Timaru's beautiful environment.
"I think people here are very friendly and students here are relaxed because they can go home at 3.30pm. We go home at 10pm," Zheng Yu said.
Student Rino Mineo, 14, said, with help from translator and international director Wade Newsome, that New Zealand had a lot more nature compared to Tokyo. She also felt Kiwi classrooms were more fun that Japanese classrooms.
Mineo wants to try her best at her classes, make a lot of friends, and keep in touch with them in the future.
McLean said the Chinese students were taking classes at Ara Institute of Canterbury's Timaru campus as well as Craighead.
"We don't have a lot of Chinese students studying in Canterbury," McLean said.
"They are coming out of a high pressure education system and I guess realising other students around the world don't have to compete for education like they do."
Craighead's students Emma Peckitt, 15, and Harriet Grace, 16, signed up to help show the visitors around.
"To give them the whole Craighead experience," Grace said.
She said things were going well in spite of the language barrier, and the hosts and visitors alike were enjoying getting to know each other.
Peckitt said the visitors brought a lot of diverse ideas.
"A different way of approaching the classroom activities, especially math," Peckitt said.
Aoraki Development chief executive Nigel Davenport said a recent Infometrics report said the international student market contributed $4billion to New Zealand's GDP in the 2015/16 year.
Of that, about 27.6 per cent - or about $1.1 billion - was attributed to secondary school and polytech students.
"Locally there is a real opportunity for us to increase our share of this markedly."