3 August 2015
Kiana Pham was 13 years old when she left her parents in Vietnam to begin school in New Zealand.
She spent her first 18 months in Marlborough, where her older sister Lani was working and completing her degree online. Kiana is now 18 years old and a Year 13 student at Hillcrest High School, and next year begins a computer science degree at Waikato University.
She is one of 2500 international students studying at intermediate and high schools, Wintec, Waikato University and at private tertiary institutions in the Waikato. They are represented by Waikato Education International (WEI), an umbrella organisation for international students in the region.
On Monday they were officially welcomed to Hamilton by Mayor Julie Hardaker.
Meeting the Mayor was a "real thrill," Kiana says. "There would be no opportunity for this to happen in Vietnam, unless there is a personal connection."
Kiana, who holds a WEI scholarship, is an academic achiever, earning excellence endorsements in NCEA Level 2. She also excels in extracurricular activities, playing table tennis and cricket, a sport she had “never heard of” until she got to New Zealand. Kiana is also on the committee for the YMCA programme Raise Up, helping to organise events for Waikato youth.
She says moving to the other side of the world at a young age is difficult, but she now regards New Zealand as home.
"I understand it can be hard moving to another country, but in my speech I urged all international students to make the best of their time here and embrace everything New Zealand has to offer."
Mayor Hardaker says Hamilton is a popular destination for international students and some local high schools have a long history of providing education to these students.
“It’s a big step for these young people to leave their homes to live in New Zealand, but it is a wonderful opportunity and experience. The students bring a vibrancy and diversity to our community which we love sharing in.
"It is a privilege to welcome them officially to Hamilton today. We are proud to be a home away from home for the students who are studying both here and at schools and tertiary institutions throughout the Waikato. These students make a significant contribution to our local economy and during their time here they are able to develop their English language skills and immerse themselves in our Kiwi culture. New Zealanders are known for their hospitality, and as a city we are proud to welcome people from all over the world."
The welcome event included a presentation by Fonterra, providing the students with an insight into the dairy sector and milk production. New Zealand ice creams were enjoyed by everyone at the event.
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