How to go to school in the second most beautiful country in the world » Manila Bulletin Lifestyle

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Because we all know the Philippines is first. But if you’re up for some adventure outside the country at the prime of your youth, hie off to great, big, beautiful New Zealand.

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Text and Photos Krizette Chu

You’ve been eyeing the US, maybe Canada, maybe the United Kingdom for college or post graduate studies. But you’re concerned about being so far away from home, about safety, job security after college, and the quality of education vis-à-vis your parents’ investment. Maybe it’s time to train your sights further afield.

Enter New Zealand (NZ). Famous mainly for its breathtaking scenery and as the location for the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series, New Zealand has emerged as a new favorite education destination among Filipino students.  In 2016, more than 3,000 Filipinos were registered as international students, which do not include the immigrants who have settled in NZ. In a country of 4.6 million people, you’ll be sure to bump into a fellow Pinoy wherever you go.2

Wondering what’s up (or rather, down) in NZ?

Here’s why we think you should seriously consider studying here:

It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

There is no place in the world like New Zealand. It has it all: mountains, lakes, glaciers, coves, beaches, cities, and more. It is both small and gargantuan at the same time; established and thriving; familiar and strange. It is also the stuff movies are made of—and we mean it literally. While LOTR may be the most important film filmed here (hello, Hobbiton), NZ is just so darn beautiful it has become the world’s de facto movie set.

And there are just so many things to do. You can go shopping and dining in Auckland, immerse in the culture of the Maori in Rotorua, have a fun weekend at the quirky art galleries in Wellington, cruise along Milford Sound past sunbathing seals, have topnotch coffee at Queenstown. All these beauty is just a plane ride, or better yet, a very scenic road trip, away.

Whether you’re looking for cosmopolitan chic or au naturel beauty, NZ has so much beauty—and has so many things to do—that four years (or the length of your college stay) won’t be enough.  Your only problem in NZ?  Leaving it.

It’s way safer than other cities.

“Our location is both a good and a bad thing; we’re very detached from the world, but that also makes us relatively safer,” says Nick Arnott of Auckland Tourism. Crime does exist in NZ, but the rates are so much lower than in most parts of the world. The 2015 Global Peace Index has rated it as the world’s fourth safest country, right after Iceland, Denmark, and Austria—but unfortunately, Europe has since contended with problems like terrorism and immigration. NZ is also the world’s least corrupt country, and that’s something you can expect not just from the government but also from citizens (yup, no surprise fees ever.) Life is so much easier when you’re not constantly second guessing if there’s hidden fees on your cab fare going home from the bar.

KIWI COOL LIFE. If you're a student in NZ, you're going to have so much fun. Clockwise from top left: The beautiful gardens of a hotel in Christchurch; students at the Media Design School get to tinker with arcades as freshmen; universities in NZ usually incorporate the great outdoor; a Barista course at Ara Polytechnic; the Maori "Haka" performed in Rotorua; kids at Ara also learn how to make cocktails for a bartending course; when in NZ, never forget to have oysters!

KIWI COOL LIFE. If you’re a student in NZ, you’re going to have so much fun. Clockwise from top left: The beautiful gardens of a hotel in Christchurch; students at the Media Design School get to tinker with arcades as freshmen; universities in NZ usually incorporate the great outdoor; a Barista course at Ara Polytechnic; the Maori “Haka” performed in Rotorua; kids at Ara also learn how to make cocktails for a bartending course; when in NZ, never forget to have oysters!

The educational system ranks really high by worldwide standards.

The UN has placed NZ as first in the world for education. What a stamp of approval. All eight of its universities—there are only eight—rank among the world’s top three percent of universities globally. NZ is the only country in the world to have all its universities ranked within the top 500 or 600 in the world, as per the QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education.  And the rest of the world knows this. Forty-five percent of the doctoral level student population in NZ is made up of international students (for the rest of the world, it’s at 27 percent). Fourteen percent of college students in NZ are from other countries, and it is on the seventh spot for highest performing graduates, even ahead of the United States and England.

The system is recognized and accredited in over 50 countries.

Because it follows the British school system, the NZ educational system is recognized worldwide. Students at secondary schools (that’s Years 9 to 13), also known as high school or college, work towards a national certificate, which is recognized in many countries. As NZ is a member of the Lisbon Qualification Recognition Convention, the country’s tertiary qualifications are acknowledged in 50 countries.  The universities have international connections, and collaborate with universities from all over the world. What does this mean for a simple student? It means your qualifications are counted and recognized in other countries.

You can bring your family.

International PhD students are allowed to work full time while studying, but the cherry on top is that, if you’re married, your spouse can go with you and find work, as NZ employs an open work permit valid for the duration of the student’s PhD. Kids of PhD students receive the same benefits as NZ residents—yup, there will be no tuition fees for your little ones. You read that right: School is free for any child of a PhD student.

It’s way cheaper. 

A typical doctorate in NZ takes only three years to finish (unlike, say, in the US where it takes five years.) International PhD students also pay the same amount as the locals (unlike, again, in the US where international students have to pay international student fees.)

You can work while studying.

For those who do not have access to an unlimited trust fund, NZ’s lax work-study policies will be a huge help. Tertiary students can work up to 20 hours each week and up to 40 hours during holidays. If you’re a Masters or a Doctoral student, you can work full time. After graduation, you can apply for a year’s worth of work visa so you can find a job. You can even extend your visa for up to two to three years.

The culture is fantastic.

NZ has a rich, multicultural society, and Kiwis are some of the world’s most open, honest, and friendly people. (Maybe it comes from living in one of the world’s safest and least corrupt countries?) The Maori were the first settlers, and make up about 14 percent of the population, although they are by no means the only ethnic group in New Zealand.

A huge international student population also means you get to hang out with kids from different cultures, widening your horizon.  (And please make sure you catch a live haka performance at least once!)

You can actually have a life outside school.

No people in the world have mastered the very precarious life-school/work balance more than Kiwis. The outdoors is their playground, and malls and shops close at 6 p.m., the sun sets at eight or 9 p.m. in summer, and people are soaking in the sunshine and taking advantage of the many activities you can do in your neighborhood. In schools like John Paul School in Rotorua, most grade schoolers start school at 9 a.m. and finish at 3 p.m.

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