International students from around the world are discovering the extent of Kiwi hospitality as they sit out the Covid-19 lockdown in New Zealand.
Homestay families in the Northland region, which is north of Auckland, are showing special care and attention for the 150 students who have chosen to stay there.
“For many of those students, being back in their home countries would be much less comfortable, because they are from big built-up cities, where the number of Coronavirus cases is higher and lockdowns are being extended,” said Jo Lees, Project Manager for Study Northland.
“In contrast, here in Northland, the students are enjoying living in rural settings or in houses with big backyards and plenty of fresh air,” explained Lees.
Lees added that international students are being well supported by their schools, and the homestay families have been doing an amazing job of keeping them busy and making them feel an integral part of the family.
“Whether that’s been cooking, gardening, crafts, backyard games, exercising or just watching Netflix, the students have been made to feel perfectly at home. They feel safe, supported and well looked after in what is obviously a strange and scary time for them.”
As Jill Grimshaw, the International Student Director at Springbank School in Kerikeri, put it: “We all realise we are pretty lucky to be ‘locked-up’ here in Northland.”
Lees said some students had made the decision, in conjunction with their parents, to repatriate and had recently headed home, but the majority were staying put. “Their safety and wellbeing will continue to be everyone’s top priority, no matter what they choose to do.”
Leo, a student from Germany, studying at Whangārei Boys’ High School, is a keen hockey player and expects to stay in Northland until July. During lockdown, he has been enjoying time around the house with his host family, including cooking and spending time in his “lockdown garden”, weeding his lettuces.
Jordan, another student, said she was “doing fine in isolation – it’s not boring at all. We do workouts, stretches and yoga every day together, which is so nice”.
Lees was confident that despite the impact of Covid-19, the students would go home with a true understanding of Kiwi hospitality.
COVID-19: What you need to know
Official information for international students