When Kiwis are asked what food they most associate with Japan, says international student Sena Shimotsuma, most people will say “sushi”.
But Sena is on a mission to change that.
Sena’s dad designs wagashi, an elaborated coloured and shaped Japanese cake. Sena would like to use the business and marketing skills he has gained while studying in New Zealand to make wagashi just as well-known here as sushi.
“It’s one of my dreams to make wagashi more popular,” says Sena.
“Another of my dreams is to promote New Zealand education. New Zealanders don’t know how good wagashi are, and Japanese people don’t know how good the New Zealand education system is.”
“I had planned to go back home to Japan for university, but as I spent more time in New Zealand I started loving the people and the culture,” says Sena.
Sena has already developed an enthusiastic following for the videos he makes about his experiences as an international student in New Zealand. He had 300 followers to his YouTube channel a year ago: now he has more than 5000.
Sena came to New Zealand to study at Mount Albert Grammar School, a co-educational state secondary school in central Auckland.
Instead of doing year 13 at the school, Sena took a foundation studies programme at ACG New Zealand International College to improve his English in preparation for studying at AUT in Auckland.
He’s now studying for a Bachelor of Business degree with a double major in international business and market insights.
“Japanese education is all about competition. What I love about the New Zealand education system is that you get so much choice about what you study."
“I also enjoy the people here. In Japan we are serious about life, but Kiwis are very laidback and friendly.”
Sena, 20, is about to start a three-month internship in international marketing at ACG. When he finishes his studies, he hopes to find work that enables him to spend time in both his native country and his adopted home.
“I really want to be successful, and I think studying in New Zealand has given me the skills I need to be successful,” he says.
“In Japan I always felt I had to belong to the crowd, but New Zealand has taught me to be unique and different. I am very grateful for that.”