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blog hero student to entrepreneur

From International Student to Entrepreneur

When Adriana Christie moved to New Zealand from South America, she discovered an education system that could help her manage her dyslexia and achieve her dream of becoming a social entrepreneur.

Adriana was 17 when she arrived in New Zealand from Bogotá, Colombia, ten years ago.

“I loved the Kiwi style of learning straight away because it focuses on teaching you skills that have an impact on what your life will be like in the future,” says Adriana.

“Schools in South America are high-intensity and more about memorising information. In New Zealand, education is about critical thinking and teamwork.

“People with dyslexia tend to be good at seeing the bigger picture and getting creative about finding ways to do things.

“I’m super grateful for New Zealand’s practical, hands-on style of education, which really suited me.”

Adriana’s comments echo the findings of the The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Educating for the Future Index, which ranked New Zealand as the best country in the world at preparing students for the future.

The index highlighted the importance of developing skills the world will need in the future, such as critical thinking, problem-solving and working collaboratively.

Adriana studied for a Bachelor of Business (Honours) at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). She enjoyed AUT’s small class sizes and the close relationships between students and lecturers – she’s still friends with some of her lecturers today.

Teamwork was another important skill Adriana developed at university.

“There were students from all over the world, so I learned to work with people from many different backgrounds, countries and cultures. It’s very useful to have the skills to resolve conflicts, be empathetic and understand people’s motivations.”

In her third year of study, Adriana set up a university club to encourage students to start social enterprises.

She and her partner, Gabriel Acuna-Carvajal – also an international student from Bogotá – set up their own social enterprise, creating funky furniture and artworks out of discarded wooden pallets.

“Gabriel and I are wannabe hipsters, and we like the upcycling lifestyle,” says Adriana.

“We saw some wooden pallets lying on the site of the road and decided we wanted to save this beautiful timber from going into landfill.’

Four years later, Adriana and Gabriel’s social enterprise, The Pallet Kingdom, is still going strong in Auckland. It reduces timber waste and provides work for disadvantaged young people.

The couple plan to start creating flat-pack furniture in addition to custom-made pieces, which would allow them to expand their team and recycle treated plywood as well as wooden pallets.

“Setting up a social enterprise has been challenging but lots of fun,” says Adriana. “I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with my New Zealand education.”


By Linley Boniface

Updated 3 years ago

Linley Boniface is a contract writer for Education New Zealand. She is based in Wellington, her favourite city in New Zealand. A former journalist, Linley spent a year in Montreal, Canada, as a secondary school student. 

*Views expressed are the blogger's own
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