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From Secondary School to Flying School

After studying at a New Zealand high school, Yang Xiao is working towards achieving his dream of becoming an airline pilot.

Yang, from China, came to New Zealand in 2013 to study at secondary school in Wellington. He’s now studying for a Diploma of Aviation at Nelson Aviation College.

“I found it really helpful to go to secondary school in New Zealand before going on to tertiary study,” says Yang.

“It meant that I understood the language and slang and culture, which made everything easier for me.”

Yang’s parents encouraged him to study in New Zealand because of its high-quality education system and relaxed pace of life.

“Secondary school in New Zealand was brilliant,” says Yang.

“In China, school was about exams, rankings and competing with others. In New Zealand, school is about developing your own skills and strengths.

“You’re encouraged to ask questions, and the teachers really do care about you.”

In 2016, Yang won an excellence award for international students in Wellington. Yang’s parents saw their son being presented with his award on TV, which helped persuade them to support his goal of learning to fly – not as a hobby, but as a career.

Then Yang had another stroke of luck: while working part-time as a waiter, he found himself serving the chief pilot of Air New Zealand.

“When I decided I wanted to train as a pilot, I wrote to him and he offered to meet me. I went to Auckland to talk to him, and he told me all about my options,” says Yang.

“Only in New Zealand could an international student meet the chief pilot of an international airline and arrange to meet up with him.”

After finishing his flight training, Yang plans to study for a Bachelor of Aviation Management at Massey University in Palmerston North.

Yang’s ultimate goal is to become chief pilot of Air New Zealand. “That would be a dream come true.”


By Linley Boniface

Updated 4 months 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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