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Finding her way as an international student amidst Covid

  • jhanvi

Jhanvi Barot moved to New Zealand from India in 2017 to study a Bachelor of Business (Management) at Unitec. Now working at Gilmours, the wholesale arm of Foodstuffs, she tells us how Unitec helped her adjust to a totally new country and culture.

Jhanvi says her move to New Zealand was significant not just because it was on the other side of the world, but because it was the first time she’d lived away from her whanau.

“When I started at Unitec, I was so nervous, it was my first move away from home and I was in a completely foreign country! But Unitec immediately made me feel at home and welcomed me. The adventure began at Orientation, where we were met by Unitec Connectors - current students who volunteer to help new students settle in. They showed us around the campus; where to go, how to find things. I found this student-to-student support so helpful that I later became part of Unitec Connectors myself and spent the rest of my degree helping other new students settle in.”

As an international student, Jhanvi says the level of diversity and ongoing support at Unitec was impressive. 

“We received fantastic support from our lecturers throughout the degree, as well as from the Unitec Student Centre, where you could go if you were having difficulty in an assignment or needed general support. We had a really broad cultural mix in our degree and Unitec were able to help everyone - no matter what their background. They really took the time to understand where we were coming from and the difficulties we faced.”

One thing Jhanvi found particularly useful was being given the opportunity to learn more about the Māori culture.

“Something I was particularly impressed with was the amazing introduction to New Zealand’s culture that we received at Orientation. We were given a proper pōwhiri, or welcome ceremony, and an introduction to Māori culture. This was so important to me as a new student from a totally different country.”

Jhanvi’s degree, a Bachelor Business (Management), is a three-year course, with each year building on the previous one. 

“In the first year, you’re introduced to a wide range of subjects - including accounting, marketing, operations and HR - so you can decide what you want to specialise in. I chose to major in Operations Management as it was something I enjoyed, and it suited my logical, process-driven approach to work. 

“In the second year of the degree we completed a lot of group assignment work, so I got to know the people around me and how they worked. Then, the third year was our practical year - where we put everything we’d learned into practice. Every year posed a new challenge, but there was always the support and resources available to get through it.”

During her studies, Jhanvi took a part-time role at Nando’s, and when the time came to complete her practical year they offered her an internship - centred around a new waste management project.

“Nando’s wanted to introduce organic compostable bins, so my internship role was to investigate this: what it would cost and how it might work. Once I’d completed my research I presented my findings and they asked me to roll the program out in one of the stores as a trial.”

The start of a new career

The success of her practical project and her knack of following processes saw Jhanvi recommended for her first full time role at Gilmours.

“I was offered the role of Price Integrity and Inventory Officer and started on 21 March 2020 - one day before New Zealand’s first COVID lockdown! Gilmours was really supportive and, because it comes under ‘essential services’, I was able to help with this all-new situation of COVID while learning.”

In her Price Integrity role, Jhanvi looked after the pricing of all products - resolving issues, working out in-store promotions, and maintaining price throughout the store. A few months into her role she was asked to take on the additional role of Sales Support, and began helping customers with online order issues, creating web-shop logins for customers and working with the sales team to get it done.

Today, Jhanvi works in Gilmours’ inventory department, where she’s accountable for maintaining stock, keeping stock records and addressing discrepancies.

“What I’ve really enjoyed about my time at Gilmours is the learning. Every time I move to a different role it means gaining a lot of new skills and knowledge. I think if I just did one thing for a long time, I’d get bored! It’s been a lot of change for me, three roles in just one year, but it’s given me visibility to all aspects of the business.

“When I look back at my time at Unitec, I think it really provided a strong platform for my career. The support the lecturers provided was amazing - they didn’t give you the answers, but carefully guided you so you could figure it out yourself. Unitec not only helped me settle into a new country but set me on the right path for the future. All those ups and downs with assignment grades, practical learning and gaining industry knowledge helped prepare me for future roles and motivated me to try my best in all I do.”

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