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Whānau-oriented approach turns challenge into opportunity for our International students

Confronting challenges and seizing opportunities is nothing new for International student Richard Jin, who left his home in China seven years ago to live and study at Unitec.

Leaving your family, friends, your land, language and culture behind is daunting and the impact of COVID-19 introduces a new level of apprehension for many International students as concern for their families’ wellbeing weighed heavy on their minds.

Richard says technology and being able to video chat with friends and whānau back home has helped ease his mind, and the manaakitanga of academic and support staff at Unitec kept him focused.

“Studying abroad can be isolating and challenging but if you surround yourself with the right people who support you and encourage you, you can do anything, the whānau here is amazing because obviously I get the knowledge and all the support that I need".

Richard will graduate early next year with his Bachelor of Veterinary Nursing from our School of Environmental and Animal Sciences (EAS). He says a unique part of what he has come to appreciate in his time at Unitec is the whānau-oriented approach of supporting students throughout their journey.

“This journey isn’t easy and life isn’t always easy but you learn from a group of people committed to supporting and helping you. I know the people I have learned from have put me in a place that will help me do the best job possible in Veterinary Nursing and I can’t say thank you enough".

The Veterinary Nursing course provides practical experience alongside theory and Richard has gained valuable work experience at the Unitec Emergency Veterinary Clinic while studying. He also chose an elective course that gave him the opportunity to travel to the Kingdom of Tonga to assist in a project to de-sex cats and dogs on the island.

Further practical experience is offered by EAS through its animal unit – Te Puna Kararehe, where students including Richard contribute to the care of a number of animals including guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, budgies, chickens, a tortoise, green geckos, a bearded dragon and a skink.

Director of International Success, Tracy Chapman (Ngāti Kahungunu) plays a key role in ensuring International students are supported the right way when studying here and many have come to see her as “surrogate aunty”.

Tracy says “International students leave behind everything they know to come here and study and wrapping the right manaakitanga (support) around them is key to their success. Acknowledging their language, their culture and helping them understand that we are here and that it’s ok to ask for help is really important .”

While Richard is looking forward to graduating, he knows he will always be a part of the Unitec whānau no matter where his experience and opportunities take him in the future.

“I can’t thank the whānau here at Unitec enough and this is a journey and opportunity I will never ever forget.”