Neighbourhood gets bigger

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Nicky Ewins’ neighbourhood has got bigger.
Ms Ewins recently took on the role of international student director at Kaiapoi High School, having previously been employed as the North Canterbury Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator.
‘‘I have always enjoyed the challenge of being involved with students and I am passionate about what we have locally. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of creating something unique.’’
Principal Bruce Kearney says the international student director role is about building relationships.
‘‘The reality with this position is that you can learn the systems and we have really robust systems for our international students. But it’s a relationships-based position, so it’s really about finding the opportunities to create positive relationships.
‘‘There is a lot of collaboration through Christchurch Education, but at the end of the day it is a competitive market as we have a limited amount of international students coming and all the schools are offering a similar product. It’s about having the time and energy to build trust with the agents.
‘‘The parents are sending young people tens of thousands of miles away from home to a country they may not have been to before, so building trust isreally important.’’
Ms Ewins’ international experience includes representing New Zealand at the first women’s rugby world cup in Wales in 1991 and as an international rugby referee at four subsequent women’s world cups.
Mr Kearney says Ms Ewins’ experience of competing at the top level will be useful as the international student director role is ‘‘very hard’’.
‘‘The phone can go 24/7 and you need to be there,’’ Ms Ewins says.
‘‘I think back to when I was travelling overseas. There were times when I needed someone.’’
However, she says she gets to see ‘‘the fruits of her labour first hand’’.
‘‘One of the Japanese students has been here for two terms and hardly speaks, but she has said ‘hello’ to me several times this week and I’ve only been here three weeks.’’
Mr Kearney agrees, as the change in confidence of overseas students after they have spent time in New Zealand can be quite noticeable as he observed during a visit to a school inJapan.
‘‘I went into two classrooms – both of them were learning English. One was very formal and the other class had just come back from New Zealand and they were very loud and confident.’’
A group of seven KHS students is spending the July school holidays visiting a school in Sendai, Japan, where the tsunami struck in March 2011.
Ms Ewins says next term will begin with a visit by a group of students from Japan, while a group from Thailand is due to visit in October.