Things were running according to plan but then....
….there were rumours of border closures yet not all of our students had completed their final leg to New Zealand. Parents and agents (not to forget us here in the International Department) were beginning to panic as countries were starting to take measures to prevent the spread of this new virus. 11 of our returning students, predominantly from China, had not started their journeys early enough and were now being caught up in airports with flights being cancelled and airports closing their doors.
While here at Burnside High School, 36 new and enthusiastic students from Argentina, Austria, Cambodia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan & Taiwan had begun their orientation to our school. We experienced some lovely summer time activities as part of the first week in New Zealand. In addition, most of the new European students opted to take the ever-popular Outdoor Pursuits as one of their timetabled classes and in Term One the big focus is on white-water kayaking. Fortunately we were able to complete five out of the six fantastic days on the Hurunui River but by the 23rd of March matters took a turn for the worse.
Those from Europe were fortunate to have a globally dominant national airline that provided chartered Mercy Flights to take our students back to their home countries. Most of our students wished to stay despite the rampaging virus as they saw New Zealand as the safer location but parents naturally wanted their children home. This resulted in all of our European and South American students flying home in Terms One and Two. It was unfortunate that the students could not properly say goodbye to new friends. In extreme cases, some were only given 30 minutes notice to get to the Christchurch International Airport. With confirmed government approval our homestay families were able to make the mad dash to the airport to farewell their recently arrived students.
From Term Two onward some of us in the International Team spent most of our days in Zoom meetings, communicating with people in government departments discussing border issues and related matters. Obviously some of our onsite students were experiencing major anxiety and homesickness so the team worked hard ensuring everyone was coping with the new restrictions and the lack of certainty.
As the months moved on additional students had to leave because of events back in their home country but by the end of the year we still had 115 International students on site. Our current students are well aware that they need to stay in the safety of New Zealand to enable a continuation of their studies. We admire their bravery as they are going to be without their families over the Christmas break. On the bright side, I guess it is times like these that we can be thankful to be positioned at the bottom of the planet, geographically detached from the rest of the world.
So, where ever you may be, the International Department wish you and your community a safe and happy summer break.
Craig Rosengrave and the International Team