TODAY |

Support centre proposed for international students suffering loneliness and culture shock

The plight of international students suffering from loneliness has brought a call for greater support.

There's a suggestion a student hub should be set up in central Auckland, as the Government looks to increase returns on New Zealand's fourth largest export earner.

Yao Su's family saved up for years in China to send their only child to university in New Zealand.

"Away from parents, from home, no friends here," the international student said. 

She knew no-one and suffered extreme culture shock, but she hid her troubles from her parents.

"Lots of times I just cried by myself and be happy in front of them. Sometimes I still pretend to be fine, everything's fine. But not." 

Pheobe Yu's first days as an international student were even worse. She was attacked in central Auckland.

"They said, 'Give me your bag, give me your cellphone.' And then I got punched. So sad, yeah. I got punched," she said. 

The two students didn't know where to go for advice or how to meet other newcomers.

As a host country, it's our responsibility that if students are coming here, we should give them a warm welcome - Mihir Gohil, Language School Manager Student Support

Now, community leaders are urging the Government to set up a support centre in Auckland.

Jessica Phuang of Auckland Police Ethnic Response said a student hub would give international students "a place that they can go to and belong".

Mihir Gohil, Language School Manager Student Support, said, "As a host country, it's our responsibility that if students are coming here, we should give them a warm welcome. If they need any information."

International education is valued at $5.1 billion. In 2017 more than 125,000 students studied in New Zealand. 

But international student numbers in Auckland have dropped, with the Government shifting its focus from quantity to quality. 

The value per student is up, at almost $40,000 dollars. 

"It's not just about dragging in any international student and taking their money. It's actually about making sure that we deliver a really quality educational experience," Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Resilience for these international students are honestly built in the first few days of their time here in New Zealand - James Koo of support website Niesh

Schools offer advice, but asking authorities for help isn't the custom in some countries.

James Koo started support website Niesh, but says more is needed.

"Resilience for these international students are honestly built in the first few days of their time here in New Zealand. And so if we had such a hub that can really kind of bring the right support and kind of point students in the right direction," he said.

Mr Hipkins said Education New Zealand is currently considering establishing an education hub that would be a drop-in centre where international students can go. 

"There's real merit in that idea. It's definitely on the cards." 

International Student Phoebe Yu said a safezone where the students can meet new people "would be wonderful". 

Students want to know they're just as  welcome as their wallets.

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In 2017, 125,000 foreign students studied here, a boost to our economy valued at $5.1 billion. Source: 1 NEWS