Cromwell College welcomed five pupils from Thailand to their school last week as part of a programme that reaps cultural and financial benefits for the college.
International director Sandra Aitchison said local pupils were able to benefit from gaining a “wider experience of the world”.
“For us the main value is you are in a classroom and the person next to you is from a totally different culture, but you can communicate, you can share ideas.”
It was anticipated that three of the pupils would return and attend the college full-time next year, hosted by local families, she said.
“They visited last year and toured around then chose Cromwell because it was a prosperous area with lots happening and was welcoming and safe.”
Their current stay included visits to Highlands Motorsport Park, taking part in the Cromwell Half Marathon and exploring Goldfields Mining Centre.
“These students are having an impact that is wider than just the school, and the kind of memories that they will take back are the sort of thing we feel will bring more students next year.”
The college at present had 11 international pupils who attend full-time, and was hoping to make a modest but stable increase of pupils each year, she said.
“At the moment I would like to feel we might be at 15 next year, and looking to keep that relationship because it is important that each student who comes in has to go away feeling that they were treated with respect, that they were known as a person and that they are happy to recommend us again.”
Venture South Education director Jijee Weigel was responsible for finding parents from Thailand who were interested in their children being educated in New Zealand.
She was confident the pupils would settle well at the college.
“They understand English but at the beginning they will be shy.
Cromwell students should be friendly and just let them do what Kiwi kids do. Don’t treat them any differently.”
Central Otago District Council mayor Tim Cadogan said the region welcomed the pupils, who had travelled far from home to be here.
“It’s a big step for young people and there will be challenges but I’ve always believed that nothing worth doing is ever easy.
“We offer them a very warm welcome.”