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Student Stories

Student profile: James He

ACG Parnell College international student James He has started up an initiative to help incoming international students adjust to school.

Motivated by his own experience adjusting to life as a young Chinese student in New Zealand, James has spearheaded New International Student Enrolment week or ‘NISE’ – to pair international students with a domestic student mentor.

“I always think that if you have the opportunity to talk to domestic students, have lunch with them and join their activities, you would adjust so much quicker, speak English so much faster,” the Year 12 student explained.

Since advertising the initiative at school, he has been inundated with student volunteers wanting to help out their international peers. Overcoming the initial communication barrier is often the first step.

“In Chinese culture, I think students are not always encouraged to express themselves, so if someone asks them to join them for lunch, they might not know how to respond. They search for the right word or phrase and they freeze. By then the moment will have passed and they will have missed the opportunity.”

James had this problem when he arrived two years ago, in Year 10. He overcame it through practice. “Only through practice do you get courage,” he explained.

Since then James has made a point of getting involved in every aspect of school life. He helps out at open days, translates for Chinese visitors, sung in the chorus of the school production ‘Oliver’ and is working with a teacher on a business idea developing academic courses for the Chinese market. He was the first student to submit an application to be a prefect.

He also performs demonstrations of Gu Qin, an ancient Chinese instrument at events in the school and around the city.

As for NISE, he says it’s primarily about building friendships, learning English is secondary. And it seems New Zealand is the place to do it. “It feels so much more free here, more relaxed. Everyone accepts you and your culture and point of view. It’s a very good place to develop your personality.”

ACG Parnell College Dean for international students Kenny Beeton said James was a role model for other international students. “He’s an enthusiastic and hard-working student who embraces every opportunity we have on offer.”