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A Teenager in NZ
Some days are hard, and young people just want to have fun. Every week, I get the chance to watch the international dance organized by the foreign students in the hostel. Of course, there are daily chores – cleaning, taking out the garbage, washing and cooking on the weekends – besides classes. This is my life at boarding school, at Marlborough Girls’ College in Blenheim, on the South Island of New Zealand.
I am 16 years old, the only Filipino in my high school class (Year 11); Many other Asians come from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand or Korea. Together with Kiwis (New Zealanders) and whites, we celebrated Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national day where international students dress up and perform a dance or musical number. They all wanted to see me dance “with candles in my hands and on my head,” but I didn’t know how to dance Pandanggo sa Ilaw. I tried making pastilles de leche, however, but I must have overcooked them because they turned brown and tasted different!
In our English literature class, I often finished ahead of others, and soon I became a teacher’s assistant, helping some of my Asian classmates, and getting “stars”. A star is equivalent to one NZ dollar. When I get 10 stars, I go to the restaurant to exchange the starters for what I want – a muffin or an ice cream. For English books, we have to speak in front of the class, one by one, to develop our confidence and communication skills. We should also learn English as the British speak it.
The standards are high, and the courses are discussed in depth, with assessment, research, and discussion. There is no memorization. We freely expressed our opinions on everything we discussed, even science. Art class is fun, but also very challenging. We have to draw 100 times, using different materials and subjects, and our work is sent to the cultural office in Wellington to be registered! Of the schools, I like the gym the most, because we can play PE sports like rugby, cricket, football, catch or basketball.
There is a work day, when a student can volunteer to work, such as in a store, restaurant, or boarding school, and receive wages that must be returned to the school.
I change class and subject every time, just like at university. Under the NZ curriculum, Year 11 students begin to excel in other areas of study such as Art, Commerce (such as Accounting), technology or Languages depending on one’s interest. Mathematics, English literature and Science are the main subjects.
Next year, in year 12, I will be going to Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in Christchurch. Year 12 students in NZ can take up to six subjects, and I will have courses in Accounting, Economics, Mathematics (Statistics), Photography, English and Art. At my new school, I will learn to play musical instruments and be a member of the sports team.
Filipino students have a good reputation here in New Zealand – they are known to be polite, flexible, friendly and independent. One of the most memorable moments in New Zealand is staying at home during the holidays. I spent four days in the mountains of the Marlborough Sounds with a Kiwi family.
The Marlborough Sounds area is made up of three large bodies of water – Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru, and Pelorus Sounds. This collection of submerged river valleys is one of New Zealand’s natural wonders. Surrounded by the gentle sounds of birds and sea creatures, the sweet scent of the forest and the pure mountain air, the lodge was dimly lit but delightful! I did a lot of kayaking, and fed the lambs with milk.
Marlborough is also New Zealand’s largest grape growing and wine producing region with 65 wineries, 290 grape growers and 4,054 hectares under grape production. Sauvignon Blanc is the specialty of the region. Besides grapes, they make wine from coffee beans, oranges, Kiwifruits, or almost any fruit!
Blenheim, the main town in Marlborough where my school is located, is a friendly and safe area especially for young visitors to develop their confidence in a new world and school. Like most of New Zealand, it is very clean, and green. One day, I saw some snails in a nearby river, but my Kiwi friends ignored them because they were of a low grade, not good enough to eat! New Zealanders are spoiled for choice for fresh seafood.
Living and studying away from home made me appreciate my life, and I learned to live well with the freedom I had. I’m naturally outgoing and friendly, which really helped me bond with the Kiwis. There are cultural differences, and one has to adapt to the Kiwis, and tolerate their differences.
I am looking forward to completing my final year in NZ which is Year 13, where I will have university entrance exams and Bursary exams. I aim to achieve a B or above in the exam to apply for a university degree program in NZ.
My dream is to become an accountant and I believe my New Zealand education will give me the best foundation I need to succeed one day.
(based on the life of Candy Enriquez as told by the author)
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