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A Teenager in NZ

Some days are unusual and teenagers just want to have fun. Every week I have the opportunity to taste international fare prepared by other foreign students in the hostel. Of course, there are also daily chores outside of class – cleaning, throwing out garbage, washing and cooking on weekends. This is my life at the boarding school Marlborough Girls’ College in Blenheim, New Zealand’s South Island.

At 16, I am the only Filipino in my high school (grade 11) class; the other Asians are mostly from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand or Korea. Together with Kiwik (New Zealanders) and Europeans, we celebrated Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national holiday, where international students dress up in their native clothes and perform a dance or song number. They all wanted to see me dance “with a candle in my hand and on my head”, but I didn’t know how to dance Pandanggo sa Ilaw. I did try to make pastille de leche, but I must have overcooked it because it turned brown and tasted different!

In our English literature class, I usually finish ahead of the others and soon became a teacher’s assistant, helping my other Asian classmates and earning “stars”. One star equals one New Zealand dollar. After getting the 10 stars, I went to the cafeteria to exchange the starters for something I wanted – muffins or ice cream. In the case of English literature, we have to speak individually before the class in order to develop our confidence and communication skills. We also need to learn English the way the British speak it.

Standards are high and topics are treated in depth with analysis, research and debate. No memorization. We freely expressed our opinions on everything we discussed, even in science. The art class is interesting and very demanding. We have to draw 100 times, using different materials and subjects, and our work is sent to a cultural office in Wellington to be graded! Of the school’s facilities, I liked the gymnasiums the most because we can play physical education sports such as rugby, cricket, soccer, catch and basketball.

There is a work day where the student can volunteer, such as at a grocery store, restaurant, or boarding school, and receive a salary that must be returned to the school.

I change classes in every subject, just like at university. In the New Zealand education system, Year 11 students specialize in other areas of interest, such as arts, commerce (e.g. accounting), technology or languages. Mathematics, English literature and science remain the key subjects.

Next year, in year 12, I will be transferring to Rangi Ruru Girls’ School in Christchurch. In New Zealand, Year 12 students can specialize in up to six subjects, and I will have Accounting, Economics, Mathematics (Statistics), Photography, English and Art. At my new school, I have to learn to play an instrument and be part of a sports team.

Filipino students have a good reputation here in New Zealand – they are well-behaved, adaptable, friendly and independent. One of my unforgettable moments in New Zealand is staying at home during our break. I spent four days in the mountains of the Marlborough Sounds with a Kiwi family.

The Marlborough Sounds area consists of three main bodies of water – Queen Charlotte, Kenepuru and Pelorus Sounds. This collection of submerged river valleys is a natural wonder in New Zealand. Surrounded by the soft sounds of birds and marine life, the fragrant smell of forests and clean mountain air, the lodge had no electricity, but it was fun! I kayaked a lot, fed milk to lambs.

Marlborough is also New Zealand’s largest grape growing and wine producing region, with 65 wineries, 290 grape growers and 4,054 hectares of vines. Sauvignon Blanc is a specialty of the region. In addition to grapes, wine is made from coffee beans, oranges, kiwis or almost any fruit!

Blenheim, the main town in Marlborough where my school is located, is a friendly and safe community, especially for young visitors to develop their confidence in a new country and school. Like most of New Zealand, it is very clean and green. One day I saw some clams in a nearby stream, but my Kiwi friends ignored them because they were of lower quality, not enough to eat! New Zealanders are spoiled for choice with fresh seafood.

Living and studying away from home made me appreciate my life and learned how to live responsibly with the freedom I have. I’m naturally outgoing and friendly, and that helped a lot in making friends with the Kiwis. There are cultural differences and you have to adapt to Kiwis and be tolerant of differences.

I can’t wait to finish my final year in New Zealand, which is year 13, where I will be taking university entrance and scholarship exams. My goal is to achieve a B or higher in order to apply for a university course in New Zealand.

My dream is to become an accountant and I believe that my New Zealand education will give me the best foundation to be successful one day.

(based on the life of Candy Enriquez as told to the author)

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