Your next study destination is a ewe‑topia

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Digital Reporter

New Zealand is a pretty place. Its stunning landscapes made it the location of choice for shooting the movie adaptations to J.R.R. Tolkein’s classic high‑fantasy novels. Aware of its popularity, a tour of Lord of the Rings locations, is among the country’s tourism programs. It is also the country with the most Polynesians, the ethnic group represented in the Disney film Moana (2016), which describes a sea‑faring culture like the ancient Filipinos and the ancient Hawaiians.

Located south of the equator, New Zealand is a melting pot of cultures and sheep. Mostly sheep. Official statistics say that as of June 2016, New Zealand is home to 4.69 million people and 27.6 million sheep.

To prevent the nation from turning into a veritable ewe‑topia, the New Zealand government is offering educational programs and scholarships to students who are willing to move there to study, and perhaps choose it as their home.

“At the end of the day we’re a very small country tucked in the corner of the globe, we need to get out and experience other cultures,“ Ben Burrowes, Regional Communications and Strategic Communications Manager for South East Asia of Education New Zealand, told SparkUp at the sidelines of Food Connection 2017, a cooking contest held at the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) where Filipino students from various culinary schools battled it out on who can cook the best meals using New Zealand products—including dairy products, wine and chocolates. “That’s a big reason why we encourage a lot of attention to New Zealand, so us Kiwis can experience other cultures.”

Mr. Burrowes said Filipinos are the fastest growing student community in New Zeland, growing by 83% in 2015. As of 2016, New Zealand is home to 3,500 Filipino students and 50,000 Filipino immigrants.

“There’s a lot of opportunities depending on what the student is looking for, program and course, but we’ve got a world‑class education offering. And I think testament to that is the huge number of Filipino students we’ve got in New Zealand at the moment,” he added.

There are three key reasons why Filipinos should study in New Zealand, the education officer said, the first one being safety. “First, it’s a safe, warm, welcoming country where different cultures feel at home. We’ve been ranked the world’s most peaceful nation eight years in a row.”

“Second is our world‑class education system,” Mr. Burrowes said. There are only eight universities in New Zeland but they are all ranked in the top three percent worldwide. “We’re the only country in the world who can claim that statistic.”

Lastly, Mr. Burrowes pointed out that the style of education in New Zealand is different than in other countries. “Innovation, analytical thinking and creativity are encouraged. A lot of the more traditional styles have a one‑way dialogue, where students listen to a teacher, taking notes. Here, questions are encouraged and you do a lot of learning outside of the classroom.”

New Zealand provides support to its international students, from helping them find the program that’s right for them, looking for affordable housing and even providing part‑time jobs and internships.

SparkUp also spoke to Kesiah Jacinto, a restaurateur, chef and alumna of the Center for Culinary Arts who continued her studies in New Zealand. She testified to the wonders of NZ living.

“The people were very friendly, and because the school knew that we were foreign students, they always tried to help us even in the smallest details, like in housing and finding us part‑time jobs while we’re studying,” Ms. Jacinto said.

She and her husband work with local farmers and food producers in Mindoro to create a variety of food products such as artisanal wild‑boar sausages and hand‑roasted tablea chocolates, precisely because of New Zealand.

“I started The Wild Range with my husband—he’s the designer in charge of community development and I’m the chef in charge of product development. When we were in New Zealand, we saw how the people there take their ingredients seriously. I had this awareness with me that as a chef, I value these ingredients, but what happens beyond the restaurant?” she said. “What happens to the food producers? I studied the most basic sources of food for us chefs to develop.”

“We invite small‑scale businesses that have been existing for decades and we want to champion our local artisans,” Ms. Jacinto said. “The problem is that these people are old and if no one continues what they do the culture of Filipino cuisine itself will die.” Some of their partners include Nanay Zeny, who has been preparing tinapa for 20 years, and Nanay Bibang who supplies tablea balls.

Just like Ms. Jacinto knew what she wanted to do with her studies, she said that the youth should take every opportunity to study and hone their chosen crafts.

“If you have the opportunity, then grab it,” she said. “If you know why you want to study, then the how and the where will come easily. But I think New Zealand really helped me be where I am today.”

For more information on studying in New Zealand, visit

Some photos are owned by BusinessWorld reporter Zsarlene B. Chua.