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Japanese students return

It was the beginning and end of a long journey as Otago Polytechnic welcomed back students from Japan’s International College of Technology yesterday.

The 10 students were welcomed with a mihi on to the Dunedin campus, where they will study until next February while living with local host families.

Programme co-ordinator Nathan Dunbar, an engineering technologies lecturer at the polytechnic, said he had already been teaching the students online for several months. “The new programme started in 2020 and the cohort of students at the time were due here about one week after the borders closed,” Mr Dunbar said.

They had since been collaborating with the school in Japan to deliver the year-long programme online, a span of time which felt like “forever”.

“Finally we’ve got students back here. We’re so, so, happy to be able to see them.”

The programme started in early April to follow the Japanese academic year.

It had been running since the early 2000s, but was redesigned in 2020 to integrate students into regular polytechnic classes rather than having them study separately.

“Normally they would have come here … and spent the first semester focusing on English and communication skills, and then they move into the more technical IT and engineering subjects in the second semester, so they’re running late.”

They had been doing their best to prepare the students, who were due to hit the ground running.

“They’re straight in to their maths class on Monday next week, without a break.

“Today’s the beginning and end of a long journey.”

Student Shii Yamazaki (17) said she had seen some cherry blossoms and noticed that cars also drive on the left in New Zealand. “I feel like I’m still in Japan,” she said.

Her host family was kind and people seemed more relaxed than in Japan.

She and her fellow students were looking forward to trying new food, seeing animals such as penguins and sea lions, and learning more about Maori culture.

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