A new initiative launched by Education Tauranga is giving international students a chance to share their life stories and local experiences.

Regional manager Anne Young says its Student Voice, which can be accessed from its website, is a campaign designed to showcase "the wide range of international students that come to live and study in our city each year".

Education Tauranga works as the liaison between educational institutions and international students in Tauranga city and the wider Western Bay of Plenty, ensuring these students are receiving high-quality education and care, she says.

"With Tauranga currently hosting over 2700 international students a year, Education

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Tauranga's goal is to make sure their experience in Tauranga is positive and rewarding."
Anne says common themes run through many of the stories, like fascination with barefoot Kiwis at the supermarket and appreciation for our country's character-building, hands-on education.

Japanese student Sophie Iwakiri says five years ago in Miyazaki she was written off by her teachers as a poor student and a trouble maker.

This made her feel "frustrated, worthless and alone".

At her wits' end, Sophie's mum decided to send her to Katikati where she turned into a high-achiever and leader in the community.

Sophie knew nothing about New Zealand before she arrived. She had limited English skills and worried that life here would be just as bad as in Japan, but with the added challenge of learning a new language.

"The first hurdle wasn't learning the language: it was finding myself. I had to figure out who I was. I was always smiling on the outside, but deep down I was unhappy and I had to figure out why."

She credits her teachers and host family for her success and graduating in the top five percent of her class. Now Sophie is weighing up her future after being accepted into the University of Auckland and Tokyo's Keio University.

David Zencominierski's backpacking trip around New Zealand turned into a studying stint at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and a Diploma in Marine Studies.

He plans to extend the programme for another year to gain a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biological Sciences through Waikato University and says studying and living in Tauranga has been life-changing.

"As a child, I would say, 'I want to become a marine biologist'. Marine studies was always at the back of my mind."

"I came up here, had a tour of the campus and I was instantly hooked. I loved the idea of not just sitting in a classroom, but actually going out to work in the field. We have boats and dive tanks and dive field trips."