The number of international students living in the Bay has jumped from 700 in 2014 to over 2,500 in the last financial year.

The Economic Impact of International Education Infometrics report showed in the 2015 to 2016 financial year, 2718 international students were enrolled in Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty schools, which pumped $68 million into the region.

Education Tauranga regional manager Anne Young said international student numbers had increased significantly.

In 2014 the Bay of plenty Times reported Education Tauranga wanted to attract 15 per cent more international students in the next few years.

Advertisement

The organisation now had a goal to increase by 35 per cent in their new strategy which runs from now until 2022.

Although they had seen larger than expected growth, a 35 per cent increase was still an aspirational target, Mrs Young said.

Currently, Education Tauranga worked mostly with students from Korea, India and Germany, and the organisation was promoting Tauranga to China and Japan.

It also wanted to explore markets in America and the Philippines.

"We have programs here which meet their needs and there is potential to explore and grow numbers from those areas," she said.

The organisation placed students in schools and institutes the wider Bay of Plenty from Waihi through to Whakatane.

Mrs Young said the report was exciting for the organisation as it had known the value of international students' economic contribution to New Zealand.

"We know this industry has been significant, it always operated as a silent achiever but this shows quite clearly the contribution it does make and the number of jobs it has created," she said.

The social benefits of having international students were huge.

"There is economic value, which is really important, but it's important to think of the social value.

"For a relatively small country at the bottom of the world, it's really important our children grow up to be global learners, as most of them will travel overseas.

"To have a perspective from someone who comes from a different country who they get to sit next to in class and talk to, they learn there is a much bigger world out there. Lifelong friendships are made."

Exchange life:

Janelle and Brendan Mark operated a busy resort in the Coromandel before moving to Tauranga four years ago.

For 12 years they were surrounded by tourists from all corners of the globe then, after moving to Tauranga, they found they missed the daily interaction with people
from different backgrounds.

The Marks approached Aquinas College about hosting an international student.

Mrs Mark said the excitement began at Tauranga Airport when they picked their student up.

"The experience of hosting is a privilege - it is a huge responsibility taking care of someone else's child but it's a wonderful and rewarding experience too.

"Some people say we're brave for taking on a student for a year, but the students and their families are the brave ones."

The Mark family are currently hosting Aki, a 16-year-old student from Japan who would be with them for a year.

Mrs Mark's own children, aged 8 and 12, particularly enjoy having internationals in the home.

"Hosting students has been hugely enriching to the lives of our children. Aki has already taught them some Japanese and how to make origami."

For Aki, life on a Tauranga farm was nothing like an apartment block in Osaka City.

She enjoyed feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, and brushing the family's pet steer and sightseeing around the region.

"It's been a pleasure showing Aki what the Bay of Plenty has to offer, as it helps us appreciate how much we have on our doorstep.

"Aki is already a big part of our family and is going to be a hard one to let go of at the airport in December."