International students have pumped $103 million into Tauranga's economy and supported 1167 jobs in just one year.
New research showing the economic benefits of international education for the Bay of Plenty revealed Tauranga hosted 2870 international students in 2017/2018.
Those students contributed $170m to the Bay and supported 2020 across the region - $103m and 1167 jobs in Tauranga as well as $71m and 740 jobs in Rotorua.
The Regional Economic Impact Reports showed international students poured $36m into Tauranga schools, $17m into universities and $50m into other areas of education such as English language centres.
International students pumped $5.1 billion into the nationwide economy, making it New Zealand's fourth-largest export.
Education Tauranga regional manager Anne Young said international students contributed to a globally connected community.
"It teaches Kiwi students to be empathetic and understanding, while international students are learning in a classroom so different to their home country," she said.
Young said international students chose to study in Tauranga because of the quality of education they received and believed the trend would continue.
"We are a sought-after destination.They love the climate, the beach, all of the physical attributes of the city and they enjoy the study experience," she said.
Waikato University senior deputy vice-chancellor Professor Alister Jones said international students added diversity to the city.
"They support a wide range of jobs; they are making a significant contribution to a multicultural society," he said.
"They open up Tauranga to the wider world. They become strong ambassadors for the country and the city they have studied in."
Jones said the $17m that university students pumped into the city's economy went into hospitality and tourism as well as education.
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology head of international Peter Richardson said international students brought a "true richness" to student culture.
"For many of our domestic students, this is their first experience of meeting and learning from peoples of other cultures," he said.
"From a social and cultural impact, it enhances students' broader understanding of international topics."
Richardson said international students increased tourism in the wider Bay of Plenty, as many students' families also visited the region.
They also generated economic growth and filled job shortages, he said.
International student numbers had increased at Toi Ohomai's Tauranga campus in the last four years to 289 this year from 108 in 2014 - but dropped at the Rotorua campus to 1181 from 1257 in 2014.
Another 100 international students were expected to be enrolled across the campuses in the November 2018 intake.
Education New Zealand chief executive Grant McPherson said the Bay of Plenty had the sixth biggest economic value in New Zealand.
"This is a strong result, particularly given this has been achieved without a full university campus," he said.
McPherson said the number of university students was expected to increase when the new University of Waikato campus opened in 2019. "The flow-on of this will no doubt be a growing talent pool for the region."
Education Minister Chris Hipkins said international education gave an opportunity for the next generation to learn alongside people from all over the world.
"[It] encourages our young people to look outward and helps them develop global skills valuable for tomorrow's workforce."
Student quickly makes friends
Bosse Thiel said while it was "scary" joining a new school at Tauranga Boys' College when he arrived from Germany about 10 months ago, he quickly made friends.
The 16-year-old applied for the one-year exchange for the experience of understanding a new culture.
"The education system is different. In Germany it is much more strict. Here, the teachers don't tell you what to do, they show you the way," he said.
"... that gives you a lot more freedom, which is what I really like... I don't regret it."
David Yufei had been at Tauranga Boys' College for three years after arriving from China.
The 16-year-old said he had felt accepted by his host family and fellow students.
"People are so kind here," he said. "I haven't seen any people that treat me differently. I was pretty scared when I first came here but now I feel pretty lucky."
Yufei said the education system was more relaxed in New Zealand.
"I really like the system here," he said. "You can gain credits from your daily work. It is not like in China where one exam depends on everything."
Tauranga Boys' College student Kale Adair's family was hosting a German student and said it was "normal" to have international students in the classroom.
"The school culture is it is just normal for international students to be in every co-curricular area and in the classroom," he said.
"There are no stereotypes or prejudices that students have because right from Year 9 you are likely to have international students in the same position you are - equally nervous about coming into high school."
Principal Robert Mangan said having international students on the school roll was a "win-win situation".
"We embrace the international students as our own. They add to the diversity of our student population," he said.
"It is about our boys growing cultural understanding, empathy and tolerance. It is understanding that deep down as humans we are more similar than we are dislike."
International director Annette Roff said the college's Te Whānau Aronui programme helped to broaden international students' understanding of New Zealand and Māori culture.
"Spending a night on a marae, understanding the essence of the haka and learning about the culture has given our international students a deeper understanding of Māori culture and values and changed their whole outlook to life in New Zealand," Roff said.
Bay of Plenty: $170M
Jobs created from international education
Bay of Plenty: 2020
Number of international students
Bay of Plenty: 4953