Dinghua Cheng moved from China to Whangārei three years ago and has been studying, living and working here since.

His course fees are about $19,800 per year and each week he spends about $400 on rent, food, petrol and other living costs.

The 22-year-old is one of many international students who have together added $50 million to Northland's economy in 2017/18, supporting 590 jobs in the region, research shows.

Cheng, known as Walter, moved to Whangārei from Guangzhou in 2015 to study a Bachelor of Applied Arts (digital) at NorthTec.

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"I wanted to learn English and that was my biggest motivation. I wanted to live and study in a different environment and learn some new cultures.

"There is a partnership between the school I was studying at in China and NorthTec, they offered us an opportunity to come over to Northland and study," he said.

The Education New Zealand research showed international students - including the 595 studying in Northland - added $44m to the economy through tuition and living costs, while international students studying elsewhere contributed $6m through visiting the region.

A total of 590 jobs were supported as a result, this includes work in retail, food and beverage, sport and recreation, accommodation, and transport.

Matthew Dennis, Northland Inc regional manager of international education, said international education was important.

"It contributes to tourism, regional growth, there's long term trade opportunities, investment and relationships with overseas diplomacy.

"It's also about international education contributing to a thriving and globally connected Northland region. International education helps Northlanders to live and learn alongside people from other cultures," he said.

Last year the Tai Tokerau Northland International Education Strategy was launched. It provided specific, sustainable growth targets including boosting international student numbers to 1500 - 900 at NorthTec, 400 at secondary schools and 200 at primary/intermediate schools - by 2027.

Dennis said as part of the strategy Northland Inc are launching a website early next year where they will be profiling international students studying in Northland.

"When an international student is making the choice to study abroad they will look at what country to go to first, and New Zealand has represented itself well in that space.

"Then an international student will go and consider what region in New Zealand they would like to study. Northland hadn't represented itself as a region so that's what Northland Inc are actioning, telling Northland stories and profiling what Northland offers to students."

The research also showed an extra $8m was added to the economy through friends and relatives of students, visiting the region.

Cheng, who also works part time as a cameraman and video editor for Whangārei company Facebox, said his parents spent two days in Whangārei to visit him when they were travelling around New Zealand a year ago.

"We travelled to some beaches and looked around. We didn't do anything in particular but it was good to see family here," he said.

Cheng is in his last year of studies at NorthTec but hopes to stay in Whangārei.

"I love it. I hope I can stay here because I already blend in I think. I enjoy living here and working here with those nice people," he said.