The promise to make international students feel at home in Northland has taken on new meaning thanks to the Covid-lockdown, but the approximately 150 of them who are sitting out the pandemic in the region say they are getting along just fine.
Jo Lees, project manager for Study Northland, the international education arm of Northland Inc., said students from around the world were discovering the extent of Kiwi hospitality as they sat out the lockdown with host families across the region, families who were earning praise, both at home and abroad, for the care and attention they were showing to their students.
"For many of those students, being back in their home countries would be much less comfortable, because they are from big built-up cities, where the number of coronavirus cases is higher and lockdowns are being extended," Ms Lees said.
"In contrast, here in Northland the students are enjoying living in rural settings or in houses with big backyards and plenty of fresh air."
The students were being well supported by their schools, and the homestay families had been doing an amazing job of keeping them busy and making them feel an integral part of the family.
"Whether that's been cooking, gardening, crafts, backyard games, exercising or just watching Netflix, the students have been made to feel perfectly at home. They feel safe, supported and well looked after in what is obviously a strange and scary time for them," she added.
Jill Grimshaw, the international student director at Springbank School, in Kerikeri, said everyone realised they were "pretty lucky to be locked up here in Northland."
Ms Lees said some students had made the decision, in conjunction with their parents, to go home, but the majority were staying put. Whatever they chose to do, their safety and wellbeing will continue to be everyone's top priority.
German student Leo, a keen hockey player who is studying at Whangārei Boys' High School and expects to stay in Northland until July, had been enjoying time around the house with his host family, including cooking and spending time in his "lockdown garden," weeding his lettuces, while another student, Jordan, said she was "doing fine" in isolation.
"It's not boring at all. We do workouts, stretches and yoga every day together, which is so nice," she said.
Ms Lees was confident that despite the impact of Covid-19, the students would go home with a true understanding of Kiwi hospitality.
"It's the Northland way to treat all visitors as our own. I'm sure this will be a positive experience that stays with them for the rest of their lives," she said.