Northland's education sector is preparing to welcome the first batch of international students since Covid-19 shut New Zealand's border more than two years ago.
To give them a taste of Northland, a visit to Waitangi Treaty Grounds and an event at the new Hundertwasser Art Centre are also planned for August and September.
Study Northland has confirmed nearly 50 international students will return to Northland in time for the second tertiary semester and third term of secondary school starting in July.
Project manager for Study Northland Jo Lees considers the pending arrival of tertiary and secondary students as a "triumphant and symbolic moment for Northland's international education sector", after an absence of offshore ākonga for two and a half years.
"Our schools and education providers are thrilled to very soon see international students joining our classrooms and campuses once again – bringing with them a range of social and cross-cultural benefits to our local communities," Lees said.
"These students represent global connection for Northland; they enrich the learning experience for local students through a diversity of thought and offer an incredible cultural exchange that learners and the wider community have missed since the onset of Covid."
Kerikeri High School will have the largest contingent of the region's 39 secondary students.
School director of international students Jessica Donovan said it was a privilege to host a culturally-diverse range of students who chose to call Kerikeri High School their second home.
As part of Northland's reconnection with offshore students, Whangārei Girls' High School would welcome 23 students from its Japanese sister school, Otani High School, for a three-week exchange in July – the first since Covid-19.
WGHS international director Amelia Morrison said the school maintained its relationship and connected online for cultural exchange throughout the pandemic.
While these interactions helped encourage cross-cultural learning for both schools, nothing beat the interpersonal skills and experience gained from interacting with another culture kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face), Morrison said.
Beyond the reconnection of friendships and cross-cultural stimulation in classrooms, Northland's business community is anticipating a subsequent boost in local tourism.
Pre Covid-19, international education was New Zealand's fifth-largest export industry and contributed about $5 billion annually to the national economy.
Northland's 50 students were part of an approved cohort of students eligible for study visas under the Government's immigration and enrolment settings.
In 2019, Northland had 800 international students – 25 per cent in schools and 75 per cent in tertiary education.
Northland Inc general manager Tania Burt said international students would have a significant impact on the region's economy.
"Not only do these students build rich cultural exchanges into Northland's learning environments, but they also contribute economically to our local tourism, retail, and hospitality businesses – who have gone without the usual level of inbound visitor spend for a long time.
"Many of these students will bring their families to visit and experience the best of Northland – contributing significantly to the return of international visitation and rebuilding of our tourism industry."