Three Rotorua students have been awarded the prestigious Prime Minister's Scholarships, which has given them the opportunity to study overseas next year.
Sofia Morrell and Zoe Spence, who both attend Victoria University of Wellington, were awarded Prime Minister's Scholarships for Latin America.
Morrell, who is studying towards a Bachelor of Arts - majoring in political science and linguistics, and minoring in Spanish - will go on a semester's exchange at Universidad EAFIT in Colombia.
She applied because a friend had previously been on an exchange with the scholarship.
"She always had great things to say about it ... I just thought it looked like an amazing opportunity."
Morrell said while she had always been excited to go on exchange, winning the scholarship was "the cherry on top".
She chose Universidad EAFIT because of the city it was in, Medellín.
"It looks like it's an amazing city with a vibrant culture."
Morrell was most looking forward to learning Spanish to a high level and making new connections.
"There's already a big contingent of international students that I'm aware of ... I'm looking forward to diving right in."
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She said it might be a challenge doing papers in Spanish, however.
"I'm kind of nervously looking forward to that," she said.
"Culture shock can be quite a big thing for a lot of people, so it's being aware and adapting to the new culture."
However, Morrell said this shouldn't stop those interested in going to Latin America from applying next year.
"You'd be surprised at the really cool opportunities there are to go there."
Spence, who is studying towards a law and arts degree, is using her scholarship for a semester's exchange at Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico.
"It was quite exciting really, to get the email saying that I'd got it.
"I've always had an interest in Mexican culture."
She said the most challenging part about going overseas would be language, but she was looking forward to learning about the Mexican legal system and applying what she learnt back to New Zealand legislation.
"I think it's important that we can have those global perspectives here in New Zealand, especially because we are such a small corner of the world," she said.
"It's really cool to see Education New Zealand taking an interest in endorsing that global perspective."
Sylvia Song was awarded a Prime Minister's Scholarship for Asia and was going to study in Seoul, South Korea, next year.
The medical student applied for the scholarship because she felt the university she would attend, Yonsei University, would give her more opportunities to study elsewhere overseas.
"It's a globally recognised university ... it offers a lot of opportunities. They're quite famous for connecting with other universities worldwide."
She wanted to take a study break from her medical degree and decided to connect more with her roots while also studying.
"I was born in Rotorua, but I go back to Korea every summer."
Song said she decided to study there instead of going for the summer and was looking forward to immersing herself in Korean culture and becoming part of a community at university.
She said while Korea was a familiar country, settling down with a "different purpose" would be a challenge, as would getting used to living in Korea long-term.
She was grateful the scholarship would give her this opportunity.
"It's can be quite expensive and time-consuming so to have this out there makes it a lot easier."
She would be stepping out of her comfort zone at university, too.
"I'm a medical student, but next year I'll be studying something completely different.
Song already knows what she wants to do once she graduates, though.
"I'll come back to Rotorua and become a junior doctor."