New Zealand is known for its quality and affordable education worldwide. It's no wonder then that country is attracting a big chunk of Indian students every year. Also, Kiwi-land promises easy permanent settlement on completion of studies as long as one meets the policy.
Under the present circumstances, when the world economic situation is slowly limping back to normalcy, a smart act for Indian students would be to opt for small countries like New Zealand which has opened big education vistas.
"The faster way to gel well with the Kiwi culture is to live among New Zealand students and make friends," advises Pankaj Malhotra, Immigration New Zealand's (New Zealand High Commission) former student Visa Officer, in an interview with RMS Atwal.
Having lived in New Zealand for a good number of years, he is currently working with New Delhi-based Medway Education Consultancy which specialises in sending students for their higher education to New Zealand.
Excerpts from the interview:
How do you see New Zealand as a study destination for Indian students in the light of Australian scenario?
New Zealand offers the same quality of education as Australia does. It is unfortunate to see what is happening in Australia at the moment but there are always two sides to a story. I feel that we are only hearing about one side. I am, however, seeing a lot of students who don't want to go to Australia at the moment just because of the simple reason that their parents are not allowing them to go to there. Currently, most of the students have changed their plans and show interest in studying in New Zealand instead.
Some Indian students are confused when it comes to picking up a right course for foreign study. Do you agree?
Most students, who have completed their Bachelor's degree, are aware of the courses they want to undertake in New Zealand. However, students who have just completed their Class XII do usually need some guidance, which we provide.
Permanent residency is certainly an important factor for students from the Punjab region. How good is New Zealand for them?
New Zealand offers a very good quality of life. It has beautiful lush green countryside, a low crime rate, the "no worries mate" attitude to life and geographical diversity -- where else can you go in two hours from beach to mountain ski slopes?
How are the job prospects in NZ? Some students settled there are complaining of dwindling jobs. How soon is the situation going to improve?
The whole world has gone through economic downturn in the last year or so and New Zealand is not immune to its effects. I have noticed that jobs are hard to come by at the moment but the feedback that I have received from students is that they are still able to find part-time jobs while they are studying. Students should have enough money with them so that they can take care of their living expenses while they are studying in New Zealand. I really can't say when the situation will be back to normal but it is certainly improving.
Is it advisable to come back on study completion or move out of New Zealand to countries like the US and the UK?
It is a student's personal choice whether s/he wants to come back or to move to another country but it is always advisable for him/her to get some work experience while they are there.
How good is New Zealand education? Though a small country, is its education at par with the US and the UK?
A qualification from a New Zealand university ranks with the best in the world. In a small country and in small classes, students have the rare advantage of one-on-one access to tutors -- many of whom are international experts in their fields. A degree from a New Zealand institution is seen as internationally desirable because students have a high level of practical as well as theoretical competency when they graduate. Also, the cost of education is quite low when compared to other countries.
You lived a good number of years in New Zealand. Is it affordable for our students?
Yes, as compared to other countries, New Zealand is very affordable.
Could you elaborate on the NZ 'Open Work Permit' programme?
Open work permit or job search visa is granted to a student on completion of the course and is valid for one year. Students are given the opportunity to get work experience after completion of the course and if he/she wishes then he/she can apply for permanent residency as well (if they meet the policy requirements).
The English language often presents a challenge to Indian students. Even after clearing the IELTS our students find it hard to adjust under an alien set-up. Your comments.
I do agree that students could find it hard to adjust in a new country and environment. All I can suggest is that when our students are in New Zealand they could share their accommodation with New Zealanders, which would enable them to brush up on their English language skills along with faster adaptability to the New Zealand culture. Ultimately, it would be easy for our students to "fit in" in a foreign culture.
What advice do you have for students thinking of studying in NZ?
Students should carefully research institutions and courses they wish to apply for and the future job prospects. It helps to initiate the process up to a year in advance to give oneself sufficient time for paperwork related to application and immigration formalities. Students should be mentally prepared to adapt to the new country with an open mind, and most importantly, respect the country's laws and customs. The bottomline is one should be well informed about New Zealand before leaving India.
(RMS Atwal is a freelance journalist and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org)