LSI Auckland student talks about his experiences of studying and living in New Zealand

On Wednesday 21st March Brazilian Picasso Fontenelle was invited by the mayor of  Auckland to make a speech  at the ‘International Student Welcome’ which was held at Auckland town hall. In his speech he outlined his own experiences and advice to all the new students at the event. Here is an excerpt from his speech.

Picasso Fononelle giving his speech at the International Student Welcome“I have been living here in Auckland since July last year, that’s about 8 months. In my country I am in my third year at university studying nutrition. I was born in a small town, called Camocim, and when I was fourteen years old I was sent by my parents from my hometown to live with my aunty and my uncle in Fortaleza, the capital of my state, a place with more opportunities and better schools.

Like Auckland, Fortaleza is a coastal city with harbours and bathed by the ocean. The difference between the two places is the weather. In Fortaleza we have a real sunny summer, in Auckland we have to be ready for the four seasons in one day. It’s not a bad thing for me, though. I actually found it refreshing to be in a place with such unpredictable days. After getting used to it, I discovered that is what makes New Zealand an untypical, magical and special place.

The crazy weather, the new school environment, the new food and the new people are all things that may scare overseas students, but they have all, in my case been pleasant surprises. Compared with Brazil, our diet is very unlike the diet here. We don’t eat things such as lamb and potatoes every day. It takes some adjusting to. I know. Never before had I seen someone who can eat a bag of potatoes per week. But stay open and you will see that every day the potato or whatever you eat will have a different flavour.

Of course you will have to process a lot of different reactions while you’re adjusting to a new culture and environment.  But take it day by day. Forget the distance between you and your home country. Use your imagination and you will realise that the strange food you are eating is not only “normal”, but it’s a piece of a new culture that is going into your mouth, becoming part of you.

I recommend you to get to know about the history of New Zealand. Ask your teachers about it. Get to know the European “kiwis” and Maori. Get to know about how these two distinct cultures made this unique country.

When I arrived here, my first impression wasn’t the best. My flight was delayed and instead of arriving at 7 o’clock in the morning in Auckland I arrived at midnight. Transfer was ok, friendly and brought me where it was supposed to. However, finding the homestay house was a problem – and midnight is not the best time to arrive in a stranger’s home. I felt a bit rude, but it wasn’t my fault. My homestay mother gave me a drink, showed me the house and my room and went to sleep. This made me think that I wouldn’t like the place and the people… but, I was completely wrong. Considering that we, Brazilians, are known as friendly and fun-loving people, something made me think that I wouldn’t find these qualities elsewhere. But with the time, I realised that there wasn’t a better place I could be. I discovered new things, new food, new culture, new people, the kiwi lifestyle, having fun… And unexpectedly, I got a mum, a dad, a brother and a sister (I’ve never had a brother and sister before!), aunties, uncles, cousins who now are part of my mind and my heart. People who will be hard to say goodbye to and whom I will never forget. What I got from them was a lot more that I could hope for. They are unique, awesome. Love, this is the word I can define what I feel for them. If you are lucky, you can get the same. There are lots of nice families with big open hearts.

So it’s people that have been the highlight of my trip, the great people I’ve met here. This includes friends. You might think that the friends you make here aren’t forever, mainly when this friend comes from another country far away from where you come from. But that’s not true. You will meet people here that will make a mark in your heart, people who you will rely on and who will make you suffer when you have to part. Because, to tell the truth, it’s impossible to say when will be the next time you are going to see each other again. That’s the tough part of the trip. Great when you make a bond with someone and deeply sad when you see him or her go. But that’s the life, that’s how it works.

For you who have just arrived, never allow yourself to feel bored. New Zealand is a country with a lot to see. Beautiful cities around with impressive scenery. Towns like Taupo, Coromandel and Paihia are must-see places to go. But even if you are only in Auckland, there is a lot to see as well. Entertainment, walking, places and good scenery you will find here. Enjoy your time. But if your purpose is merely to study, you will find it easy do so here. There is always someone who can help you with your difficulties in the language. Just look for someone and you will find help. Of course, nothing in life is easy. But difficulties are here to challenge and teach you, and you have to face them and win the “battle”, an everyday battle that in the end will make you a winner. There are no barriers between us. We are students from different countries who came to New Zealand to learn one language which can help us to communicate with each other. We are all humans, able to communicate independent of origin.

I would like to finish with one final piece of advice. No matter how basic your English is, if you want to say something, say it. Just try. Don’t be shy or afraid about saying something badly. You are here to learn and people will respect you for making the effort. Go ahead; there will be a time when you all will be able to understand each other in any situation. What makes us understand each other eventually is the human interaction that we can’t avoid. The language barrier is nothing compared to the things we can do. Be patient, take it easy and keep your mind clear. Everything comes in the right time. ”