UCOL | Te Pūkenga welcomed their first group of ākonga (learners) from the Netherlands since 2019 in October. Today, these ākonga experienced being welcomed onto Kauwhata Marae in Aorangi (Feilding), learning the tīkanga and protocols of Te Ao Māori as part of their time in New Zealand.
Executive Director of Business, Industry & Partnerships, Jasmine Groves, says the exchange programme of which the ākonga are part, ‘Beyond Borders’ is part of an international partnership with Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences which began just before the pandemic started.
“The partnership between UCOL Te Pūkenga and Rotterdam University provides a wonderful opportunity for ākonga to experience a cultural exchange. These students are our first visitors of this kind since Covid-19 so it’s great to be able to open our doors to the world again.”
Ākonga Elise de Koning says their whole experience since arriving at UCOL Te Pūkenga has been fantastic.
“The warm welcome we received when we first arrived at UCOL was awesome. The mihi whakatau was our first Māori cultural experience. To then expand on that with the marae visit has been so cool. Although we were a little nervous beforehand, it was warm and welcoming and so different to anything we have home.”
“To be immersed in a completely new culture is scary but in a good way. We are so thankful for the support and preparation that we have had from UCOL Te Pūkenga and Whaea Erica. It has helped all of us feel confident and allowed us to be in the moment and soak up every minute,” she says.
“The experience of the kaikaranga is incredibly special – it wasn’t until I got to hear it for myself that I could understand that,” adds Melanie van der Harst, fellow ākonga.
The Dutch exchange ākonga were able experience a formal pōwhiri process, and then learn about Kauwhata Māoritanga, including taking part in a harakeke wānanga (flax weaving workshop).
The Beyond Borders programme that these ākonga are part of sees Rotterdam University students travelling to a different country and working on a project that address health-related inequalities in the local community. The four ākonga are studying in the fields of midwifery and physiology.
The three ākonga Melanie van der Harst, Lisa Paauwe, and Elise de Koning, along with fellow student Kayleigh Matse who had to return home earlier than anticipated, are working on a project focussed on child maltreatment with the aim of understanding local issues, how things have changed over the last few years and ultimately provide recommendations of how we can reduce the maltreatment of our tamariki (children).
Lisa Paauwe explains, “We have completed our literature research stage, and have been thankful to speak with organisations including Women’s Refuge and Oranga Tamariki to help us gain an understanding of the current state of things as well as opinions of those working within the relevant industries.”
“New Zealand’s child maltreatment statistics are surprisingly high, with one child dying every five weeks due to maltreatment. If we can play a small part in helping to reduce this that would be incredible.”