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James Kang

Construction Graduate

James Kang

Originally from Seoul, Korea, James Kang was looking to pursue his interest in Quantity Surveying, but also live a quieter lifestyle. This brought him to UCOL in Palmerston North.

James (whose Korean name is Seong Woo) served as Captain of an engineering company in the Republic of Korea Army. This gave him his first taste of quantity surveying and contract administration.

He followed up his army stint with two years of teaching Korean in China before deciding to pursue Quantity Surveying further.

James’ wife had also served in the army as a Nursing Officer and wanted to study Nursing in New Zealand. UCOL in Palmerston North appealed to them both as they wanted a much quieter lifestyle than what they were used to. Palmerston North’s population is approximately 89,000, compared to just under 9 million people in Seoul.

“Korea is a very busy country and we wanted to find somewhere quiet and well-developed for education. Palmerston North is exactly that kind of city,” says James.

James completed UCOL’s New Zealand Certificate in English Language (Level 4), which made him feel more confident and improved his conversational skills. He enjoyed learning English in a multicultural environment, with classmates from India, China, and Cambodia.

James then enrolled in the New Zealand Diploma in Construction (Quantity Surveying Strand). He learnt more about budgeting for construction and the difference in  industry between New Zealand and his home country.

“Korean construction and New Zealand construction are quite different. In New Zealand, especially residential housing, the base is a timber structure, but in Korea we used concrete for residential construction as well as commercial. The construction materials and methodology are different.”

James’ high quality work, methodical approach, and great communication skills led to him being nominated for a New Zealand Institute of Building (NZIOB) Student Achievement Award. Attending the awards ceremony was a highlight for James, as he walked away with a merit award.

James says he received great support from his lecturers, who created a family-like atmosphere in their classrooms.

“The biggest support is the lecturers. They are really kind and support their students. In my English and Construction courses,  when I had problems or needed help with something, they always made the time.

“As a migrant it can be hard to make connections with people, but I made a real connection with my lecturers.”

Outside of the classroom, James was a Tuakana (‘older sibling’, mentor) for other international students, as part of UCOL’s Exchange Network programme. He liked being able use his experiences to help new students get used to life at UCOL and in their new city.

James was also selected to be a Palmy Global Ambassador by the Palmerston North City Council. As an Ambassador, he helped run international-themed events and was involved in initiatives to promote the city to the world. James says this volunteer work helped him build valuable contacts in the community and construction industry.

James is now working as a Building Officer for the City Council. He is responsible for issuing building consents for new residential construction and renovations, and completing building inspections during each stage of construction.
“My UCOL programme was great for finding a job – what I studied is exactly what the industry requires.”

“I’m proud to have my first Kiwi job in my chosen field. Building officers have an important role in the industry and in ensuring public safety. I’m happy to be able to contribute and use my talents to help my community.”

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