29 February 2012
It was only natural that Shiloh Kim should have been worried about moving to Tauranga.
After all, she was only 9 years old and New Zealand was a whole new world compared with her native South Korea.
"I had no people that I knew," Shiloh said. "I tried to make friends so that I could play."
It was tough at first, but Shiloh soon found that her classmates at Greenpark School were very kind and she quickly started to form friendships. Two years later, Shiloh goes to birthday parties and sleepovers with her Kiwi friends and has learned to enjoy fish 'n' chips.
It was a similar story for Yuchan Chae, 11, who will return to Korea next week after three years at Greenpark.
"I was nervous about coming here," he said. "Everybody around me spoke English and I couldn't really understand them. But now I feel sad to be leaving friends in New Zealand."
Like Shiloh, he struggled at first with the language but eventually found that his classmates approached him to make friends.
Shiloh and Yuchan are typical of the Bay's young Korean students in that they moved here with their mothers and siblings in order to learn full-immersion English, leaving their fathers working overseas. Primary school-aged Koreans can stay in the Bay for three years or more before returning home.
Greenpark School has 27 international students, mostly Korean, and employs a full-time staff member to liaise with their families.
"The benefits are quite considerable," Principal Graeme Lind said. "The cultural mix develops global understanding, and the children form strong friendships with people from other cultures as well."