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Student Voice

20 November 2019

The Sri Lankan Student Bringing a Smile to Tauranga's Hospitality Industry

The Sri Lankan Student Bringing a Smile to Tauranga's Hospitality Industry

If you have ever had a waiter like Madushanka Nirmal Ferdinando – or Madu, for short – consider yourself very lucky!

With a friendly smile, an outgoing personality and endless energy, Madu was born for the hospitality business. Whatever role he’s in, waiter or receptionist, bar tender or manager, Madu bends over backwards to make sure his customers are happy.

Originally from Sri Lanka, Madu came to New Zealand in 2017 to study a diploma in hospitality at Aspire2 International. In the past two years, he has studied his industry both from within the classroom and first-hand on the job, soaking every experience up like a sponge.

Madu credits his tutors and staff with making him feel comfortable in his new home while helping him reach – and climb up – the ladder in the hospitality industry. Here is this impressive young man’s moving to Tauranga story.

Growing Up in Sri Lanka

Madu is from Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city and the country’s commercial capital. Madu describes his hometown as a bustling, yet still developing, city with lots of opportunities.

“Since I was a child, I have seen family go abroad to study and I have always wanted to do it. I did my research and New Zealand was the safest country and there are no snakes!”

Madu was also attracted to New Zealand’s beauty, especially the mountains and beach which reminded him of home.

Moving to new zealand

Madu moved to Tauranga in November 2017 and from his very first day in New Zealand, he found the people helpful and welcoming.

“The day I flew, I had a fractured hand. I had to get my luggage at Auckland Airport and transfer to the domestic terminal to fly down to Rotorua. Locals helped carry my bags onto and off of the bus - people were so friendly and helpful.”

This early positive experience made Madu feel like he had made the right decision in moving here.

Studying at Aspire2 International

Back in Sri Lanka, Madu had completed a diploma in hotel management and aviation hospitality as well as a diploma in English. In New Zealand, he planned to build upon this foundation by studying a Diploma in Hospitality Management Level 5 and 6 at Aspire2 International.

Madu, who will complete his two-years of study at the end of 2019, has loved every minute of the hospitality programme.

Madu explains that Level 5 was a mix of practical and theory work. A highlight was learning to make coffees, Kiwi-style, but he also enjoyed studying how to serve customers in different languages and from different nationalities. He trained at the in-school café and learnt the finer details of the trade.

“Level Six was more focused on management style. How to minimise issues that arise in our industry as well as things like budgeting and forecasting.”

“From the receptionist to the tutors, they are all like family to me.”

Moving to a new country at twenty can be hard, but the familial feel the school offered helped Madu feel at home. From a campus manager who always took the time to ask how he’s doing, to Skla Scott, the employment specialist who helped him craft a Kiwi-style CV, Madu felt constantly supported by the staff at Aspire2 International, who went out of their way to help him build a career in hospitality in his new home.

Madu had a special relationship with hospitality tutors Maricon Dales-Lequido and Aeilidh Mikkelsen as well as Maddy Dohanos, the hospitality programme leader.

“Maddy and Aeilidh are like mums to me here. They inspire me, guide me on what to do or not do in my career. Even if I have a personal problem, I turn to them.”

The Sri Lankan tutors Hanse Gomes and Charlene Johnson who he calls 'Akka' - for sister - also hold a special place in his heart.

Building a Career in Tauranga

A year in, Madu got a job working as a waiter at Tauranga institution, Hotel Armitage. From waitstaff to receptionist, night auditor to duty manager, Madu quickly got to know a variety of roles and responsibilities, combining valuable first-hand experience with his theoretical training. As Madu proved himself to be a talented and dedicated worker, his valuable role within the hotel was noticed and appreciated, the managers asking for his input and opinions on the hotel’s recent makeover.

When it comes to hospitality, Madu goes above and beyond. Bartending at Hotel Armitage for a deaf couple’s wedding, Madu took the initiative to learn some sign language on his own time in order to ease communications and show the couple respect on their big day.

getting involved in the community

In 2018, Madu was elected by his peers at Aspire2 International to sit on the student council as his class’s representative. In this capacity he has brought up student ideas to management – such as having the school café registered – as well as organizing events and outings. He’s helped plan a trip to Waitomo Caves, a neon party and a shared cultural lunch for hospitality students.

“Event planning helps me build my career by growing my skills and contacts within the industry and gaining real world experience.”

Madu also volunteers with Multicultural Tauranga and helped the group host the Sri Lankan Living in Harmony event – a cultural event that focusses on a different country each time.

“It’s just my personality. Even in Sri Lanka, I always liked to go to the front and be a leader. I like meeting people and having new experiences. Getting involved helps me get to know more people.”

the joys of Living in Tauranga

“I love Mount Maunganui - you can go there with any mood and become calm.”

In his free time, Madu loves water activities, whether it’s swimming at the beach in summer or at Baywave in winter. He finds people in Tauranga to be very open-minded and enjoys the multicultural tone of the city.

“I love the different nationalities. Trying food from different cultures – that’s the best part!”

Of course, living far away from home, Madu can miss his family and friends, but luckily he can call his mum to get instructions on making Sri Lankan dishes and she even sends him Sri Lankan spices from back home.

madu's Future Plans

Madu plans to stay in New Zealand upon graduating. He has a three-year work visa and he hopes to gain more experience at Hotel Armitage in the time, before looking into more permanent visas to keep contributing to Tauranga’s hospitality industry long term.

“New Zealand is a country of opportunity. Anyone can come from anywhere and build their career.”


Join us on Facebook and contact Regional Relationship Manager Melissa Gillingham for more information:

Melissa Gillingham

 Regional Relationship Manager

 Education Tauranga

 Tel: +64 7 571 1401 ext. 707 | Mob: +64 21 724 272    
 Address: Private Bag 13057, Tauranga 3141, New Zealand  
 Email me