13 August 2020
The German Student Awarded Waihi College's Prestigious Dux Award
When exchange student Constantin Sieve’s six months at Waihi College was up, he wasn’t ready to leave. He returned to Germany, thinking about New Zealand the entire time. He hopped off the plane, organised his return, and within two weeks was headed back to New Zealand.
“Now I say that I just had holidays in Germany that year.” - Constantin
Constantin, who describes coming to New Zealand as the first big decision he ever made in his life, felt at home among his local Waihi College community – and it was obviously mutual. In his year-and-a-half in Waihi, he made many friends, embraced the coastal Kiwi lifestyle, and won the prestigious Dux award at school.
Undoubtedly, it was a lifechanging experience, not just for Constantin, but for everyone he met in his wake, too.
Life in Germany
Constantin was born and raised in Lohne, a small town in northern Germany close to the Dutch border. When asked to describe Germany, Constantin talks about a performance-driven culture which leads to a highly efficient country.
“That may sound terrifying at first, but once you get the hang of it, you appreciate the smoothness and the fast pace at which everything is done.”
He also speaks fondly of his home nation’s straight roads and the famously hearty breads.
It was Constantin’s older sister who inspired his travels to New Zealand.
“She went to Australia for nine months, working and travelling with just a backpack and it inspired me. It was hard for my parents to let their youngest child leave, and I appreciate their decision to let me go for so long.”
After visiting travel agencies, a photo depicting New Zealand’s beaches and mountains, flora, fauna and snow, stuck in Constantin’s mind.
“Seeing such a mixed and fascinating landscape, I knew I had to go to New Zealand.”
Moving to Waihi
Waihi appealed because of the look of the town, its similar size to Lohne, and the proximity to the beach.
“I always had learning to surf in mind and Waihi seemed to be the perfect fit.”
Arriving in July, 2018, Constantin remembers feeling overwhelmed and cold. He had left a warm German summer for a cold Kiwi winter, and it was a shock to the system. But it didn’t take long before he settled into the school system and found his place among the local community.
Extending his stay
The exchange programme was originally meant to be one semester abroad before returning home and completing school in Germany.
“When I flew home, I couldn’t stop thinking about New Zealand.”
With his parents’ support, he organised his return back to New Zealand with plans to finish his studies and graduate from Waihi College.
“Part of why I wanted to graduate in New Zealand was that I felt so deeply connected to Waihi College I couldn’t imagine going back to my old school in Germany.”
Studying at Waihi College
It didn’t take long for Constantin to feel connected to other students, both international and local, at school. The teachers played an important role in his experience too.
“While everyone is striving for their best results, there was no fierce competition between students. Everybody was welcomed and included in the Waihi College family.”
Constantin loved the freedom to pursue your interests, which was most unlike the specific combination of subjects students are required to study in Germany.
three prestigious awards
In New Zealand, each graduating class awards the student with the highest grades from their best five subjects as Dux. It’s the highest honour a Year 13 student can achieve, but without a parallel award, Constantin didn’t fully grasp its meaning at first.
“Once I started to see how important Dux was to my friends, I felt a lot of respect towards it. I never would have imagined I would be awarded it myself.”
But that’s exactly what happened.
“I was so surprised, happy and grateful when they called me on stage – I couldn’t have asked for a better prize giving ceremony.”
He was also awarded the schools’ International Student of the Year, being recognised as a student who took great effort to make himself at home at Waihi College. And, to round it out with a hat-trick, Constantin also discovered his love of acting and won Dramatic Performer of the Year.
A deep respect for Maori culture
Constantin was fascinated by Maori culture and soaked up as much information on the heritage, language and legends as possible. As a result, he was honoured with a Karanga – a Maori ceremonial welcome call to visitors on a marae – by Whaea Tuihana, a Maori teacher who he got to know well at school.
Whaea translates part of Constantin's Karanga:
"Greetings to you, the boy who came from across the sea and spread your supportive ways and shared your energies among us. To you, the young man who has risen to the highest levels, who was inspired to succeed, ride the peaks of those waves into the future. Greetings, greetings and more greetings to you, Constantin." - Whaea Tuihana
“Receiving my Karanga was very powerful. I learnt about how important Manaakitanga (hospitality) is. Even with a painful history, the Maori people have never forgotten their roots, passion and principles and that deserves our full respect.” - Constantin
Life in Waihi
While similar in size and infrastructure to his German hometown, living so close to the beach was a completely new experience.
“I took every opportunity to go surfing, hiking or chilling at the beach. Waihi Beach is definitely my favourite place in New Zealand.”
Like many Kiwis, Constantin discovered the calming effect of having a beautiful beach so nearby and the beach became a meeting point for his friends and filtered into every aspect of his life.
“The beach allowed for a spontaneity that I wasn’t familiar with in Germany.”
Upon graduating, Constantin returned to Germany where he helps out at his dad’s work. He credits his experience in New Zealand with helping him become more mature and independent.
Keen to pursue his newfound passion for drama, he has been accepted to a drama school in Los Angeles and he hopes to move there in the near future.
“The experience I had and memories I made in New Zealand will stay with me forever. It has shaped my life significantly. I look forward to the day I reunite with the people in Waihi and Waihi Beach.”
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