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Candidates of ‘eye-watering quality’ take out Student Excellence Awards

8 Nov 2019

Panel members were spoilt for choice at this year’s Wellington International Student Excellence Awards, which honoured some outstanding contributions from the international student community to the Wellington region.

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Winners of the 2019 Student Excellence Awards with Paul Eagle MP

Sixteen winners were acknowledged at Parliament on Thursday 7 November for their work in community engagement, leadership, academics, creative pursuits and more. This year, however, judges chose to also include a Highly Commended category as there were a number of worthy candidates who deserved recognition.

WellingtonNZ Workforce and Business Growth Manager Matt Carrere says it was a delightful job to be on the judging panel this year, with one panel member noting this year’s candidates are of “eye-watering quality”.

The awards give an example of what the Wellington region can offer international students, as well as the vast contribution these students give to the region in return, he says.

“International students have a great impact on Wellington, both while they’re studying and when they go out into the workforce.”

“Wellington is an interconnected, social and diverse region for international students to learn and thrive. It’s unsurprising that many choose to remain in Wellington after their studies to pursue a career.”

This year’s Internationalisation Workplace Award reflects that exchange of value. Tech company MarginFuel was recognized for offering employment and internship opportunities to 20 international students, something CEO Andrew Pascoe says has untold value in their office.

“MarginFuel offers the student opportunities to further their careers, and in return we have found the students are intelligent, hard-working, and add a rich layer to our team culture. New hires especially comment on how culturally diverse we are, and how this adds so much to the organization.”

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Eight-year-old Rachel Liao from China is the youngest ever Student Excellence Awards finalist

This year’s individual award winners included the youngest ever Student Excellence Awards finalist, eight-year-old Rachel Liao from China, who was nominated for her musical and cultural contributions to Kelburn Normal School.

The two Creativity Award recipients showed the range of creative pursuits that can be fostered in the Wellington region, with Swedish film student Fil Kopelman being acknowledged for his work at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School and Indian student Vinaya Tawde developing a series of mini games to improve the mental health of children with Asperger’s Syndrome through Victoria University of Wellington’s Masters of Fine Arts programme.

And a former student from India, Vaibhav Vishen, showed the ongoing impact of international students in the Wellington region. Vaibhav was awarded the Alumni Achievement for his incredible contribution to Wellington’s culinary scene.

Vaibhav says he never thought of studying in Wellington but the allure of the world-class Le Corden Bleu New Zealand institute was too good to pass up and much to his delight, he ended up in a “foodie’s paradise”.

“Wellington is very intimate, small yet diverse, international, upbeat - and having experienced all that in the years of my education made me fall in love with this city.

The WellingtonNZ-organised awards, held at Parliament on Thursday, 7 November, acknowledged 12 international students, alongside domestic students and workplaces who have made an impact on the international student community. This year’s events also included eight Highly Commended awards to account for the outstanding quality of applications.

Excellence Awards Winners 2019