The Y’s commitment to nurturing the potential of young people is taking flight through innovative not-for-profit programmes like Raise Up. These initiatives are more than just activities; they’re launching pads for opportunity and growth. Today, we spotlight a transformative journey unfolding for a lucky member of the Raise Up crew, who was awarded the prestigious Kiwi-Dragon Scholarship by CNSST (Formerly known as Chinese New Settlers Services Trust). Paige, formerly a student at Epsom Girls’ College was eager to share about the experience, saying it was unforgettable and “changed her life”.

This scholarship (available annually) isn’t just a financial boon; it’s a bridge to cultural enrichment and personal development. For Paige, it was a most unexpected and exciting opportunity. With a comprehensive package that generously covered all essentials: international travel, insurance, visa fees, and even the minutiae of travel like luggage costs. This all-inclusive 10-day immersive experience in China, enabled these young adventurers to explore the vast tapestry of Chinese culture. Paige loved being able to learn more of the language and culture prior to the visit, with three catchups/lessons with the rest of the crew and teachers giving her more confidence before the trip. Coming from only learning Chinese in Intermediate School, Paige was initially intimidated but quickly felt the support the CNSST team provided in preparing them all, ensuring they were not just going to be visitors but engaged participants in the cultural exchange.

The purpose of the Scholarship is to provide financial support to local young Kiwis who are not of Chinese descent to experience a meaningful Chinese cultural experience trip. They provide an opportunity for local students to gain an understanding of or enrich their knowledge of Chinese culture to bring positive impact to the development of their social and cultural values in their life journey. Paige was thrilled to be able to discover another country and the many differences from here in NZ, and to learn more about the links between her own Polynesian culture and China.

This was a novel experience she never thought possible. After learning of the opportunity through Raise Up, she was “curious about such a unique culture”. She never thought that opportunities like this “could be open for her”. After the application process, hearing the news she was going was “super exciting”.

After an 11-hour flight, and then a three-hour connecting flight to Shanghai, you might have thought the students (from across the country) would be exhausted. Paige cleared that assumption up straight away; even the travel over was thrilling. For many a first trip overseas, and the introduction to their China experience began with the “tasty” plane food. The menu was full of versions of the food they would soon get to eat, and the students were even asking for more!

Cuisine was assuredly a key highlight said Paige. Eating “family style” or “yum cha” style (the spinning tables were adored), the students discovered a myriad of amazing dishes they had never tasted. “Everything was delicious”, despite some struggling with chopsticks for the first few meals. Eating traditional style was a unique experience, vastly different from a casual Kiwi BBQ.

These 棒 bang (great) meals fuelled their many activities – from learning kung fu with a master, walking around significant historical sites, visiting museums, shopping at the markets, or creating beautiful Chinese fans from scratch, they were able to roam around and absorb what it is like to live in China.

Even a bout of illness didn’t detract from Paige’s experience. In fact, she found the hospitals a distinct experience, talk about seeing the glass half full!

It’s clear that the comprehensive support provided by the scholarship, including language and cultural programs both in New Zealand and China, is a strong draw for anyone interested in international cultural exchange and self-development. Paige feels that the trip “100% changed her”. Returning home, she felt like she “could conquer the world”. She can’t wait to return to immerse herself once again and is keen to keep learning Chinese here back at home.

Paige has been enriched by her experiences abroad, courtesy of this scholarship. The programme, aimed at fostering deep cultural integration, allowed the participants to delve into the heart of Chinese society, gaining insights and appreciation for the world’s diverse cultures.

Upon her return, Paige didn’t just bring back souvenirs; she brought back stories and lessons to share. Thank you to Paige for sharing hers with us.

To find out more about Raise Up, check out their website here.