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Our Global Village

Iona College offers a home away from home to a number of international students, whose families choose the school for a broad variety of reasons. Above all, it’s the close, collegial environment where friendships are forged that appeals, and that their girls are made to feel welcomed, safe and supported.

Parents of international students speak of the benefits of their daughters being educated in a town with a small population base and the variety of recreational activities Hawke’s Bay offers – such as cycling, beaches, bush walks, equestrian opportunities, and a growing arts and culture scene. The climate is also appealing – warm, dry summers and mild winters. “Additionally, families want the smaller class sizes and the traditions that go with a school like Iona,” says Iona College Director of International Students and Chair of Learning Hawke’s Bay, Geraldine Edwards. “Things like manners, respectfulness – and the many collaborative learning opportunities that build teamwork, resilience, wellbeing, and leadership skills.”

Edwards sees “far-reaching benefits” in welcoming international students to Hawke’s Bay and to our Iona family – not just for the school, but for the community as a whole.

“Embracing students with a variety of cultural backgrounds sits at the heart of teaching young people about compassion, acceptance, tolerance and cultural awareness,” she continues.

“As students, future employees and business entrepreneurs we need to learn to work alongside these different cultures.  Asian countries are a massive influence in our children’s lives – our students need to develop a greater awareness of cultural differences. One of Iona’s founding principles is a belief in cultural diversity and valuing the histories and traditions of all peoples.”

In fact, Edwards speaks of a need – now more than ever – to focus firmly on developing “Asia competent students”.

“Seven of New Zealand’s top ten trading partners are Asian countries – India is now a bigger world economy than the UK,” she explains. And last year, China nudged Australia off its perch, becoming New Zealand’s largest trading partner for goods and services. Our country’s changing trade and business environment is not lost on the management and staff at Iona.


That’s why Iona students and teachers are encouraged to participate in a raft of activities that allows them to share knowledge, learn from their peers and improve their global connectedness and awareness.

“Every Iona student is a citizen of the world and a resident of our global village. Whether this shows itself as our student welcoming an international pupil to their class, boarding house or neighbourhood, or it’s because she is joining an exchange, or learning a language, she will be well-equipped to take her place in the world when she leaves our school,” says Edwards.

In July of this year, Iona student Sophie Ottaway attended the 2018 Youth Leadership Summit in China – an opportunity to learn primarily about the trading environment between New Zealand and China, the history of diplomatic ties between our two countries and how our young people, as the next generation of leaders, can shift mindsets within cross-cultural environments.

Iona College is a setting in which students can be confident trying out new languages, experiencing other cultures and learning about identity. Students are taking language classes in Spanish, Latin and Chinese, and in 2018, more than 35 Iona girls are fluent in a language other than English – a talent that will open doors to whole populations around the world.

Iona offers multiple opportunities for practising and perfecting languages outside of the classroom with events such as our Spanish Immersion Camp, which was held at Riverbend Christian Camp in May. This outstanding camp, hosted by Iona Spanish teacher Jeanette Carey-Smith with assistance from native speakers as well as three academic staff from Massey University, helps pupils understand the realities of the language within an authentic immersion context. And it’s fun for the girls, culminating in a traditional Spanish meal and dance.

The school also encourages cultural exchanges, such as Year 11 student and violinist Virginia Baird’s 2018 trip to China as an instrumentalist with the Hawke’s Bay Orchestral Society. In Hastings’ sister city Guilin, the group played in schools and relished learning and sharing new classical and contemporary pieces. Virginia especially enjoyed the attractions, meeting new people and discovering the Chinese culture.

Increasing awareness of Chinese language and culture remains a firm focus at Iona, with the addition, via the Confucius Institute, of a Mandarin Language Assistant who works with our girls to accelerate their learning.

Continuing to look to a more connected global future, Iona is committed to fostering a growth mindset in developing and supporting both students and teachers to question, investigate and act as global citizens. We encourage our girls to be well rounded – strong in both intellect and character, open to new experiences and inquisitive about the world around them.