50PM Monday April 30, 2007By Reg Ponniah
Chinese students face a large gap between their expectations of New Zealand the reality, research has found.
Many felt lonely and isolated and found it hard to make New Zealand friends.
"They want to drive cars and be free and are not prepared adequately for the different lifestyle here and the culture shock," Waikato University researcher Elsie Ho said today.
"Together with freedom comes responsibility and they are unable to handle that."
They had problems that came with living on their own in a flat, far from their pampered lives in China, she said.
Language and cultural problems made it very difficult to adapt.
Emotional support was not always forthcoming from China as students were reluctant to reveal problems they faced.
However, almost half the Chinese students in New Zealand want to live here permanently, according to the study - which questioned more than 80 Chinese students in Auckland Rotorua, Hamilton and Christchurch.
Students in the study were at language schools, high schools and tertiary institutions.
They included new arrivals, as well as students who had been here for several years and came from diverse backgrounds, with different expectations.
Chinese students make up more than a third of 76,000 international students, bringing an estimated $700 million into New Zealand.
A 2004 Ministry of Education study showed Chinese were more dissatisfied than students from other countries.
However, they were also more likely to want to stay permanently, Dr Ho said.
It took much longer than they expected for their English to be good enough to study here, Dr Ho said.
"Students who came before 2003 tended to be more unhappy because they came with unrealistic expectations," she said.
"At that time NZ was a new study destination and very little was known about the country. They came here because it was a cheaper option and the exchange rate was favourable.
"Some of them came here after being rejected by other countries like Canada, Australia and the United States."
As the New Zealand dollar strengthened, the students complained of lower living standards, she said.
Later students came with a slightly better understanding of the education system here.
On average, they needed a year to obtain the required language skills for university.
Dr Ho urged immigration advisors in China to give better advice and prepare prospective students adequately before they arrived in New Zealand.