Icebergs to beaches
Tupaarnaq Motzfeldt left the melting ice in Greenland last year to learn English in New Zealand.
The AFS exchange student was only 16 when she left her home to spend a year abroad.
‘‘I wanted to go to countries that speak English,’’ she said. ‘‘I knew people who had been to New Zealand and they always told me amazing things.’’
When she told friends she was leaving they were very jealous and told her how lucky she was.
Tupaarnaq said she wanted to learn to speak English and to learn about other cultures.
She has found Wellington a vast change from life in her home town of Qaqortoq, which has a population of only 3500.
Before arriving here, Tupaarnaq had no idea about New Zealand’s Maori culture.
‘‘When I first saw the haka I thought it was very cool,’’ she said.
She has also been taking te reo at Wellington East Girls’ College, but has found it hard because the sounds differ greatly to her native language of Greenlandic.
‘‘Greenlandic is completely different to any other language.’’
Attending a single-sex school also took some getting used to.
She attended a co-ed school in Greenland.
‘‘ We wore no uniforms [ at home]. It’s a big difference, but I like it. First time no, [I didn’t like wearing a uniform], but I got used to it. When you woke up you didn’t have to think about what to wear.’’
The AFS programme places students in a host family throughout their stay.
Renata Hardy of Brooklyn is Tupaarnaq’s host mother.
She had looked at other student programmes, but felt that AFS offered the most suitable solution.
‘‘ With AFS it’s a cultural exchange; [Tupaarnaq] is not here to study, not here to do anything else other than observe us and we can observe her,’’ she said.
‘‘ I wanted to broaden the children’s horizons, show them that there’s other cultures out there. And show them what it’s like to live with someone who speaks another language.’’
It had been a learning experience for everybody, she said.
Having a new family member had not fazed Mrs Hardy’s daughters, Laura, 7, and Angelina, 8. They took to Tupaarnaq immediately.
‘‘ There was no adjustment. She’s an older, pretty, 16-year-old girl,’’ said Mrs Hardy.
The Hardys have taken Tupaarnaq on family holidays to ensure she got the full New Zealand experience.
‘‘We went to Rotorua and did luging and waterskiing,’’ said Mrs Hardy.
However, because Greenland has no beaches, Whangamata had been the highlight.
‘‘I got a bit sunburnt for the first time in my life,’’ said Tupaarnaq.
Mrs Hardy said the family had planned a beach holiday, rather than doing a mountain holiday down south. ‘‘They’ve got lots of those [in Greenland].’’
She said host families were not obliged to take exchange students around the country because hosting was entirely voluntary. ‘‘But it’s a long way to come and not see anything.’’
Being able to drive around the country was a new experience for Tupaarnaq.
‘‘ In Greenland there are no roads between towns.
‘‘If you want to go somewhere you have go on the ferry or by helicopter,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s very different.’’ AFS spokesperson Clive Thorp said families such as the Hardys were exactly what AFS was looking for.
He said the Wellington chapter of AFS was struggling to find enough host families for the students who wanted to come here.
Students are generally aged between 15 and 18. They stay for between three to 12 months.
‘‘Wellington is a compact city. It’s an attractive city to kids at that age – public transport right outside their door and there are lots of activities for them to do.’’
There are five AFS exchange students in Wellington but the organisation would like to be able to host about 10. Mr Thorp encouraged more families to think about hosting a student.
‘‘There is the huge enjoyment the visiting student gets from the city and the enjoyment a host family can get from having a student.’’
Far from home: AFS student Tupaarnaq Motzfeldt, back left, with host mother Renata Hardy and her two daughters Angelina, left, and Laura.