Caroline plays her part in Christchurch rebuild
Caroline Su arrived in Christchurch in 2013, only two years after the devastating earthquake there. Aged 15 at the time, she could not have imagined that in her twenties she would be playing her part in the rebuild of the city she calls home.
But she is now a qualified quantity surveyor as comfortable working on building sites as she is back in the office crunching the numbers.
Caroline says it is not a profession she would have contemplated in China, where she grew up, but Christchurch’s rebuild inspired her to pursue a career in the construction industry and she is grateful for the freedom to be able to achieve her ambitions.
“It has been very rewarding to be part of the rebuild and to see the changes in the city. Bettabuilt, the company I work for, specialises in school rebuilds. When we finish a new school, you feel like you’ve done something you should be really proud of.”
And her parents are proud too. They have backed her career choice and know that the bold decision they made to send their only child to New Zealand for education was the right one.
New Zealand a safe place to study
Caroline says they had travelled widely as a family before making the decision that she would come to Burnside High School Te Kura o Waimairi-iri in Year 11. “They wanted me to be open-minded and take on new experiences and cultures,” she says. “They decided it would be good for me to study in another country with a different culture and chose New Zealand because it was a peaceful and safe country.”
Before she arrived, Caroline was set up with a “buddy”, a student from her school in Beijing who was already studying here and helped provide insights into life in New Zealand. She also took an online course prepared for international students.
“This made me feel more confident and familiar with what I was coming to which was important, because the culture and environment is quite different from my home country.”
But there were still some big adjustments to be made when it came to schooling. “All courses in China are set by the Education Department. In New Zealand, you have freedom to choose your own courses,” she says.“ At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by the options available to me because I didn’t know exactly what I should take. But it was good that I had the opportunity to try courses that I was interested in.”
She also had to get used to a self-directed approach to learning. “It allows you to study in a way which suits you best, which was positive for me. And it means when you start work you have the ability and discipline to study by yourself. I have used methods I learned in high school and university to build my knowledge in the workplace.”
With more free time in her life, Caroline had the opportunity to play sport and even take on a part-time job which she says would not have been possible in Beijing. “That job really helped me because I got to practice English and gain more confidence talking to local people.”
New career opportunities
It was all part of an international education experience which Caroline believes is about much more than study.
“When you’re an international student, you quickly acquire life skills and become much more independent.
You also learn about other cultures because you are mixing with people from many different backgrounds. It was quite an eye-opener for me, but I enjoyed it.”
Once she determined her career choice, Caroline chose Ara Institute of Canterbury as the next step on her education pathway. Starting with a Diploma in Quantity Surveying, she followed it up with a Bachelor of Construction. Job and internship opportunities were regularly shared by their programme leader, illustrating the close ties with business.
The decision to study in New Zealand has taken Caroline on a journey she couldn’t have imagined when she arrived. “In China I would not be working in construction. I would probably have been working in finance or management,” she says. “The environment here changed me and gave me career options I would not have considered at home.”
In the past few months Caroline has secured residency and bought her first house, giving her a real sense of belonging. “I enjoy my work and my life in New Zealand. I love Christchurch and I’m proud to be contributing to the rebuild of the city.”
“I feel really happy that I came here.”