Hong Kong student wins Wellington award for unstinting community service

People & Culture

Leaving Hong Kong to complete her schooling at Wellington Girls’ College opened a world of opportunities Jasmine Yip could barely imagine back home, and she has made the most of all of them.

The Year 12 student from Wellington Girls’ College has been named a winner at the annual Wellington International Student Excellence Awards for her contribution to the city’s international student community and her tireless community service.

She was among a group of 24 high-achieving secondary and tertiary international students recognised at the event for excelling academically, in the arts, sport, community, or online.

As the only child of a teacher and a primary school assistant, Jasmine came to New Zealand in November 2019 to complete her education. Leaving behind a competitive school environment, and a tense and complex political environment, she arrived in Wellington ready to embrace the open and culturally diverse environment she found herself in.

Jasmine says that she had always wanted to get involved in community activities, but until arriving in New Zealand she lacked both the confidence and the opportunities.

“As an international student here, I have been given so many opportunities. I want to treasure all of them and get involved.”

Jasmine quickly understood the value of participation and leadership.

“Arriving in a new country where you don’t know anyone can be a lonely experience, and it’s easy to just hang out with people from your own country, but I have made great friends, both from New Zealand and around the world, and gained support through the organisations I’m involved with.”

From helping to reinvigorate the International Club at school, Jasmine went on to be a key player in the establishment of the Wellington International Students’ Association, which not only connects international students across city schools, but also seeks to build relationships between domestic and international students.

Domestic and international students learn from each other

She believes there is much that domestic students stand to learn from international students.

“They get to see a perspective from another part of the world. Coming here to study has allowed me to immerse myself in New Zealand's culture and learn far more about the country than I would if I was a tourist.

“I’m sure the same applies to New Zealand students who haven’t had the opportunity for exchanges or travel. Through encouraging domestic students to get involved in our events we have built stronger connections.”

But Jasmine hasn’t stopped there. From Mary Potter Hospice to Conservation Volunteers New Zealand to the Student Volunteer Army (SVA), she has put in the mahi. She recently earned her SVA Silver Service Award pin for clocking up more than 250 volunteer hours working to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Taking her community service to the next level, Jasmine has been selected to represent Wellington Girls’ College in the National Ambassador programme. She will join other like-minded students from around the country working to connect, support, and empower international students.

All of this while juggling studies, sport, mentoring, and music. However, she insists that she has gained more from her community service than she has given.

Volunteering builds skills and network

“Volunteering gave me the opportunity to get out there and build a strong network with experienced people. I’ve gained important inter-personal skills like customer service and communications, and I’ve also learned a lot about New Zealand culture.”

Jasmine says being an international student in New Zealand has also allowed her to appreciate some of the important issues which other communities, such as the LGBTQIA, face.

“I appreciate the inclusiveness towards gender minorities here. In Asia, people are much more reserved about their beliefs and opinions but here we can have open discussions and everyone can be passionate about sharing their thoughts. It has had a powerful influence on me.”

Global citizen skills important

The global citizen skills acquired through international education are so important for the current generation of students heading off to Uni or into the workforce, Jasmine says.

“It’s important to know people from other parts of the world, understand some of the issues they face, and appreciate their culture and beliefs. Building relationships in-person is so much more valuable than learning from the internet.”

“The diversity of ethnicity and cultures, religious and political opinions here in New Zealand has really enhanced my worldview.”

Jasmine is delighted to have been recognised for her contribution to the community, and says her parents were thrilled when her name was announced at the awards ceremony. “Not only are they proud of my own achievements, but they feel that I am representing Hong Kong well in New Zealand.”

Jasmine’s parents were among 214 friends and family of recipients who joined the livestream of the awards ceremony from around the world.

As for the future, Jasmine is looking forward to completing Year 13 and being a member of the student executive next year, striving for the SVA Gold Award for volunteering, being a National Student Ambassador, and ultimately heading to the US to study Computer Science.

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