22 June 2023

Following his own path – International student builds life, family, and community in New Zealand

People & Culture

Since arriving in New Zealand as a high school student, Luke Qin’s journey has been one of personal growth and making a difference to New Zealand in meaningful ways. Now he calls Aotearoa home.

Luke Qin has never been afraid of a challenge. Born in Sichuan, China, his childhood was a rich mix of classical Chinese literature, table tennis, badminton, basketball, football, and music.

Early intensive schooling means he can read, write, speak, think and dream in Chinese and draw on traditional Chinese virtues, but a desire to follow his own path, experience something new and explore education options overseas, led him to New Zealand as a high school student.

Selecting New Zealand was a relatively easy choice at the time – English-speaking, safe, ‘clean and green’ and affordable – it ticked all the necessary boxes. But his desire to test himself drew him to Christchurch because “fewer Chinese students there” meant he would have no choice but to fully immerse himself in the new environment.

And what an immersion it was. Luke credits his first years at Linwood High School as the perfect place to experience “an excellent introduction to the New Zealand way of life” and in his first year in New Zealand, he was playing on the wing for Linwood High School’s First XV rugby team!

“With a little help from All Black stars!” Luke tapped his rugby passion to enlist support for the Dragonboat Festival in Wellington from All Blacks Ardie Savea (left) and Dane Coles.

“I wasn’t very big and didn’t know the rules of the game when I arrived, but I had some wheels back then.” Luke explains. If it looked like trouble was coming my way, I’d just try to outrun it!” But he also knew he had to prove himself to his teammates. Once, while tackling his opposite wing, a strapping Samoan teammate joined in and sent them all to the ground. “I felt something hot dripping down my forehead but charged straight back into the ruck, only to be dragged off the field and sent to the hospital.” Three stitches later, he knew he had earned the respect of his teammates and become ‘one of the boys’.

Luke credits his school experience with developing his self-belief and preparing him for what was to come, through his university years and beyond.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Canterbury, he relocated to Wellington to join the banking industry, and completed a Master in Applied Finance from Victoria University of Wellington. He then continued on with his quest for lifelong learning and experience by achieving qualifications in Sustainable Finance, Te Reo Māori, Medical Co-Response, Citizen diplomacy and Urban Fire and Rescue, and volunteering for a number of causes.

His banking experience broadened, and several promotions later he joined Kiwibank in Auckland, leading the development of its International Strategy and Trade Finance offering, and working closely with NZ Inc partners to help New Zealand exporters and importers with risk mitigation and working capital funding.

Nowhere has his quest for a challenge been more evident than in his decision to become a volunteer firefighter 10 years ago.

“My younger self had been watching ‘Spiderman’ and saw Peter Parker leap into a burning building to save the day. At the time I thought, ‘I wonder if I could do that?’ Then I heard a call for volunteers from the NZ Fire Service on the radio while driving to work so decided to contact my local fire brigade in Seaview, Lower Hutt.”

“I thought I might be the first Asian volunteer in the station, but I was beaten to it by a Chinese lady.”

“The Fire Service is where you find the real New Zealand,” says Luke.

“Teachers, accountants, plumbers, builders, people from all walks of life - all bonded by the same commitment to serve their community. The camaraderie and environment was addictive.”

There, with the support of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, he completed the Sky Tower Stair Challenge with fellow firefighters from across the country to raise funds for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

Scaling 1103 steps and 51 flights of stairs in full fire-fighting gear with a steel cylinder on his back was one of the most physical tests he has put himself through.

1,103 steps and 51 flights of stairs behind him, Luke was happy to complete the Sky Tower Stair Challenge - “Man of Steel” with other firefighters dressed in full gear with steel cylinders on their backs to raise funds for leukaemia and blood cancer in New Zealand.

“I have benefitted so much from all the opportunities and adventures since coming to New Zealand, especially from my volunteer roles. It’s a small way I could repay my second home for its kindness.”

“I hope I can encourage more international students and members of our diverse ethnic communities in New Zealand to become volunteers and join activities that benefit the community. There is so much we have to offer, and the reward in terms of friendships and life skills is amazing.”

From Sichuan to Wellington waterfront, leading the Dragon Dance during Chinese New Year Parade. Luke Qin’s journey as an international student began with a desire to immerse himself in a new environment. Grateful to his family, friends, colleagues, and mentors for the opportunities and adventures New Zealand has given him, he takes pride in being able to go home whichever way he travels between his ‘little shire’ in Sichuan and ‘Middle Earth’ New Zealand.

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