Imagine spending a month in a foreign city, dedicating your time to learning a new language, exploring business opportunities, and discovering the cultural linkages across indigenous cultures and histories.

That has been the experience for 11 Māori and Pacific tertiary students and recent graduates who have just finished a four-week-long intensive programme at National Taiwan University in Taipei City. Hailing from around New Zealand, the scholars share a focus on business and an interest in language acquisition.

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While in Taipei, they undertook daily Mandarin lessons, partook in myriad cultural activities, met business leaders and government officials, and explored the strong connections between the indigenous people of Taiwan, Aotearoa New Zealand and the wider Pacific.

Already, the programme has had a profound impact on many of the participants. A number have committed to continue learning Mandarin throughout their academic and professional careers. Others are determined to learn more about the similar cultures and customs among Māori, Pacific and the indigenous people of Taiwan. As one scholar noted, “I feel very honoured to have made the journey back to Taiwan and reconnect with our Austronesian heritage. Same mana, different language.”

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The North Asia CAPE hosted a welcome reception for the scholars and their whānau and families to celebrate their return from Taipei and to hear about their experiences abroad.

Horiana Gear (Ngai te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Te Arawa), who works in the fishing industry, said the programme has reawakened her connection to Te Reo and Te Ao Māori, and she has now enrolled at her local marae to undertake language and tikanga classes.

“The experience taught me to be proud of my language,” said Horiana.

Benjamin Ngatokorima Timu (Sāmoa (Letogo), Cook Island (Aitutaki, Mangaia), Niue) is co-founder of No Six, a video and content creation company based in Auckland. He hopes the intensive Mandarin courses will help open the doors to the China market.

Kahurangi James (Ngāpuhi and Ngātiwai) described the visit to Taipei as a “pilgrimage”. Now in his last semester studying economics at Victoria University of Wellington, Kahu plans to use the experience to pursue a career in diplomacy. “The programme has been invaluable in helping me towards this goal,” said Kahu.

Following the scholars’ presentations, the Minister of Parliament for Tāmaki Makaurau, Hon Peeni Henare, addressed the gathering. As the Minister for Youth and for Whānau Ora, Hon Henare acknowledged the “many hands that make this kaupapa possible”. Having visited Taiwan himself, the Minister encouraged everyone to travel this borderless world noting that “your experience in Taipei is something Google cannot give you.” He said the scholars had shared powerful learnings from the programme.

“You spoke of whakapapa, of opportunity, of connection…of a connection beyond culutre, beyond economics, into the realm of what I would deem whānau ora [family health],” said the Minister. “I encourage you to encourage even more of our young people to take those opportunities to head off shore. And to the families who look after home when our young people are away…my thanks to you for encouraging and growing such fine examples of what is possible for our people when the opportunities present themselves.”

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Last year, the inaugural cohort comprised Māori Busines Scholars; this year, the programme has been expanded to include Pacific tertiary students and young professionals.

“We are delighted to involve Pacific scholars, for whom the island of Taiwan also has special ancestral significance,” says Professor Paul Clark, Director, North Asia CAPE. “The programme highlights our commitment to building strong and enduring business and cultural relationships with New Zealand and North Asia. We look forward to seeing how this immersion opportunity translates to meaningful outcomes.”

Watch the video made by and featuring our 2019 Māori and Kiva Business Scholars!

Watch the scholars, our North Asia CAPE director, and MP for Tāmaki Makaurau, Hon Peeni Henare, on TVNZ's Te Karere (2'26")

Listen to the scholars and our North Asia CAPE Director speaking with Dale Husband on Radio Waatea:

Professor Paul Clark

Kiva scholar Benji Timu

Māori scholar Horiana Gear

When not in classes, the group travelled beyond the city to the rural environs populated by indigenous communities. They also made national TV when interviewed on Taiwan Indigenous Television. Watch the news TITV clip:

Throughout their visit (January 3 -1 February), the scholars posted a wealth of high quality video and photos on Instagram.

View the Māori and Kiva Business Scholars' posts

The scholars are available for interview. Please contact Amber Older for details: a.older@auckland.ac.nz

Find out more about the 2018 Māori Business Scholars

Last year’s scholars described the programme as “life changing”, positively impacting their career choices, academic pathways and commitment to language-learning. Read, watch and listen here

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