23 February 2018

Tauranga family brings students to the farm

“The experience of hosting is a privilege – it is a huge responsibility taking care of someone else’s child, but it’s a wonderful and rewarding experience,” says Janelle Mark.

Aki in Tauranga 4
The Mark family with Japanese student Aki on their farm.

Before moving to Tauranga four years ago, Janelle and Brendan Mark operated a busy resort in the Coromandel where, for 12 years, they were surrounded by tourists from all corners of the globe.

On moving their young family to Tauranga they found they missed the daily interaction with people from different backgrounds, and in 2014 approached Aquinas College with an offer to host an international student. This offer would be the first of many.

Janelle says the excitement begins at the Tauranga Airport on ‘pick-up day’ as the couple wait alongside other families, who are also eagerly anticipating meeting their student for the first time.

“The experience of hosting is a privilege – it is a huge responsibility taking care of someone else’s child, but it’s a wonderful and rewarding experience,” said Janelle.

“Some people say we’re brave for taking on a student for a year, but the students and their families are the brave ones!”

“Aki has already taught our children some Japanese and how to make origami."

The Marks are currently hosting Aki, a 16-year-old student from Japan who will be with them for a year. Janelle and Brendan’s children, aged 8 and 12, particularly enjoy having internationals in the home.

Aki in Tauranga 2“Hosting students has been hugely enriching to the lives of our children. Aki has already taught them some Japanese and how to make origami," said Janelle.

“Our friends and family take an interest too, and enjoy hearing about the comparisons between our two countries.”

For Aki, life on a Tauranga farm is a far cry from her apartment block in Osaka City. At her new home, Aki enjoys feeding the chickens, collecting eggs, and brushing the family’s pet steer. The Marks have also shown Aki the wider region and have been blueberry picking, paddle boarding, visited McLaren Falls and Lake Tarawera, and enjoyed quintessential Kiwi experiences such as campervan road-trips and eating ‘fish and chips’ on the beach.

“It’s been a pleasure showing Aki what the Bay of Plenty has to offer, as it helps us appreciate how much we have on our doorstep. Aki must have spoken highly of the area as her family are already planning a winter skiing holiday here,” said Janelle.

“Aki is already a big part of our family and is going to be a hard one to let go of at the airport in December. Though I have no doubt we’ll do it all again next year!”

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