Learning for life

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After two decades and 5000 students, Guy Hughes can rightfully claim his business has changed the faces of Queenstown. 

Queenstown Language School opened its doors 20 years ago tomorrow. 

Originally offering studies in eight languages, it now focuses solely on teaching English and welcomes about 250 students a year from up to 25 countries. 

“We’ve certainly affected the population make-up around here a bit,” director Guy Hughes says. 

“I still see Japanese and Korean students in town after the best part of 20 years. We’ve had a good run out of South America recently, Brazil and Colombia, who have decided to stay after the course. 

“I see lots of ex-students around town – in coffee shops, dropping their kids off at Queenstown Primary.” 

Students – or ‘edutourists’ – typically stay eight weeks in homestays with Kiwi families. The school employs eight staff. 

“The financial help is one aspect for the families,” Hughes says. 

“But there are also Queenstown kids growing up with all these different nationalities coming th­rough the house and it’s really quite beneficial. 

“It’s a big element to what we do. You create a lot of relationships that survive for life.” 

The school originally occupied premises on Camp Street before moving to Robins Road for 15 years. It is now back on Camp St, on the top floor of O’Connells Shopping Centre. 

“When I came to the town I thought it would be a fantastic place to study English,” Hughes says. 

“It is but we’re still very much a niche destination – Auckland is the leader for language schools.” 

Hughes also opened a school in Christchurch in 1998, which peaked at around 150 students a year in the early 2000s, but was forced to close after the earthquake.