Wakatipu exchange students thinking of home

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Ten Queenstown foreign exchange teenagers won’t be home for Christmas – but they won’t be lonely. 

The nine German and one American Wakatipu High students will be experiencing a Kiwi festive season with their host families and school friends as part of their overseas excursion. 

The German students will forego familiar European winter Christmas feasts of roast duck, potato dumplings and mulled wine to sample barbeque-cooked turkey and cold ham. 

And aside from missing their families back home, they’ll also skip certain traditions – like shopping at giant winter Christmas markets, opening presents on December 24 and marking December 6, the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, by cleaning a shoe and sticking it by the front door for small gifts to be put in. 

The absence of winter and festive fanfare means it doesn’t feel like Christmas in Queenstown, Year 12 student Franzi Beyer says. 

“It’s completely different over here. To have a Christmas tree and the sun shining outside is pretty rare for us,” the 17-year-old adds. 

“I feel a little bit sad I’m not with my real family but my host family is pretty nice.” 

Franzi and her friend Isabelle Jessen, 17, plan to have a German Christmas tomorrow at the lakefront. 

“We’ll make a Christmas tree on the beach and give each other presents,” she says. 

This year’s group of overseas students having a Kiwi Christmas is the largest Wakatipu High’s ever had, director of international students Joan Potts says. 

“I think they’re brave doing it …being away from their families at that age.” 

The school’s had a turnover of 64 kids from 11 different countries this year – they stay about six to 12 months to immerse themselves in English-speaking culture. 

International students spend about $30,000 a year to study and live in Queenstown. High tuition fees are “crucial” to prop up the school’s operations budget, Potts adds.