Wellington’s inspiring young talent recognised
Chinese international student Benjamin Lin may only be 18, but he’s already achieved more than many of his peers could dream of.
As the youngest ‘authorised’ writer in his home country, he’s published two books and opened a writing school to raise money to study at Wellington High.
During these busy years he was also forced to support his family after his father passed away, but still managed to make it to New Zealand where he has exceled.
His achievements have been recognised alongside 11 other international students at Parliament today (Friday 19 October) at the third annual Wellington International Student Excellence Awards.
Benjamin received a Leadership Award for his achievements and chalks his success down to the hardships he and his family faced following his father’s death – managing his studies while financially supporting his family who nearly went bankrupt.
His father’s love for and success in writing inspired Benjamin to start essay writing at a young age.
“Thanks to my father, I loved reading and writing. My teacher at the time encouraged me to publish some of my poetry when I was around 10 in the form of a book. People really liked my work, and it gave me the confidence to keep going,” says Benjamin.
“I then wrote my second book, The East Wall, on the Chinese Revolution. The Director of the Chinese Writing Association saw my work and helped me join the association to become the youngest authorised writer in China – they changed the rules for me because normally you can’t join until you’re 18.”
In 2015, Benjamin decided to progress his education in Wellington, and settled on Wellington High School.
“I worked out I needed around $20,000 to study in Wellington, and I couldn’t ask my family for financial help. Every day I worried about how to make enough money to get to New Zealand. I didn’t have a job, or any business connections, so I decided to use my writing skills to teach other students to make money.”
Benjamin started tutoring students in writing following his own published successes, and soon found around 200 students in his classes. The popularity for his classes helped get business partners and investors on board – and soon after in 2016 a school opened in his name, which meant Benjamin had a way to get to Wellington for his studies.
“I wanted to come to Wellington because it’s a smaller, modern city where I could improve my English. In China, there is a lot of pressure to get great grades, and there are so many people in your classes – plus you are expected to learn more subjects,” says Benjamin.
“In Wellington, I’ve appreciated having more time with my teachers and working on my English.”
In the short time he’s been here, Benjamin has won the Young Enterprise Scheme’s International Ambassador Award last year, joined Victoria University’s Math Challenge in 2018 and joined a global film project, Focus on Ability International Filming Competition, to work with people in different countries and create a film promoting those who are differently-abled.
Brook Pannell, WREDA’s Education, Talent and Skills Manager, was thrilled to be on hand at the Wellington International Excellence Awards and acknowledge the achievements made by some of Wellington’s young talent.
“International students make a powerful impact in their communities, and these awards reflect the great contributions they make in Wellington,” says Brook.
“Wellington is full of study options for students with a number of high-calibre institutions. It’s also a unique, modern and compact city where international students can feel at home, gain life skills in a safe city, and make friends.”
WREDA has a goal of doubling the number of international students arriving in Wellington by 2025 through its Wellington International Student Growth Programme (WISGP). In Wellington, each international student contributes an average of $33,179 to the regional economy. This equates to around $200 million to the economy and thousands of jobs for the Wellington region.
WISGP is a multi-year initiative to attract more students, enhance the student experience and build pathways to employment in Wellington. The programme is managed by WREDA on behalf of Wellington education providers, local government and Education New Zealand.