Students gain more than a qualification

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An unlikely friendship has formed between 26-year old international ākonga Geep Thuakkong and her classmate Marita Green, a local potter who is returning to the classroom to upskill many years and a few careers after completing her first qualification.

“We clicked as friends over one of our first practical assignments,” says Marita. The pair has since discovered they have lots of complementary experiences and skills to share.

“There is so much to learn from friendships with people from other countries – international students have a lot to offer,” she says.

Geep and Marita are completing the one-year Graduate Diploma in Project Management (Level 7). Geep is building on her qualification and experience as a civil engineer and Marita has a background as a surveyor, working as a cartographer in the US then a hydrographic surveyor for the New Zealand Navy before having a family and working as a potter and ceramics tutor.

Geep joins Marita in the ceramics classroom to practice her English.

“Kids are great, they don’t judge and they help me make sense of the English language,” says Geep.

Geep trades English language support with recent classroom experience and the ability to navigate the wealth of technical tools on offer since Marita last studied.

“Geep is really efficient and uses technology to be more productive – she teaches me lots of shortcuts and how to use different tools most effectively,” says Marita.

The pair also have complementary skills when it comes to classroom learning too.

“Geep’s engineering skills shine through with her strength in numbers, where I have strengths in writing and networking so we help each other with classwork too,” says Marita.

Geep’s interest in studying in New Zealand began when she travelled around New Zealand in 2017 after finishing her university studies in Thailand. She studied English in Tauranga before returning home to Bangkok to work as a planning engineer and outwait COVID-19. She chose Taranaki to return to as she has an aunty in New Plymouth.

Now Marita’s children are teenagers she is interested in reigniting her technical career and sees project management as the best use of her skills and experience.

“I believe to be effective as project manager you need left and right brain skills – the creative, problem solving, people side and the ability to understand technical information, logistics and work to timelines,” says Marita. Skills she has in abundance as both a former surveyor, creative and business owner.

In an interesting twist, Marita is also a Te Pūkenga Tutor, supporting Otago Polytech ākonga to complete the practical components of their New Zealand Diploma in Arts and Design (Level 5) – Ceramics.

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