PM Scholarship winner heads to China

“It will be great to immerse myself in the culture and to mingle with Chinese students.”

“There are plenty of opportunities out there to help you develop your career if you look”

Double DairyNZ scholarship winner Caitlyn Poole has now won the Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia, which will allow her to study Mandarin in China.

The Prime Minister’s scholarship gives young people the opportunity to study anywhere in Asia to strengthen their understanding of other cultures and build international skills, with the aim of strengthening New Zealand’s ability to work with Asian trading partners.

Poole says China is an important export market for New Zealand, after growing up on a dairy farm and being exposed to China-focused discussions.

Success in China is built on relationships – it’s important to be able to communicate and understand how people in China work and do business,” says Poole.

Poole, 24, has studied Mandarin at university. In China, she will first do an intensive six-week language course and will then study the language at Chengdu University 30-40 hours a week for six months.

Chengdu, population 14 million, is an inland city in southwest China.

“It will be great to immerse myself in the culture and to mingle with Chinese students,” says Poole. She will be flatting with a young Chinese woman close to the university.

Poole grew up in rural South Taranaki then Te Awamutu in Waikato. Her first scholarship was for an undergraduate degree in agricultural science at Massey University and her second for a Master’s degree in animal science. Her Master’s thesis was on the association between supplementary feeding and the post-grazing residual.

As part of her studies she also spent a year in Brazil on an exchange programme. She learned Portuguese and worked on New Zealand-owned dairy farms for several weeks in her holidays.

“Working on Kiwi farms in Brazil gave me tremendous insight into dairy farming operations overseas. It was interesting to see how New Zealand farming practices can be successfully applied in other parts of the world, adapted for local conditions.”

This is Poole’s second time in China. She worked for three months this year as an intern for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in the New Zealand Consulate, also in Chengdu, an experience made possible by an Asia New Zealand Foundation Business Internship Scholarship.

Her role included organising New Zealand cultural events, doing research for reports and attending seminars where businesses and other foreign consulates shared insights into overcoming challenges that entrepreneurs and start-ups experience in China. She also attended meetings with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and learned about their work behind the scenes to help Kiwis become future exporters to China.

“Every day was different and interesting in the consulate. It was great to be surrounded by highly motivated people, and surprising to see where Kiwis are in China and what they are achieving, often where you’d least expect.”

Poole wants to be fluent in Mandarin and work in the dairy sector for the benefit of dairy farmers but is keeping her options open for now. She encourages other young people to look for opportunities wherever they go and to look beyond New Zealand. “There are plenty of opportunities out there to help you develop your career if you look.”

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