Since Well Chomchoei arrived in Dunedin as a 14-year-old, she has embraced many amazing opportunities for learning and adventure.
Well’s parents wanted their two daughters to receive a high-quality education, so they decided the girls would complete their secondary schooling in the safe and education-focused city of Dunedin.
“Dad and Mum wanted high school to be a pathway to university for us, and they didn’t think our Thai school could provide that,” she says. “It was a very small country school in the middle of rice fields on the outskirts of Bangkok, and it didn’t have computers. Every weekend, we would travel into the city to complete extra classes.”
"We were so happy we could choose our own subjects – that was so cool! Back home, we just learnt what they told us to learn, and a lot of it was quite useless stuff,” Well laughs.
When Well and her sister arrived at Dunedin’s Otago Girls’ High School, they were excited to see the range of learning opportunities on offer.
“We were so happy we could choose our own subjects – that was so cool! Back home, we just learnt what they told us to learn, and a lot of it was quite useless stuff,” Well laughs.
Now in Year 13, Well is studying Maths, Physics, English, Design and Textiles, a selection which blends her two favourite areas of learning – art and science.
“Next year, I would like to study Industrial Design at university,” she says. “I love design – I feel so happy and comfortable when I’m designing. It’s the perfect mix of art and science coming together.”
Well speaks English beautifully thanks to her time in Dunedin.
“In Year 10, my English wasn’t great – I could only understand about 50% of what the teacher was saying,” she says. “Teachers were helpful in explaining and rewording things. There were quite a few cultural references that I didn’t understand!”
Well has been with the same host family since she arrived in Dunedin.“My host parents are wonderful,” she says. “They have helped me settle in and adjust to life here, and they are always so kind and supportive.”Well has some advice for anyone considering Dunedin as a study destination.“If you’re thinking of coming here, you definitely should!” she says. “There are so many opportunities and experiences to enjoy and learn from. It’s awesome.”
As well achieving in her academic studies, Well has made the most of the many sporting and personal development opportunities available through school. From sailing on the Otago Harbour to playing basketball, squash and tennis, Well has enjoyed keeping active. She has also been skiing and snowboarding in nearby Queenstown, where she experienced snow for the very first time.
“I try to do different activities each year so I can learn more,” she says. “This has also helped me work towards my Duke of Edinburgh Awards. I’ve already completed my Bronze Award, and I’m doing Gold this year.”
Well also enjoyed a 21-day camp with Outward Bound, a prominent New Zealand outdoor education programme, in Picton.
“I’ll never forget it – it was so good!” she says. “We did outdoor activities like kayaking, white water rafting, rock climbing, tramping and sailing.”
In another highlight of her time here, Well recently shaved off her waist-length hair as part of the charity fundraiser, Shave for a Cure. In doing so, she raised an amazing $2,500 for Leukemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.
“I had seen other girls at school do Shave for a Cure, and I thought they were so cool and brave. I knew I had to do it someday,” she says. “I did it in winter, so I had to wear a hat to keep my head warm for a while!”