Students to forge links with Latin America

14 August 2017

A South American adventure awaits two University of Auckland students who have received Prime Minister’s Scholarships to Latin America (PMSLA).

Commerce student Lauren Wilks, from Nelson, will undertake a 20 week exchange programme at Mexico’s Tecnológico de Monterrey.

Arts and law student Caroline Coates, from Christchurch, recently arrived in Santiago to spend a semester at the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile.

The sought after scholarships were introduced by the Government last year in recognition of the growing importance of Latin America as a trading partner. The initiative aims to build connections with South American countries and improve the international skills of the New Zealand workforce.

The scheme is modelled on the successful Prime Minister’s Scholarships to Asia, which have funded more than 1,100 New Zealanders to study and forge relationships in Asian countries.

As well as soaking up the culture, food and way of life, the students, neither of whom speaks Spanish, will be immersed in the local language and education system.

Brett Berquist, Director International at the University of Auckland, says: “We aim to have one in four of our graduates undertaking an international learning experience by 2020. The great Kiwi OE tradition is becoming an integral part of the University of Auckland experience, as today’s generation is seeking international learning as part of their academic journey. It can connect them with other perspectives and ways of doing that will benefit their career development.”

Lauren Wilks

For 20-year-old Lauren, the scholarship is an opportunity to learn about Latin American business practice. She will travel to Mexico in January 2018.

“The experience will give me valuable insight into Mexico's outlook on trade and a better understanding of business from their perspective. I will be able to study papers with a Latin American business focus and hopefully return to New Zealand with an insight into Mexican business culture,” she says.

“The Tecnológico de Monterrey has a humanistic outlook with a focus on community service and making the world a better place which aligns with values of my own.”

Caroline Coates

Caroline, 22, was attracted to Chile because of its similarities to New Zealand.

“Chile is our oldest friend in Latin America, and we actually share many similarities in our geography and our way of life.  I have already experienced a 5.5 earthquake so in some ways we have a lot in common, while at the same time I have also been completely struck by the country’s difficult history,” she says.

“I was a little worried about living here, but I honestly think that stepping out of my comfort zone is the best way to learn. It is much like a friendlier, bigger New Zealand, with some of the kindest people you could ever meet.”

Media contact:

Danelle Clayton
Communications, Vice-Chancellor's Office
The University of Auckland