Visit to local winery with father leads student from China to study at EIT

A trip to a Hawke’s Bay winery with his wine-loving father was enough to convince Kevin Wang to enrol in the Bachelor of Viticulture and Wine Science at EIT.

Born and raised in Beijing, China, Kevin moved over to New Zealand with his twin sister, Helen, as teenagers to attend school, first in Auckland and then at Havelock North High School in Hawke’s Bay.

Kevin, 20, says wine is not prominent in the Chinese culture, but the trip to Church Road Winery with his father Ping sparked his interest.

“We wanted to explore the region and ended up at Church Road Winery which I found really interesting. I thought ‘why not try this’ and that is how I decided to come to EIT.”

“In China wine is not really a big part of the culture, but it is a good potential market because there are so many people there. I thought that because I am bilingual it would be to my advantage to study wine here and then bring it back to China one day.”

With his sister deciding to study hospitality in Taranaki, Kevin enrolled in the degree programme at EIT’s School of Viticulture and Wine Science in 2020.

“When I realised that I wanted to study wine, I went to the high school career advisor, and he told me there were two options – EIT or going down south to Lincoln University. I felt it was better for me to just stay in Hawke’s Bay and study here.“

It proved to be the right decision as Kevin is poised to get his degree at the end of the year. It has been a tough time to be an international student, with COVID-19 closing New Zealand’s borders. While he has missed being able to travel home to see his parents, Kevin has loved studying and also gets to see Helen from time to time.

Recently Kevin featured in a marketing campaign by Education New Zealand, the government agency dedicated to helping Aotearoa New Zealand realise the social, cultural and economic benefits of international education.

“I was really surprised to be asked to represent China in the marketing campaign, but I think I am proof that students from China can develop their skills in another country and get involved in the Kiwi culture.”

“I feel like being here in New Zealand for six years now has definitely changed the way I think, and it has made me more confident.”

However, for Kevin it has been all about the wine.

“I prefer winemaking to growing because I am not really a vineyard person. I think the most enjoyable thing about the degree for me, is that it is a really practical major. Instead of having lectures all day, we do experiments in the lab, make wine in the school winery, as well as taking care of the vines.”

“I have really enjoyed studying at EIT. The lecturers are really good, and I don’t feel like they are our lecturers as it is more like talking to friends.”

A highlight of the degree was getting work experience during vintage at the place where it all began – Church Road Winery.

While he is finishing up his degree, Kevin is working part-time at Trinity Hill’s Cellar Door and hopes to continue working there after graduation before heading overseas to gain experience in France and Italy.

There is also a trip home to visit his parents on the cards.

Sue Blackmore, the Head of EIT’s School of Viticulture and Wine Science, says: “The School staff want to congratulate Kevin on doing a great job as an Education NZ ambassador.”

“We are also looking forward to welcoming back students from outside NZ’s borders to enrich the experience for all our students.”.