Learning English ‘bubble’ style

The 53rd Intake of New Zealand’s English Language Training for Officials (NZELTO) Asia programme found themselves in lockdown in New Zealand away from family and friends, studying online. Despite this they made a great effort to continue to study and engage in New Zealand life.

NZELTO class
NZELTO class
The NZELTO Asia programme, managed by Accent Learning (Wellington UniVentures) and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, brings government officials from several South East Asian countries to study at the English Language Institute (ELI) at Victoria University of Wellington. The course offers participants classroom-based learning while also providing cultural and professional experiences. When New Zealand’s lockdown was announced on 25 March, staff had to work quickly and creatively to move to online teaching, and to support the students.

“The NZELTO Team were incredibly dedicated and coped so well with the quick transition to online teaching,” says Dr Cherie Connor, English language teacher and the ELI's ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) Programmes Academic Manager. “They really tried to provide a structured and supportive environment for the NZELTO participants as they were very aware of the extra difficulty that the participants would face, being so far from their families.”

The students’ learning continued with online classes, presentations, and Q&A sessions with speakers from a range of New Zealand government ministries.

“The NZELTO students adapted quickly to life under lockdown and while it reduced opportunities for interaction with course colleagues, conversation partners, and other New Zealanders, they continued to participate actively taking advantage of Zoom and other social media tools to connect across their bubbles,” says course coordinator Jeannette Grundy.

“In the weekends, many explored Wellington in their bubbles on foot and they relished opportunities for fun with colleagues through the weekly challenges set by the Accent Learning team.”

These activities included competitions like MasterChef and photo scavenger hunts which the Vietnamese NZELTO students shared in a video about their experience under lockdown.

“I enjoyed studying online during the lockdown because the teachers gave us various activities in the online class such as group discussions, one-on-one tutors, guest lectures, and mini-games, so we did not get bored,” says student Edwin Mahatir Muhammad Ramadhan from Indonesia.

“There is no doubt, that we received massive support from Victoria University of Wellington. Our mental health and wellbeing were taken care of by Accent Learning from day one.”

“At the beginning, I thought that it would be hard to live in lockdown,” says student Phonepaseuth Saysanavongphet from Laos. “However, with the support from all of the staff, everything became better.” Though it was tough, the students are happy to have been able to return to campus to complete the course in person.

As well as the NZELTO Asia programme, the Institute also runs a NZELTO Africa programme. Find out more information about these programmes.