Award-winning adventure tourism graduate earns Big Tonga

Award-winning adventure tourism graduate earns Big Tonga

Janelle Van Der Westhuizen has had ‘the best two years’ of her life. Not only has the 19 year old developed skills in kayaking, rock climbing, river rafting, tramping and skiing, earlier in 2018 she was awarded the NZOIA Polytechnic Best Student Award.

To top it off, this summer she will showcase the Abel Tasman National Park to bedazzled tourists in her role as sea kayak guide for Kaiteriteri Kayaks on their most popular day trip - Big Tonga Marine Reserve.

Janelle graduates this year with the Diploma in Adventure Tourism - a Level 5 programme with a 100 per cent success rate when it comes to students gaining employment. Often times students are retained by the same company they completed their internship with.

That was certainly the case for Janelle. She spent the 2017/18 season at Kaiteriteri Kayaks as an intern doing beach rentals and the odd Split Apple Classic trip before being offered her current position.

A natural people person, Janelle is delighted to have earned her place as a sea kayak guide for the company and looks forward to providing a great experience for tourists near and far.

As for that award, Janelle wasn’t able to make it up to Taupo for the official celebration and workshop weekend “I was busy on that day sadly”, but she has the certificate to prove it.

The New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association (NZOIA) Polytechnic Best Student Award is awarded to one student each year. It is a way of engaging students into the association. The NZOIA provides “qualifications and training for New Zealand’s outdoor leaders” and their mission is to create positive change through excellence in outdoor leadership.

One could say that Janelle’s achievements were all made possible during her time at NMIT, but in fact her enthusiasm and commitment to adventure tourism is the reason for her run of success.

Janelle’s passion for the outdoors began in Greymouth on the West Coast of the South Island. The self-confessed ‘fidgeter’ - who doesn’t consider herself academic by any means - has always preferred the great outdoors to a stuffy classroom.

From Year 9 onward she began enjoying the outdoors more, spurred on by an outdoor course held at Grey High. Going on bush walks, rock climbing - you name it, she was into it.

“I just want to be outside, I don’t like being stuck in a classroom,” she says. “For some people it’s their thing to sit inside and do nice study work, but not for me, I’d rather be outside just doing it and getting experience by actually doing tasks.”

Luckily for Janelle, the AT course at NMIT was made up of 75 per cent field time and 25 per cent classroom time. That meant plenty of opportunities to play in nature under the guidance of tutors Sam Russek and Lisa Cooper.

If the students were ever tested by the conditions on and off the water, Sam and Lisa were close by reminding them about the safety procedures learnt in class. “It was good for them to be there for support because the course was draining at times,” says Janelle.

“We were always out doing something, which was tiring, but with their support it made it easier and they trusted us fully.”

That support extended onto the campus grounds. “We had learner support staff come and talk to us about how the system works and they always said there’s help available, just come to the desk. Everyone is really friendly and it’s easy to find everything. I found it really welcoming.”

Janelle was only 18 years old when she began the diploma and had never flatted before. Lucky for her, she secured a flatting arrangement with an ex-NMIT student who had just started her first role as a qualified Nurse. Janelle found the process of flat hunting easy and it has turned out to be far cheaper to flat than board. “I love it. It’s nice to finally be out in the real world.”


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