From Zeeland to New Zealand: A Dutch student’s Tauranga tale

"“I’d love to work for some innovative companies here in New Zealand to gain knowledge and real-world experience before going on to start my own business down the track.”"

From Zeeland to New Zealand: A Dutch student’s Tauranga tale

Since she was eight years old, Emelie Verseput from the Netherlands has had one goal: to move to New Zealand. With annual family holidays to Mount Maunganui, the dream only grew stronger each year, until her dream became a reality.

Currently in her second year at the University of Waikato, Emelie is among the first group of students to study at the beautiful new campus situated downtown Tauranga.

Emelie follows her dreams and pursues her interest. Since moving into a log cabin her family owns in Papamoa, she has made every minute of her Kiwi life count. From being a strong presence in her classes to becoming a Surf Life Saver, joining a snowboard club to finding her place within the local digital marketing world, Emelie has embedded herself in the local community. Her goal is to live here long-term and she’s doing everything she can to make that happen.

Here is Emelie’s story of moving from Zeeland to New Zealand.


Like Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, Emelie hails from Zeeland – a Dutch province made up of several islands off the country’s west coast. Coming from a small coastal village, Emelie’s familiarity with a seaside and rural town eased her transition into life in New Zealand.

“It can be hard for many Europeans to move from somewhere big to somewhere small, but I felt at home really easily here.”

But despite the similarities, there are plenty of distinctions between Holland and New Zealand, from architecture to culture, language to history.


Emelie’s parents first came to New Zealand on their honeymoon and dreamt of coming back ever since. Years later, they returned with their three daughters in tow.

“My Dad fell in love with the Mount on that trip and we have been coming back as a family every year since.

“The first time we came I asked my dad what I need to do to stay here. Having this dream for the past ten years has motivated me to work hard in school so I’d get into university here.”


Emelie followed her dreams and moved to New Zealand. At the time, there was only a small University of Waikato campus in Tauranga, so instead she moved to Hamilton to pursue a business degree majoring in marketing with a minor in strategic management.

And then the stars aligned: a new campus was being built in Tauranga, but wasn’t set to be finished until after she’d complete her degree.

“After my first year, the new campus opened up downtown. As soon as I heard it was opening earlier than expected, I knew I was going to move here!”


Emelie describes the new campus as very modern with outstanding study and co-working spaces. She loves the feel of the new building, infused with Maori art and culture throughout.

“There’s state of the art technology which really suits the digital focus of my degree. Being the first class to study here is exciting!”

Among her favourite papers are digital marketing and entrepreneurship. Bursting with ideas and creativity, the high-quality degree Emelie is gaining is setting her up for an excellent career as an entrepreneur.

“I’d love to work for some innovative companies here in New Zealand to gain knowledge and real-world experience before going on to start my own business down the track.”


“I wouldn’t call myself shy,” Emelie says of her ability to talk to strangers in order to pursue her passions and immerse herself within the local community. Since moving to New Zealand she has started training to be a lifeguard with Surf Live Saving; she has joined a ski club and heads down to the mountain most winter weekends; she attends design-thinking meet-up groups and is part of a scuba dive club.

“You just have to have a goal and follow through.”

She credits this go-getter attitude to her upbringing and her Dutch culture – they are an action-oriented people who like to get out there and get things done.


“The hardest part of New Zealand is making the switch from it being a holiday to my home. I’m not a tourist anymore, my aim is to stay here long-term.”

Emelie finds locals very welcoming and friendly, but connecting at a deeper level isn’t always easy.

“Kiwis often say, ‘we should go for dinner some time’ but don’t follow through. In my country, we’d expect an invitation for dinner the next day!”

The Dutch don’t beat around the bush – they are blunt and direct, which has led to some confusing interactions and raised eyebrows, but she hasn’t let cultural barriers stop her. Emelie has found a niche for herself in the community, slowing building up friends through her local involvement and school classes.


Her efforts have paid off not only socially but professionally as well. Emelie has landed herself two coveted internships that she manages to balance with her school work and extra-curricular activities.

“I feel very lucky – not many students are taking on internships as we study, but when we enter the workforce, employers will be looking for real-world experience.”

Alongside her full-time study, she spends ten hours a week with local software company Cucumber and five hours a week helping prepare for Tauranga’s innovation festival, Groundswell.


Moving to Tauranga has not disappointed Emelie. Situated in her family’s Papamoa-based home, Emelie is loving her coastal lifestyle. She enjoys the climate and the beach, the convenience of the city and accessibility to nearby mountains.

Or as she puts it: “I am under the Mount’s spell.”


“Be curious, be brave and work hard.

Build a life around your interests and find a community around things that you like to do. It can be anything, they have clubs for anything and everything in New Zealand.

And get to know the local culture. If you can understand the language and the culture, you can understand the country.”

Follow Emelie on Facebook or Instagram.