One Thai Family’s annual study holiday in Tauranga

"“It’s because of the people and the safety. Walking down the street in Tauranga is very easy. I never have to worry about the kids running around.” – Pinya"

One Thai Family’s annual study holiday in Tauranga

Ever since first laying eyes on Tauranga, the Phansaichua family has been completely enthralled.

After their eldest child Irene first discovered the delights of Tauranga on a study exchange in 2014, the Thai family – made up of Mum and Dad (Pinya and Sudtheerak, nicknamed Hun), daughter Irene and sons Alan and Marwin – started making their month-long stay in Tauranga an annual tradition.

The holiday offers Pinya and Hun a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of daily life; the children get to experience a new educational system at some of Tauranga’s leading schools. Plus, the entire family enjoys spending time together immersed in a new country, culture and language.

Here’s the story of how the Phansaichuas – a family of smiles, warmth and adaptability – came to make Tauranga their second home.


The first member of the Phansaichua family to visit Tauranga was Irene, the eldest daughter, who now studies full time at Cambridge’s St Peter’s School. She came here with around 20 Thai students as part of an inaugural exchange program between her local school in Korat and Tauranga Intermediate.

“When she got back home, we heard about what a wonderful experience she had. The year after, we planned to bring the whole family here and see how it goes.” – Hun

Over the years, the family has visited many countries, but each trip only reinforces the feeling that New Zealand is where they are most at home.

“It’s because of the people and the safety. Walking down the street in Tauranga is very easy. I never have to worry about the kids running around.” – Pinya


The Phansaichuas live in Nakhon Ratchasima, nicknamed Korat, Thailand’s second largest city with around three million people. Hun and Pinya own and run both an automobile company and a real estate business. As hard-working parents, their annual trip to New Zealand is a great time to relax and spend time together as a family.

The boys, Alan and Marwin, attend Plookpanya, a prestigious private school with a focus on Thai academics combined with a strong English language programme. Founded by a friend of the family, the school stands out amongst the average Thai school, encouraging international experiences and involved parents – which suits the Phansaichuas to a tee.


Marwin, the baby of the family, loves his month-long stay at Greenpark School while Allen is enjoying his first stint at Tauranga Intermediate. Their parents are just as pleased.

“We get a lot of good feedback from the kids. The first priority is for them to learn more English, but every time we come, we see how different the education system is here. In Tauranga, they learn skills that they will use in their everyday life.” – Pinya

“It’s more pragmatic here. To me, as a father, I cannot teach them all these things, and they won’t learn them in school in Thailand.” – Hun

Subjects like wood work, metal work and cooking are unheard of at school back home, but here they rate among the boys’ favourite part of the day. They also learn through the many extra-curricular activities offered at these two Tauranga schools.

“This year, Marwin went to Gala Day at Greenpark. He helped his classroom raise money to buy a new playground for the school. It has helped him learn teamwork and leadership skills.” -Pinya


Though there may have been a few nerves their first year, the boys now eagerly await their yearly trip to New Zealand.

“The other kids in school are always really excited to see Marwin and Allen.” – Hun

The kids have plenty of Kiwi friends and jump right into local life, happy to pick up Kiwi activities like learning to surf. Meanwhile, the parents have cherished the role that Greenpark’s international department has played in helping them settle into life in a new country.

“Lynne, the international manager, helped us quite a lot to adjust. Pinya came here by herself the first year and Lynne helped with everything from suggesting hotels to weekend activities. Anything or any advice you need, she goes the extra mile.” – Hun

The family now settles into Tauranga quickly and easily. They are familiar with the school system and the city, and they have made some close friendships with local Kiwi families.


The annual trip to Tauranga combines a well-deserved family holiday with an educational experience. It’s a trip that will likely continue at least until the boys are old enough to follow Irene’s path and attend St. Peter’s School full-time. The visit also gives the family time to connect with Irene, and while they are over here they see her most weekends.

“I feel like we sleep better here, we sleep in longer.” – Pinya

The boys love it here too, and cherish the cultural and environmental differences that Tauranga provides.

“It’s easier to get around here and the air is fresher.” – Alan

“I love living so close to the beach and building sand castles.” – Marwin


Greenpark’s international manager, Lynne Mossop, considers pastoral care an integral part of Greenpark’s international department and Hun and Pinya are so impressed with her care and ability to put herself in their shoes.

“Greenpark has been hosting international students for many years now and the diversity in nationalities we’ve built up is wonderful. There are only a few Thai families here, so they are very precious to us. I respect their bravery and want to help them enjoy life here as much as I can.” – Lynne

Lynne appreciates how special it is for an entire family to come here together and loves the comfort that it provides young kids. Having the parents here as well as the kids makes for a very social international community, with parents popping in for a cuppa tea and sharing advice and travel tips most mornings. The relationships prove mutually beneficial, with the happy families returning home and sharing their positive experience with other keen families back home.

“There’s really nothing quite like word-of-mouth marketing!” – Lynne

Greenpark’s new principal went to Plookpanya for a short-term stay during which he visited the school and taught some classes. He returned to Tauranga keen to set up a strong, on-going relationship between Greenpark and Plookpanya, where not only will students participate in the exchange, but teachers will too.


“Definitely do it! I think the key to going abroad is that you can get lost in culture – that’s a bit of fun. New Zealand is a very easy place to go and explore.  Embrace the new culture.” – Hun

Pinya agrees: “We get to spend more time with the family, with the kids. It’s great quality time together in a new environment.”