Chip Curtis from Connecticut was one of three Americans studying wine science at EIT last year.
It’s a long way to come to do a degree, concedes the 28-year-old, but New Zealand isn’t halfway around the world – which is what his aghast mother claimed when he told her of his plans.
‘That would have put me in the middle of the Indian Ocean!’ he says with just a hint of a smile. ‘I told her it was a bit closer than that. Since then, she’s joined me to see some of the country, including the wine regions.’
Weighing up where he might study, Chip considered such prestigious academic institutions as the University of Oregon, University of California Davis and Australia’s Charles Sturt University.
EIT has proved a good choice, he says, offering small classes, accessible lecturers and a location smack in the middle of a region growing a wide range of wine styles. Studying for the Bachelor in Wine Science was ‘a fun experience’, and he’s made many friends while living in Hawke’s Bay.
The cost of study and accommodation also stacks up well when compared with the USA.
Before moving to New Zealand in 2007, Chip worked in a wine shop in his hometown of Darien, near Stamford. It was a natural progressions, he says, to develop an interest in how wine was produced.
While he didn’t know much about our wine industry at the time, he had sampled the nation’s flagship wine, Sauvignon Blanc.
Studying at EIT, Chip says he learned about all aspects of the industry. While he’s focused primarily on his studies, he worked a vintage in Marlborough and visited many of our wine regions.
Chip will spend the coming year in New Zealand, working in the wine industry. He then plans to return to the USA, with his sights set on a career in the wine import/export business.
EIT offers a range of grapegrowing and winemaking programmes, from certificate to graduate diploma level.
Graduate diplomas in viticulture and oenology and the bachelor degrees in viticulture and wine science and the Certificate in Wine may be studied by distance learning. From this year, the wine science graduate diploma programme is also offered on campus – part or full-time.
As well as the Bachelor of Viticulture and Bachelor of Wine Science, EIT is the only New Zealand educator offering a concurrent degree in viticulture and wine science.
At diploma level, there are qualifications in wine marketing and in grapegrowing and winemaking. These programme can be studied by correspondence.
Certificate programmes are also in grapegrowing and winemaking. They can be done full-time on campus or part-time study by correspondence.
EIT encourages wine and viticulture degree study in the form of its Year 13 Degree Study Grant, available to North Island Year 13 school leavers. This provides free first-year study fees and 50 percent second-year study fees. Student accommodation is available across the road at the four star AA rated student village.