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Chinese Graduate Chose EIT for Wine Studies

March 14, 2018

Peter Zhang

Working Hawke’s Bay’s busy vintage, Peter Zhang is sorry he isn’t able to make this week’s graduation. 

But having gained EIT’s Diploma in Viticulture and Winemaking, he is delighted to have made a giant step towards achieving his dream.

Born and raised in China, Peter gained his computer science degree in Shanghai before working as a logistics manager for International Port Group for 4½ years.  But winemaking was what he really wanted to do. 

When I was about 14,” he explains, “I read a book about winemaking and I saw that winemakers were just as much artists as technical experts.  It appealed to me as a job.”

With no easy way of exploring that as a career option in China but still feeling the calling, Peter researched wine education programmes in the USA, South Australia and New Zealand before deciding on EIT.

Having saved for two years to cover the cost of travel, study fees and living expenses, he moved to Hawke’s Bay in October 2015.

After a decade living in Shanghai, he found it tranquil and welcoming.

“The lifestyle is really good and EIT’s teachers and students are friendly,” he says. 

Although his English is now superb, the 32-year-old found it challenging speaking it when he first arrived.

While he’d learnt English at school, there were no opportunities to practise and, as he points out, “you need the environment to use it.”

So before launching into the diploma, he studied English for two months through EIT’s English Language Centre.

“Initially I found it hard but I forced myself to speak it every day and no-one laughed at me.”

Honing his English helped him settle in at EIT.

“One of the things I like at the School of Viticulture and Wine Science is the on-campus winery where students can be involved in every process.  It’s a really good part of the programme.”

He’s also helped others settle in, having chaired EIT’s Chinese Students’ Association for the last 1½ years.  An initiative encouraged by the Chinese Embassy, the association has 120 members who study in a range of disciplines across EIT.

His role has included helping students adjust to a different culture and advising them on driving safely in New Zealand and buying a car. 

Peter dovetailed his study with part-time work on a vineyard in the Dartmoor Valley.  He also gained the 25 days’ work experience required for his qualification by working as a cellarhand at Esk Valley Estate.

That’s opened up a further opportunity, to work this year’s vintage for the new Villa Maria winery at Te Awa Hawke’s Bay.

“I will be working as system administrator, helping to update cellar operations, 12 hours a day for six days a week.”

Feeling he still has more to learn about the industry, Peter has enrolled for EIT’s Bachelor of Wine Science.   

He’s keen to secure a permanent job in the industry and hopes to stay in New Zealand where he enjoys the lifestyle of smaller cities like Napier.