Kia ora, my name is Tahu Russell and I am a 16-year-old student at Kaiapoi High School. I am a mokopuna of the late Maurice Nutira and son of Paul and Sharon Russell.

In September, I was honoured to be selected as one of the six students to travel to China. Eighty-five schools nominated students for this trip, so I felt very humbled to have been selected. I was the only Māori student selected, so I was extremely proud to share my heritage with the Chinese students in the town of Chengdu, in Sichuan province.

With only two weeks’ notice, I would have struggled to have been able to make this life changing trip without the support of Taumutu Rūnanga. The purpose of the trip was to strengthen the alliance between Ōtautahi and the Sichuan province and to promote education in Ōtautahi, in the hope more Chinese students might travel here to further their education.

Being my first trip away from home it was a huge adjustment. There was the obvious language barrier, which proved difficult at times and the change in diet was definitely interesting. I travelled to school each day in a tuk-tuk and the school hours were from 7.30am until 8.30pm. As you can imagine, they were huge days, which made me appreciate my own New Zealand school schedule.

Some of the highlights of my trip were meeting students of other nationalities who were boarding at the schools in the Sichuan province, spending the day at the panda sanctuary and shopping in Shanghai. The most memorable moment for me was when I stood proud and taught 1200 Chinese students the All Black haka, Ka mate – my chest bled and I had no voice for four days but the incredible response I received made it all worthwhile and I had never been prouder to be Māori.

I will never forget this experience and it has only strengthened my desire to travel more and share my te reo and my Kāi Tahu heritage with as many people, from as many countries as I can. This is just the beginning of my journey.

Tahu Russell.

Tahu Russell.