Study in Palmerston North, a city for Students

The population of Palmerston North never grows old. Such a statement could have the rest of the world packing their bags to seek the elixir of youth in this small provincial city in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island.

The statement is absolutely factual as statistics prove that nearly half the population of Palmerston North is made up of students. Every year the city’s three major tertiary institutions enrol over 20,000 young adults as students.

Add to that figure the children who are studying at pre school, primary and secondary schools in the community, and it makes Palmerston North a very youthful city - with some 30,000 residents under the age of 25 out of a total population of 73,000.

That’s a demographic recipe which adds up to a vibrant and innovative community, switched on to change and open to new ideas - and probably rather argumentative and disinclined to accept the opinions and decisions of ‘elders and betters’ without questioning their reasoning.

It’s a great mix, and one which is made as diverse as it could possibly be by the wide range of courses of study that can be pursued in Palmerston North.

There’s tuition available in almost anything you can imagine, ranging from training to be a racing driver on the international circuit, learning how to pilot a jet aircraft, right through to taking a course in international business or being educated in the skills of the professional rugby player.

Social sciences, sciences, languages, technology, veterinary science, education, horticulture and agriculture - there are top academic courses offered in all these disciplines, and many more.

With education and knowledge as the pulse and heartbeat of Palmerston North, it’s no surprise that when the total number of staff at the research and teaching institutions is added to the student roll number, the resulting figure is equivalent to 46% of the city’s total population.

Research and knowledge together make up the major industry of Palmerston North - education of every sort is the city’s economic base. In this environment it is little wonder that Palmerston North is rapidly establishing a name as New Zealand’s Knowledge City.

Since the founding of the institution now called Massey University over 70 years ago, Palmerston North has opened its doors and its heart to the international student community.

Today, over 1400 international students from 79 countries all over the globe of study in Palmerston North each year. Living with such cultural diversity has enriched the community and given many of those international students, along with local families, the opportunity to forge long lasting friendships that cut across differences in customs, beliefs or language.

Homestay programmes fostered by Palmerston North clubs and institutions over many years have flourished in this atmosphere of international tolerance and understanding.

As a small, provincial city, Palmerston North offers the best of essential New Zealand. The green hills dotted with sheep and cattle, the beautiful bush and birdlife, the unpolluted air and clean waterways - they are all there on the outskirts, and even within the boundaries, of this compact city on the plains formed by the Manawatu River.

But only an hour or two of travel by car will take you to some of the premier skifields and highest mountains in the country, or alternatively into the bustle of Wellington, the capital city.

Palmerston North itself now has an international airport, with direct flights to Australia and links to the rest of the world through Auckland or Wellington International Airports.

The climate ranges from 22º Celsius in the height of the February summer season down to 12º Celsius in July. The clarity of the atmosphere can be best appreciated on the 200 days of the year when the skies are blue and the sun shines.

New Zealand is a country with a long tradition of democratic government. The political environment is safe and stable. That national atmosphere of security and permanence is most evidence in the provincial heartland, and Palmerston North is a prime example.

Here, keeping the community safe is also a top priority for the local City Council, and initiatives to ensure that every resident can enjoy ‘the freedom of the city’ are an established part of the Council policy.

With so many students resident in the city, accommodation is definitely geared towards their needs. There are on campus hostels, but many of the young people who pursue their academic studies in Palmerston North choose to take advantage of the numerous flats on offer.

Others opt for the ‘homestay’ option to make the most of this unique opportunity to learn more about the way New Zealand families live. Whichever option is chosen, it’s very affordable in Palmerston North - full board at a hall of residence costs $160NZ weekly, homestay accommodation with a family costs around $150, while a place in a student flat will cost around $55 rental plus food and other living expenses.

Situated in the middle of a farming and horticultural district, fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful in the city’s various supermarkets. Shopping is easy in Palmerston North too, with everything close at hand and with wide streets where the traffic flows easily.

A feature of the city is its lack of hills, and for students this gives an added incentive to get about by bicycle. There are cycle lanes from the city centre to the main learning institutions, and on a fine Palmerston North morning, the main route along Fitzherbert Avenue will be packed with cyclists pedalling their way to their day’s study or teaching.

Public transport is also reasonably priced and special student discounts mean that $1 is the average bus fare for a student travelling to the university from the city centre.

Local taxi companies haven’t forgotten the needs of students either, with special rates for fares between the city and the halls of residence on the Massey University campus.

In a city geared to the needs of the young, there’s plenty to do when the working day is over. Palmerston North has numerous parks and playing fields with sports clubs catering for the widest range of activities. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools are open all the year round, and in the countryside round the city there are wonderful bush walks through nature reserves, or, for the more adventurous, high slopes for mountain biking.

The nearby Manawatu River is ideal for kayaking, jet boating and fishing.The city’s social life revolves around a busy and varied bar, café and restaurant scene.

Palmerston North has the most eating out places for its population in New Zealand! The choice is amazing, with international cuisine on offer ranging through Thai, Japanese, Turkish and Mexican to succulent traditional New Zealand roast meat and vegetables. Not to mention McDonalds, Kentucky Fried, and plenty of pizza and burger takeaways.

For entertainment, the city’s eight cinema multiplex movie theatre has one of the highest attendances in New Zealand. Up to 15 movies are screened every day with an average of 35 sessions daily, seven days a week.

There is a professional live theatre company operating in the city too, staging performances six nights a week, and producing up to eight shows each year.

Alongside this are active local amateur theatre groups. The city’s recently renovated 1930s era theatre, the Regent on Broadway, is now the spectacular venue for a varied programme of local, national and international artistes and shows - the jewel in the community’s cultural crown.

The community is also proud of its new city library. Like the Regent on Broadway, the library is housed in a skilfully refurbished heritage building, originally constructed as one of Palmerston North’s leading department stores.

Carefully planned by a leading New Zealand architect, Ian Athfield, as the ‘Living Room of the City’, the atmosphere of the library is inviting and innovative, and is such a successful concept that it has won Athfield a premier national architecture award.

For shopping, Palmerston North is a trailblazer amongst the provincial cities of New Zealand. Specialist shops and boutiques are crammed into the small byways, such as George Street, while two malls, the Downtown Complex and The Plaza, offer the widest range of fashion gear, giftware, sporting goods and more, along with more of those specialty shops that just can’t be passed by.

Palmerston North is the shopping centre of the Manawatu region, and regularly draws in visitors from further afield, who are attracted by the wide range of goods on offer in the city’s busy and buzzy shopping centre.

Palmerston North is young - it’s vibrant and it’s growing - and students are welcomed as a very essential element in the continuing well-being and evolution of this community.
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