Meet Student Ambassador: Ellie Epley

Student Ambassador, Ellie is a student at Springbank School and lives with her family in Kerikeri. She has lived in many countries around the world and talked to us about why Northland is now her home…

Why did you choose to live in Northland?

I’ve lived in Kerikeri previously when I was 2 to 6 years old and attended Springbank School as a pre-schooler. My family and I left the country for about 10 years and lived in a few different places. We first went to Saipan in the Northern Marianas Islands, then to Fukuoka Japan, then to Kona Hawaii and finally back here. We decided to move back because despite all these places being lovely, we all felt that Northland and Springbank would be the best place for growing up in a safe environment and receiving the best education. A huge part of what makes Kerikeri so special is its gorgeous natural surroundings. It’s not every day that you come across a town that has a National Park worthy waterfall right in the midst of it. It’s sort of a crazy story as to why my family chose to move back to New Zealand when we did.

My family and I loved Kona, but we felt like it wasn’t the right place for us. When deciding where to move, a big pull for New Zealand was that if anything major went wrong in the world, New Zealand would be one of the best places to be. My dad made the executive decision to move back here because of that reason and 6 months later we started hearing about covid. This has made me especially thankful that I’m in New Zealand. I often have to remind myself not to take things like attending school in person and hanging out with friends for granted because so many people around the world still can’t do such things. The sense of unity and security that New Zealand has makes living here all the more special.

What do you love about being a student at Springbank School?

I think what I love most about studying at Springbank School is the small classes and safe environment. Despite that being what many people think is the downside of Springbank, I appreciate the small numbers in class as I get more one on one time with my teachers to learn as much as possible. I also like how close everyone is. My class is like a family, we have tons of fun and laughs but we’re also all on the same page for things like going to university and studying hard.

Another favourite aspect of school here is the sports. The limited numbers mean that the same few kids get to partake in many different sports and clubs. Last but not least, I love my outdoor adventure class. At the moment we are going surfing once a week in Ahipara. Outdoor adventure is such an amazing class where we get to go on treks, swimming, surfing and learn things like risk assessment, Maori culture, and bush craft.

What is your favourite experience in Northland?

My most favourite experience I’ve had so far was the Cape Brett Challenge. On the Cape Brett Challenge 7 other students, our outdoor adventure teacher Mr. Horgan, and I swam at first daylight across the Albert Channel and then trekked to Cape Brett. The swim was about 2 kilometres and took us a little more than an hour. It was quite the challenge and by the end, my arms felt like they were about to fall off.

After that we had a quick change and break and started on the 16 km walk up and down steep inclines. The water was crystal clear, and the view was gorgeous, two things you can constantly expect to see in Northland. Afterwards on our boat ride back to Urapukapuka we even got to see the hole in the rock which is a popular tourist destination. The rock structure was so impressive, even more dramatized by Malindi and I singing the theme song to Jurassic Park and the Titanic.

What sports and hobbies are you keen on?

One of my favourite interests/sports/hobbies is volleyball. I run an afterschool volleyball club at school and am going to partake in a volleyball tournament with 8 other senior girls in the club. It’s such a fun social sport, it teaches you so much about teamwork and coordination.

Another fun hobby to do around here is go to the beach. The water is so lovely to swim in, and there’s always the chance that you’ll get to see a stingray or a dolphin. Some of my favourite beaches to go to are Tapuaetahi and Long beach. They are fun both when there are waves to surf and body board on, and when it’s calm for floating on your back and relaxing. If visiting Northland, spending some time at the beach is a must. For exercise I do a lot of running on the Rainbow falls track and at the Haruru falls track. The large and grand trees fully immerse you into nature and provide shade during the hot summer.

Where in Northland do you like to hang out?

My favourite places to hang out in Northland are the Stone store basin and Russell town. The Stone Store basin is so cute and quaint. The water at sunset reflects the sky and making a very picturesque and aesthetic view. Atop the hill by the Pa is a great place for a picnic or throwing a ball around with friends which I’ve done many times before.

Russell town is a lovely place to stroll around and eat at a café and go for a swim and watch boats. It’s honestly got everything I need for a summer get away; except I can go there whenever I want. The wharf has proved a great place for grabbing takeout and eating breakfast or dinner on while watching the sunrise or sunset. The old buildings make for a very aesthetic scene. Russell town never fails to entertain me and make me thankful that I live in Northland.

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