Haruni FernandoHaruni came to Palmerston North in January 2016 to study at IPU New Zealand after living, working and studying for seven years in the UK.

Haruni completed a Postgraduate Diploma in International Studies, Business Administration and Management in 2016 at IPU New Zealand and she now works as a Customer Service Representative at Westpac New Zealand.

Why Manawatū?

After finishing her studies, she got her residents visa, which was a great reason to stay in New Zealand. Her husband already had a good job in Palmerston North, and Haruni then got a great job here too, so it was an easy decision to stay in the city.

Haruni describes Palmerston North as a quiet and calm city, with a really good community. She and her husband see the same people every day, so it’s easier to get to know them. She likes the convenience of being able to travel anywhere in Palmy in 15 minutes. It’s quick to get to work, and quick to get home.

Getting Work Ready

At IPU, Haruni learnt about the Student Job Search website and started applying for part time jobs through that. She found a job at Pak n Save as a checkout operator and worked there for over a year, gaining lots of customer service experience in the process. Haruni says this really helped her when applying for her current job.

After finishing her studies, Haruni applied for professional jobs. She wanted to work at a reputable company. She made a professional looking CV and applied for jobs everywhere. She even applied for jobs she thought she may not get.

Haruni used online search and application websites for all of her job searches. She found that most jobs required a work visa or resident visa.

After applying online for a Customer Services Representative role at Westpac, she received an email saying she was short listed and asking her to participate in an online assessment to complete her application. Haruni then received another email to say she was in the final shortlist of candidates, which gave her the opportunity to do a video interview for the position. After the interview she received a call from the Bank Manager asking her to come in for a final face to face interview with two managers.

Haruni was excited to find out she got the job!

Life in the Workplace

Haruni says everyone was really welcoming on her first day at Westpac, and she has started her career with an amazing team. She was feeling nervous because it was her first banking job, but it all went very well. Her first day was spent working through the company’s online learning.

Because of her previous work experiences, it didn’t feel like a big adjustment to understand the New Zealand accent and culture at work. She has found working here much less stressful than working in the UK, especially as she is working only five days a week, and she says the people are more relaxed and not in so much of a hurry.

At Westpac she feels accepted and part of the team. Her manager and colleagues have always been very helpful when she’s asked for help to understand new things. She has shared Sri Lankan food and culture with her colleagues, and work has been flexible about taking time off for special occasions.

Haruni is proud to be part of the team at Westpac. It is the second largest bank in New Zealand and provides a free uniform as well as many benefits to staff. She feels very lucky to have got the banking job she has always wanted.

Top Tips for Job Seekers

Haruni advises international students to get organised and start applying for jobs early.

“Make your CV and be prepared to apply for jobs while you are studying.”

She also says job seekers need to be persistent and not give up when it gets hard.

“If you apply for one hundred jobs, you may only get a call for an interview from one job. You should not give up until you find the right job. Keep applying, then you will get the job you want.”

Top Tips for Employers

Haruni encourages employers to give international students a chance.

“If employers can give a student a chance to get into a job without a Resident Visa, at least they can earn experience.”

Want to find out more?

Hear from other international students on their experience living and studying in Palmerston North.

Discover more.

Manawatū Region

Facts & Figures

Total Population


International Students


Each year Palmerston North welcomes 3,000 international students to the region.

Population Born Outside Palmerston North


Palmerston North has a diverse and vibrant population, with 130 cultures and 90 languages spoken.

Average Weekly Rent


Median Salary


Parks & Reserves


Cafes & Restaurants