UP Education, New Zealand’s largest independent tertiary education provider, says its partnership with global personal safety and mental health support company Sonder is helping its international students feel safer, supported and more secure while studying in New Zealand.
UP Education Chief Executive Mark Rushworth says the partnership, the first of its kind in New Zealand’s tertiary sector, is delivering a step-change in pastoral care by providing in-person and virtual support to students when they need it, wherever they need it.
“Through the partnership, every one of our international students can download the Sonder app for free and make use of the safety features, or seek assistance, 24/7 from the Sonder Support Centre. Students in Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington can also request in-person support from a local network of Sonder Liaison Officers, who will travel to them and provide immediate assistance,” explains Rushworth.
“In the first three months of our partnership with Sonder, one in every two of our international students has activated a Sonder account, and over 90 percent of these students are making active use of the services provided by Sonder, with nearly 95 percent of students saying the service is giving them peace of mind.”
“This feedback is really important to us. Our international students are far from home and many have a limited support network. While we have a brilliant one-to-one approach with students, we know that feelings of concern and anxiety are natural. This can be compounded when moving to a new country for the first time, especially during a pandemic. That is why we have partnered with Sonder, providing our students with the extra support they need via their smartphone.”
“New Zealand is known as a great place to study, and we attract high quality students from around the world. These students have travelled far from home and are entrusting us with their education. In return, we have an obligation to make sure that they are safe and that we are providing them with all the support we can. With Sonder, we are doing just that!”
Sonder Chief Executive and co-founder, Craig Cowdrey, says Sonder improves the safety and wellbeing of international students, breaking apart the isolation that can come with moving overseas.
“No matter where you are, or the situation you’re in, Sonder can help you be safe. When people feel supported, they make better calls when challenging circumstances arise. This is something we’re seeing more of and it’s our role to help people through the tough times – to take the best action to protect their rights, welfare and safety.”
Rushworth says Sonder has helped UP Education’s international students with a wide range of issues, from a lost cell phone to alerting them to a major police incident in Wellington to helping them manage mental health concerns.
“One of our students was having a really difficult time with anxiety and needed to speak to someone in the early hours of the morning. Through our partnership with Sonder, they were able to quickly talk to a Sonder staff member who was able to undertake a mental health triage, arrange a doctor’s appointment for the following day and referred them to Healthline. Contact was maintained throughout the night to provide ongoing support, as well as following up after the appointment to assure them if they needed further support, all they had to do was make contact.
Cowdrey says the partnership with UP Education is an important milestone for Sonder as the company expands its operations internationally.
“Partnering with an education provider like UP Education, who has a clear commitment to the health and wellbeing of its students, was an important factor for us in progressing the next phase of our company growth. Extending our service to the New Zealand education sector is an exciting step for us as we continue to make the world safer and more meaningfully connected.”
UP Education’s partnership with Sonder is seeing students offered a range of services, including: