Skip to main content

@theinformernz


My Tribute to Whitianga Coastguard

By Marlene Pfenning 

New country, new people, new life. Excited, scared and happy. That’s how it feels when you find yourself alone in a new, unknown country. New Zealand, just wow. Being an international student is the most wonderful and challenging experience I have ever had.

Hi, my name is Marlene, I am from Germany and just turned 18. I arrived in late January 2023. Being on the other side of the world without your family is an experience with a roller coaster ride of feelings. It turned out that Whitianga was the right choice for me.

I’ve always been a water person, as I grew up in a water-loving family and spent a majority of my free time in, on, or by the water.  Additionally, I started tall ship sailing a few years ago. This made me feel weirdly familiar in this precious town by the sea. So, it was obvious, that when my host family told me about the Whitianga Coastguard Alan Jackson Memorial Cadetship and even made sure beforehand that an international student would fit the requirements, I immediately applied, and I was so happy to receive a positive answer.

I expected to learn about radio operation, navigation, water safety and search and rescue. But after a few sessions I realised that the majority of skills taught here would be companionship, dedication, mindfulness, responsibility, communication, teamwork – and kiwi humour. How lucky was I to meet this amazing group of passionate people, exactly 6600 hours after my arrival to this country.

I gained an additional new family, a load of siblings who have learned alongside me, a group of brilliant teachers, a caring auntie and some grandpas, whose attitude clearly changed my life: 

 Diane Phillips who emailed us cadets all relevant info each week, and never missed to add some encouraging extra words and of course a bit of her heart-warming humour. 

Graham Caddy who has always been by my side with his good advice and seemingly infinite knowledge. He always had the right words to explain the search pattern, the radar and screen system. The number of times he said, “tap and hold this tap and hold that”, going over it again and again. Constantly reminding us to always have situational awareness was only one aspect that definitely showed the amount of dedication and passion he has for his work.

Pete Hari who taught me calmly how to drive the insanely fast boat, while always reminding usthat if we hit something to hit it slowly. The amount of patience, humour and experience he shared with us throughout the course is incredible. Still, you need to beware, because if you don’t bring coffee onto the boat, you lose countless points and if you remember to bring it, you should always calculate in which direction it would get stirred, depending on the tide, weather, current…

Martin Little who always had a new challenge for us and managed to find the balance between fun and learning. It was great to have him and his bright and light personality around throughout the course. 

During the 12-week course, all of the cadets studied diligently to pass all tests, aiming for the “outstanding cadet” award. I was wanting this so badly. Aware that as an international student, who will obviously leave the country soon, I thought I would have little chance at winning it. Still, I gave all my best and cried tears of joy when I unexpectedly had the honour to receive this prize. 

I was also ready to cry tears of sorrow, having to leave Whitianga Coastguard and my new beloved grandpas behind as the cadetship came to an end. And I couldn’t believe it when I received the offer to stay, help and join the wet crew. I became a real crew member with a pager, duties and training sessions. The coastguard time became a significant meaningful part of my life, 4800 hours I was given to create, capture and enjoy my newly developed skills. 

Very soon, my time in New Zealand will be over. My “real” mum will fly over to pick me up. Before I left, she always reckoned that it would break my heart to leave New Zealand behind, but she had me falling in love with a young surfer boy. Both of us had no idea that my love would be two boats and their crew, most of them old enough to be my parents or even grandparents. 

I will be leaving with a thankful happy heart, but I will also be leaving with a broken heart, knowing how unlikely it is that I can return to the crew in the years to come. 

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of the Whitianga Coastguard crew for the most fantastic experience of my life.

For any youngster out there, wondering whether it is worth joining the cadetship training… yes, definitely yes! There is no better way to combine fun with a meaningful mission. Go for it but beware: it is addictive!  

 

Coastguard Response

The 2023 Cadetship brought us our first International Student application. Marlene was invited onto the Cadetship Course and was selected as one of the Team Leaders for the duration of the programme. For a young woman, so far from home and family, it has been inspiring to watch her tackle every role, task and challenge with 100 per cent commitment and sense of fun. She set a high standard for herself and maintained that from Day One, resulting in the unanimous decision to award her the Outstanding Cadet award for 2023.

During her training she learnt to drive and navigate a high-speed rescue vessel, completed VHF Radio, Day Skipper, First Aid and Deep-Water Survival qualifications and many more practical boat handling skills. All this training culminated in a night navigation tasking. This is no mean feat when you may not have even driven a boat 11 weeks earlier, let alone doing this in the dark, with ever present rocks and other potential hazards. This demonstrates the personal growth, confidence building and teamwork that all cadets undergo and the trust they build in each other.

We are incredibly proud of the 10 young men and women who undertook the cadetship programme this year. They showed incredible motivation, enthusiasm and drive. I’m sure they had a blast doing it, just like we had so much joy in delivering it to them.

Marlene has left us today, Wednesday, 13 December. She is heading to the South Island with her Mum for a quick sightseeing trip before heading back to Germany. What a great experience it has been having the continued help, energy and presence of this exceptional person around Whitianga Coastguard.

It feels like only a few nautical miles to go, and we’ll be underway planning our 2024 Cadetship. We look forward to applications from 15-17 year-old local youth, for whom these skills are so necessary with us living in this coastal paradise. We will again welcome applications from International Students who have taken the brave step of making MBAS (Mercury Bay Area School) and Whitianga their home for a year.

 Enq: info@whitiangacoastguard.co.nz  (Diane Phillips, Coastguard Whitianga Administration Officer)

 |  The Informer  |  ,

By Marlene Pfenning 

New country, new people, new life. Excited, scared and happy. That’s how it feels when you find yourself alone in a new, unknown country. New Zealand, just wow. Being an international student is the most wonderful and challenging experience I have ever had.

Hi, my name is Marlene, I am from Germany and just turned 18. I arrived in late January 2023. Being on the other side of the world without your family is an experience with a roller coaster ride of feelings. It turned out that Whitianga was the right choice for me.

I’ve always been a water person, as I grew up in a water-loving family and spent a majority of my free time in, on, or by the water.  Additionally, I started tall ship sailing a few years ago. This made me feel weirdly familiar in this precious town by the sea. So, it was obvious, that when my host family told me about the Whitianga Coastguard Alan Jackson Memorial Cadetship and even made sure beforehand that an international student would fit the requirements, I immediately applied, and I was so happy to receive a positive answer.

I expected to learn about radio operation, navigation, water safety and search and rescue. But after a few sessions I realised that the majority of skills taught here would be companionship, dedication, mindfulness, responsibility, communication, teamwork – and kiwi humour. How lucky was I to meet this amazing group of passionate people, exactly 6600 hours after my arrival to this country.

I gained an additional new family, a load of siblings who have learned alongside me, a group of brilliant teachers, a caring auntie and some grandpas, whose attitude clearly changed my life: 

 Diane Phillips who emailed us cadets all relevant info each week, and never missed to add some encouraging extra words and of course a bit of her heart-warming humour. 

Graham Caddy who has always been by my side with his good advice and seemingly infinite knowledge. He always had the right words to explain the search pattern, the radar and screen system. The number of times he said, “tap and hold this tap and hold that”, going over it again and again. Constantly reminding us to always have situational awareness was only one aspect that definitely showed the amount of dedication and passion he has for his work.

Pete Hari who taught me calmly how to drive the insanely fast boat, while always reminding usthat if we hit something to hit it slowly. The amount of patience, humour and experience he shared with us throughout the course is incredible. Still, you need to beware, because if you don’t bring coffee onto the boat, you lose countless points and if you remember to bring it, you should always calculate in which direction it would get stirred, depending on the tide, weather, current…

Martin Little who always had a new challenge for us and managed to find the balance between fun and learning. It was great to have him and his bright and light personality around throughout the course. 

During the 12-week course, all of the cadets studied diligently to pass all tests, aiming for the “outstanding cadet” award. I was wanting this so badly. Aware that as an international student, who will obviously leave the country soon, I thought I would have little chance at winning it. Still, I gave all my best and cried tears of joy when I unexpectedly had the honour to receive this prize. 

I was also ready to cry tears of sorrow, having to leave Whitianga Coastguard and my new beloved grandpas behind as the cadetship came to an end. And I couldn’t believe it when I received the offer to stay, help and join the wet crew. I became a real crew member with a pager, duties and training sessions. The coastguard time became a significant meaningful part of my life, 4800 hours I was given to create, capture and enjoy my newly developed skills. 

Very soon, my time in New Zealand will be over. My “real” mum will fly over to pick me up. Before I left, she always reckoned that it would break my heart to leave New Zealand behind, but she had me falling in love with a young surfer boy. Both of us had no idea that my love would be two boats and their crew, most of them old enough to be my parents or even grandparents. 

I will be leaving with a thankful happy heart, but I will also be leaving with a broken heart, knowing how unlikely it is that I can return to the crew in the years to come. 

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of the Whitianga Coastguard crew for the most fantastic experience of my life.

For any youngster out there, wondering whether it is worth joining the cadetship training… yes, definitely yes! There is no better way to combine fun with a meaningful mission. Go for it but beware: it is addictive!  

 

Coastguard Response

The 2023 Cadetship brought us our first International Student application. Marlene was invited onto the Cadetship Course and was selected as one of the Team Leaders for the duration of the programme. For a young woman, so far from home and family, it has been inspiring to watch her tackle every role, task and challenge with 100 per cent commitment and sense of fun. She set a high standard for herself and maintained that from Day One, resulting in the unanimous decision to award her the Outstanding Cadet award for 2023.

During her training she learnt to drive and navigate a high-speed rescue vessel, completed VHF Radio, Day Skipper, First Aid and Deep-Water Survival qualifications and many more practical boat handling skills. All this training culminated in a night navigation tasking. This is no mean feat when you may not have even driven a boat 11 weeks earlier, let alone doing this in the dark, with ever present rocks and other potential hazards. This demonstrates the personal growth, confidence building and teamwork that all cadets undergo and the trust they build in each other.

We are incredibly proud of the 10 young men and women who undertook the cadetship programme this year. They showed incredible motivation, enthusiasm and drive. I’m sure they had a blast doing it, just like we had so much joy in delivering it to them.

Marlene has left us today, Wednesday, 13 December. She is heading to the South Island with her Mum for a quick sightseeing trip before heading back to Germany. What a great experience it has been having the continued help, energy and presence of this exceptional person around Whitianga Coastguard.

It feels like only a few nautical miles to go, and we’ll be underway planning our 2024 Cadetship. We look forward to applications from 15-17 year-old local youth, for whom these skills are so necessary with us living in this coastal paradise. We will again welcome applications from International Students who have taken the brave step of making MBAS (Mercury Bay Area School) and Whitianga their home for a year.

 Enq: info@whitiangacoastguard.co.nz  (Diane Phillips, Coastguard Whitianga Administration Officer)