Principal addressing school assembly

Life in New Zealand


Your life as a secondary school student in New Zealand will be very different to the routines and expectations that you are accustomed to in your home country. The only way to learn the New Zealand way of life is to live it, but here is a little bit of information to get you thinking about what your life in New Zealand might look like.

International Leaders
Principal addressing school assembly

A Typical New Zealand Day

New Zealand teenagers get up around 7:00am to prepare for the school day. Breakfast usually comprises of toast or cereal and a hot or cold drink. Some teenagers will make a packed lunch to take with them to school and others will purchase their lunch from the school kiosk. If you live close to Waimea College you will probably walk or bike to school in the morning, and if you live further afield your host parent will drop you off, or catch a school bus.

School begins at 8:45am and goes till 3:10pm. There are two breaks in the middle and students are required to remain on the college grounds all day. You will have 5 one-hour lessons during this time. After school, many students will have a sports or music practice, or will have a club activity like debating, rocket-building or adventure racing. On days where you do not have an after-school activity, you might spend time at a friend’s place or meet with your friends at the Richmond Mall.

New Zealand teenagers are expected to be home before dark and you would normally have dinner together with your homestay family around 6:00pm. After dinner you might do things like complete your homework, spend time time doing activities with you host family or go out to a sports match. New Zealand families normally go to bed between 9:30pm – 11:30pm.

A New Zealand Family

During your time in New Zealand, you will be matched up with a host family that shares similar interests and values as you. Your host family will welcome you into their home and teach you about their way of life. They will become part of your family and perhaps even visit you in your home country in the years to come.

New Zealand families are all different. Some of our more common host family configurations include:

  • A mother, a father and younger children
  • A mother and father whose children now live away from home
  • A single parent raising their children
  • A couple with no children

New Zealand is proud of its multi-cultural heritage. We have many different backgrounds and cultures, but we are all New Zealanders. It is a condition of becoming a Waimea College host family that English must be the primary language spoken within the home.

Fish n Chips
Family home

A New Zealand House

A New Zealand home is usually built out of wood, brick or roughcast. Our homes have insulation and are heated by a wood burner or a heat pump to keep us warm over the winter months. In the summer, it is much warmer and New Zealand families will either open up their windows or utilise the air conditioning function of their heat pump to cool the home down. All New Zealand homes are equipped with things like fridges, freezers and washing machines, and some homes will also have dishwashers and clothes dryers.

In Richmond, most houses are built on flat sections and are unattached from the neighbours’ homes. Many families have a large backyard, and some even have swimming pools. In the summer time, New Zealand families will often get together for a typical kiwi barbeque – a shared meal together in the backyard or deck.

The Nelson Tasman Region

Waimea College is located in Richmond, in the Tasman region with an estimated population of around 54,000 people that is bordered by the mountains of the Kahurangi, the beautiful Tasman Bay and the wild rivers of the upper South Island. The town is a hub for the fruit-growing, wine-making and forestry industries and is a 15min bus ride away from the charismatic Nelson City.

The Nelson Tasman region is home to some of the most stunning natural beauty in the world. It is a vibrant and sought after location with some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand. We are well known for our safe community, amazing outdoor opportunities, a gourmet food and café scene and relaxed lifestyle.

The NZ Education System & Student Achievement at Waimea

A New Zealand High School will typically include five years of continuous study. This is comprised of two years in junior high school and three years in senior high school. The junior high programme offers students a broad range of subjects across the curriculum with the intention of guiding them towards making a successful decision as to what they would like to study in their senior years. The senior programme offers students greater choice in the subjects they would like to study with the final goal being the attainment of NCEA Level 3 and University Entrance in their final year. Senior students will have NCEA examinations for each year of senior high school as well as numerous class assessments throughout the school year.

Please click here for more detailed information on New Zealand’s National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA).

Please click here for further information on studying at a New Zealand secondary school for an international student.

Students at Waimea College study towards New Zealand’s National Certificate of Educational Achievement. Waimea students are well supported and consistently achieve at a higher level than the national average in New Zealand.

Achievement in NCEA may also be counted towards some international qualifications.

Click here for more information on Abitur Equivalency (German).

Click here for details on Mayttayom 6 Equivalency (Thailand).

International students from Waimea College go on to study at universities all over the world.

Food Technology

Choose Your Subjects

We have a large variety of interesting subjects to choose from at Waimea College including academic subjects like English, Mathematics and Science; as well as more practical options like Photography, Psychology and Mechanical Engineering. The subjects you choose will play a vital role in your New Zealand Educational experience, so it’s a good idea to think carefully about what you want to study as a student of Waimea College.

We ask that you list the subjects you would like to be enrolled in on your application to Waimea College. This gives us an idea of what you would like to do and helps us create a preliminary timetable for you. Once you arrive at Waimea, you may wish to make some changes to your timetable and this can be done in liaison with our International Dean.

For more detailed information on the subjects you can study at Waimea College:

Please click to see our 2023 Senior Curriculum Handbook

Please click to see our 2023 Year 10 Curriculum Handbook

Please click to see our 2023 Year 9 Curriculum Handbook

Please click to see our 2023 Course Outlines

Please click to see our Subject Pathways

Pre-Departure Information

Outdoor Education

If you’re planning on taking Outdoor Education, most specialist equipment will be provided by the school. We do recommend you bring your own tramping boots and a waterproof jacket if you have one. Thermal underwear will also be useful although this is not very expensive to buy in New Zealand if you can’t fit it in your suitcase.


We will provide you with most items of school uniform when you arrive in New Zealand, however, there are a few items that you will need to bring from home or purchase when you arrive. This includes plain polishable black shoes, as well as socks and tights for female students. A lot of our students choose to wear a plain black jacket at school for the cooler months if you want to bring one with you. This jacket must have no logos or a hood.

Musical Instruments

If you own a musical instrument and plan on taking lessons while you’re here, consider bringing your instrument with you (depending on how big it is). In many cases, the cost of hiring an instrument in New Zealand is similar to the cost of paying a little extra to fly with it, and the instrument you hire may not be of the same quality you are used to.

Homestay Families

We recommend contacting your homestay families before departing for New Zealand. They are excited about meeting you and often appreciate the opportunity to connect with you and your family.

Laptops & Devices

Waimea College is a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) school. The College will be able to provide laptops to students who don’t own one, but if you have a suitable device at home, you may prefer to bring it along. The College provides students with free access to our primary software (Office 365) which works best on a PC operating programme.

Sports & Clubs

A friendly reminder to families that for most Waimea College sports and clubs, an additional charge will apply. The amount of this varies considerably and covers things like uniform, usage fees and competition entry. Please contact the International Manager about this if you require specific details for your son or daughter.

Emergency Contact

In the unlikely event you face difficulties during your travel to New Zealand, support is available to you from Waimea College. In an emergency, please contact Hayley Roper (International Manager) on +64 21 0242 2503. If your flight is delayed or you require assistance at the Airport, please contact Hayley Roper on +64 21 0242 2503.