Kiwi Calling: A Migrant Teenager’s Guide to Thriving in New Zealand in Year One

Kiwi Calling: A Migrant Teenager's Guide to Thriving in New Zealand in Year One
Moving to a new country is an exciting adventure, but it can also be a challenging experience, especially for teenagers. This guide is designed to help migrant teenagers adjust to life in New Zealand during their first year. From understanding the education system to embracing the local culture, we’ve got you covered!

Understanding the New Zealand Education System

New Zealand’s education system is recognized globally for its quality and holistic approach. It is divided into three levels: early childhood education, primary and secondary education, and further education.

Primary and Secondary Education

Primary education starts at Year 1 and continues until Year 8. Secondary education, also known as high school, begins from Year 9 to Year 13. The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is the main national qualification for secondary school students in New Zealand.

Schooling Structure

The school year in New Zealand starts in late January and ends in mid-December. It is divided into four terms with a 2-week break between each term and a longer 6-week break over the Christmas period.

School Enrollment

When you arrive in New Zealand, you will need to enroll in a school. You can choose to attend a state school, a state-integrated school, or a private school. State and state-integrated schools are government-funded, while private schools are funded by the fees paid by parents.

Embracing the Kiwi Culture

New Zealand, also known as Aotearoa, has a rich cultural heritage that is a blend of Māori, Pacific, European, and Asian influences. As a migrant teenager, embracing the local culture will help you feel more at home.

Māori Culture

The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. Their culture, language, and traditions are integral to New Zealand’s identity. Key aspects of Māori culture include the haka (a traditional war dance), marae (meeting grounds), and kapa haka (performing arts).

Kiwi Food

New Zealand’s food culture is diverse and influenced by Māori, European, Asian, and Pacific cuisines. Some traditional Kiwi dishes you must try include the hangi (a traditional Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven), fish and chips, and the pavlova (a meringue-based dessert).

Making Friends and Building Connections

Building a new social circle is an important part of settling into a new country. Joining clubs and participating in school activities can help you meet new people and make friends. Remember, Kiwis are known for their friendliness and hospitality, so don’t hesitate to reach out and make connections.


Adjusting to a new country takes time, but with an open mind and a positive attitude, you can make the most of your first year in New Zealand. Embrace the opportunity to learn, grow, and experience a new culture. Welcome to your new home, Aotearoa!

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