High School Study Abroad in New Zealand

Flag of New Zealand

Kia Ora mate, welcome to New Zealand! If you dream of studying abroad in a country of wild landscapes, hobbit houses, adventure sports and sheep, look no further than New Zealand! Aotearoa, or the Land of the Long White Cloud, as it's called by the native Maori, is home to some of the world's most beautiful landscapes and the friendly Kiwis. New Zealand is an eclectic melting pot of a variety of cultures and people from around the world. It's also a great study abroad destination for high school students looking to travel to an English speaking country that has an exciting and new culture to discover!

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, West Coast, New Zealand
New Zealand is known worldwide for their beautiful scenery: start with the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks!
  • Language: The official languages of New Zealand are English, Maori and Sign Language and many New Zealand slang terms and phrases stem from the native Maori language.
  • Popular Destinations: Auckland and Wellington are busy cities on the North Island while Christchurch is popular on the South Island.
  • Cost of Living: The cost of living in New Zealand is slightly higher than that in the US, but as you travel from larger cities to smaller towns prices may decrease.
  • Activities: New Zealand is home to the adventure junkies of the world, hosting activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, repelling down cliffs, skiing and luging!
  • Fun Facts:
    • The indigenous Maori culture is very respected in New Zealand and still has a strong presence throughout the country.
    • Many Kiwis are familiar with the Maori hongi, the touching of noses in greeting.
    • The famous rugby team, the New Zealand All Blacks, even performs a Maori Haka war dance before games to intimidate their opponents! But really, watch a video on YouTube and tell me it's not even a little scary!

When doing research on various study abroad programs, its smart to pick a program that offers the amount of support you desire and the best academic fit for you. Some examples of program types are:

  • Exchange Programs: Enrolling directly in a New Zealand school as an exchange student is a popular study abroad option for high school students. Timetables vary from a semester (about six months) to a full academic year (about 11 months). Students would attend the local public or private school with their Kiwi peers and take classes such as math, science, English, history, art and a foreign language.
  • Summer Programs: If you are interested in visiting New Zealand but cannot dedicate six months to a year to a study abroad trip, a summer program may be a better fit for you. Summer programs mainly focus on sightseeing and traveling and can last up to a month. Academic credit may be available upon request.
  • Service Learning Programs: Want to travel and make a difference? Consider a service learning trip, which combines volunteer work and study abroad. New Zealand volunteer programs usually involve an environmental project or wildlife care and conservation and possibly some community outreach. Service learning trips typically take place during the summer and can last three to four weeks. Look into programs such as Global Works Travel, which also offer college credit for high school students!
Milford Sound, New Zealand
One of New Zealand's most famous landscapes: Milford Sound

You've decided on a program and are ready to apply, awesome! Here are some important things to consider throughout the application process:


For most high school study abroad programs, students must have a passport and be between the ages of 15 to 18 when applying. Many programs also have academic requirements, asking students to have a GPA of roughly 2.75 (out of 4.0) when applying.


For most high school study abroad programs, it is common for students to live with a host family. Typically, your host family is responsible for providing three meals a day, will live close to your school and may have children your age. If you do have a homestay, even if it's only for a few days during a summer program, bring them a gift. Find something that represents your home or is important to you and give it your host family as a thank you gift, the small gesture will go a long way! For students whose programs involve a lot of traveling, accommodations can vary from hotels, hostels, camping or staying at a Maori Marae! But never fear, most high school programs take care of securing accommodations for students.


Before your study abroad sesh', one of the most important pre-departure activities is securing a passport and visa. Anyone traveling to New Zealand from outside the country will need a passport. The passport application process takes about six to eight weeks and can cost roughly $135. For students studying in New Zealand for more than three months, you will most likely need a standard New Zealand Student Visa. If you are visiting New Zealand for a summer program (aka less than three months) and are from a Visa-Waiver Country, such as the USA, Canada and Australia (among others), no visa is necessary. However, if you are working on a service project or doing volunteer work, a visitor visa may be necessary, in which case your program should inform you. When applying for any visa, remember the entire process can take about six to eight weeks and cost from $100 to $350, so budget accordingly!

Financial Costs
Tasman Valley, Aoraki Mount Cook, Canterbury, New Zealand
A beautiful view of the Tasman Valley through Mount Cook

Before you leave, take a break from daydreaming about kiwi birds, hobbits and sheep to plan out your financial situation. Semester fees for study abroad are roughly $11,000 to $13,000, while a full academic year in New Zealand can range from $14,000 to $30,000. Summer programs and service learning trips are about $3,000 to $7,000. Although the program fee may seem hefty, it generally includes roundtrip airfare, health insurance, transportation to and from the airport and three meals a day with a host family. The cost of living in New Zealand is slightly higher than the US, and the currency is the New Zealand Dollar. Some programs recommend budgeting $100 to $300 spending cash per month. However, it may be wise to budget on the high end to ensure you have enough money to fund all your adventures! Don't forget to save roughly $300 for a school uniform- most Kiwi students wear them! If you need help funding your trip, look into applying early to get early bird pricing or fundraise through a site like GoFundMe.com!

Top Reasons to Study Abroad in New Zealand

Studying abroad is always a good idea, especially when you're still in high school!

  • Make new friends! But really, your high school friends are great, but how about mixing it up a bit? Studying abroad is an awesome way to make some international mates and learn what life is like for high school students in another country!
  • Stand out on college applications! Applying to college has become a pretty intense and competitive process, but studying abroad in high school will help you stand out from your peers. Traveling when you're young takes a lot of courage, independence and knowledge, all good traits to highlight on your applications! Studying abroad will expose you to so many different things and may even help you decide on a major after you've been accepted!
  • Gain a global perspective! Traveling is the best way to learn about a new culture and way of life (you can only learn so much from textbooks!). Learning how other people live and approach their daily tasks and challenges can be an eye opening and humbling experience. Think about it, if more people understood a culture other than their own, the level of mutual respect and understanding between those cultures would increase!
  • Why study abroad in New Zealand in high school?

    So there you go, taking the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand during high school is basically the best idea you'll ever have. Enjoy the out-of-this-world landscapes and scenery, friendly locals and learn about the native Maori culture all while taking part in all those adventure sports the Kiwis are famous for. Er, just don't tell your folks about the bungee jumping and skydiving until after the fact, eh?

    Photo credit: Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, Milford Sound, Tasman Valley

Contributed by Sarah Morgan

Sarah Morgan is a twenty-something, recent graduate of the University of Delaware. During her time at UD she studied abroad three times in Puerto Rico, Greece, and England, among other travels. Sarah is a self-diagnosed travel junkie and will be moving to Ireland in August with a Working Holiday Visa. Keep up with her on Twitter @SarahMorgan65.

Do you think there is something missing in our guide to studying abroad in New Zealand in high school? Contact us and let us know! We want to make sure our information is relevant and up to date.

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