Janek: Study and Surf in Northland

Hi there! My name is Janek Groll, I am 16 years old and I come from Switzerland. Currently I am on an exchange year in New Zealand. I live with a host family near the town Kerikeri (approximately 10 minutes by bike) and I am studying at Kerikeri High School.


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School in New Zealand

Studying over here is quite different compared to Switzerland. School starts at 8:40am and finishes at 3:00pm whereas in Switzerland times are variable and longer. As I am a senior student in year 12, I had to choose 6 subjects at the beginning of my exchange year. This is also quite a significant difference to Switzerland because there we have around fourteen subjects we have to study anyway and can not even choose them. Wearing uniform is another major point which I must be honest I quite like though. Everyone is wearing the same outfit and you do not have to choose what to wear in the morning.

I personally like attending academic subjects. I love doing maths and physics. I chose six subjects of this kind in the first half of my exchange year. But at some point I realized that I do not have to focus on studying hard for subjects at home but should take the opportunity to do something completely different. Kerikeri High School has a very wide range of subjects you can take. So next year I am going with subjects like photography or music.

From school to homestay

While you are in New Zealand you will stay with a host family. It is quite an enormous difference to my home country. Not only cultural but also the behaviour. Though in my opinion this is part of an exchange. You want to get to know new surroundings and want to adapt yourself to them. And even though it is different my host family is extremely lovely and kind. I can just say I am more than happy in my family and the way they treat me they also want me to be a part of this family.

Surfing and other opportunities

Apart from school there are so many opportunities for you how to spend your spare time. For example I love surfing. My host father is into surfing too, so almost every weekend we are out in the water looking for some nice waves to hit. In town you have the possibility to go to the gym which is a very popular place among the students. Also there is a genuinely nice golf club in Kerikeri where you can find me very often because I spend a lot of time there. Another opportunity you are given in town is dancing. Several types of dances will be taught and performed during the week (no worries, it will not be in front of an audience😊).

But not only in Kerikeri there are sports activities. In Waipapa, which is about 10 minutes from Kerikeri, there is a sports centre where at different days of the weeks there are different sports you can do as for example Badminton or Tennis. If you or your host family knows someone who does horse riding or owns a farm with horses, this is also a popular and common sport in New Zealand you can perform. So when you come here you do not have to worry about being bored after school. There will always be something to do, especially in summer.

Sightseeing in Northland

If you are not occupied with fun activities and your family wants to go on a trip with you and show you around Kerikeri they will take you to many interesting places. The closest one is the Rainbow Falls in Kerikeri. It is a big waterfall which spray and the right direction of the sun creates a rainbow. It is beautiful to watch and you can also go on a bush walk down the river. Another popular place a bit further away is the Cape Reinga. It is the most northern point of New Zealand and it is the place where the two oceans (Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean) collide. Not only your host family might take you there but also the international students do a trip up there.

My future plans

My exchange year is halfway through now which is crazy and a bit frightening because time flew by so fast the past months. Nevertheless I have to think about what I am going to do by the time I am back and what I want to do after graduation. First I will finish Highschool back in Switzerland. It will take me another 2 years until I graduate. Afterwards I plan on going to one of the best universities in Switzerland which is called the ‘ETH Zürich’. So far I am not sure whether I want to study Engineering or Aviation. But I will settle that in the 2 years of school I have left.

My recommendation

But currently I am not thinking about that. I am just enjoying another 8 months here in Kerikeri in New Zealand. I can highly recommend coming down here. It was always my dream to do an exchange year and New Zealand was the best decision I have ever made. You get everything over here, whatever you are looking for. Nature, social life, the sea and everything else.

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