Q: What is Outdoor Education New Zealand?

A: Outdoor Education New Zealand (ODENZ) is a group of high schools. These schools have formed ODENZ to promote themselves as a destination for young international students who are seeking a special study abroad/life experience.

It is clear to ODENZ that these students must continue with their academic learning while in New Zealand. The special study abroad experience relates to the opportunity to participate in a subject that is part of the New Zealand curriculum framework and which ODENZ schools regard as the equal of any other: outdoor education.

One of the benefits of working as a group is the opportunity for all members to work together in setting high standards for safety and the delivery of their programmes. In fact, all ODENZ members have agreed to work toward a quality/safety mark. It is called the Outdoors Mark and managed by an organisation called Outdoors New Zealand. To receive this quality mark, schools must reach minimum standards in all areas of their planning and delivery of outdoor education programmes.

Q. What is Outdoor Education?

A. Like English or mathematics, outdoor education is a subject in our high schools. Students choosing this subject will gain credits toward their final high school qualification. Outdoor Education includes activities such as kayaking, skiing, sailing and mountain biking, to name just a few.

We see the development of the whole person, not just academic learning, as extremely important. This holistic approach to pedagogy is something we believe has contributed to New Zealand’s success in recent PISA studies. Outdoor education fits this philosophy very neatly. Outdoor education programmes develop achievers. They build self-confidence and resilience, enabling participants to develop an understanding of group dynamics, interpersonal communication, and leadership qualities.

Q. Where do the activities take place?

A. Academic aspects of the programmes take place in the classroom. Some parts of the programme will take place on the school grounds – for example, learning to control a kayak would usually take place in the school swimming pool. Some schools have their own ropes courses. In the most part, however, New Zealand’s great outdoors become our classroom. Most of the schools are close to the mountains, the coast or our national parks and these areas are used extensively.

Q. How does a student decide which school to go to?

A. This is possibly the most important decision. We want what is best for each student and consequently we want them to think carefully about their choices. Some of the questions should be: do I want to be in a city or a town? – close to the coast or the mountains? – what academic subjects must I take (languages, sciences etc)? – what other things do I want to do (music, sport, art, fashion design, computer studies, business, tourism, etc)? – if I take outdoor education, what activities do I want to do (mountains or sea or both)?

Q. Do students need any experience to choose outdoor education.

A. Not at all. Part of the whole learning process is to be able to fit new members into a group safely and enable that person to become part of a team.

Q. Where do students stay?

A. Almost all students will stay with a host family. The schools are responsible for identifying the host family. Once again, we want to know as much as possible about each student in order to put them with an appropriate family. By law, all host families must be checked by the police. If, for whatever reason, there is a problem between the student and host family, and this cannot be resolved, a new host family will be found by the school.

Q. How do students find out more?

A. The best way is to contact one of the many capable agents. ODENZ works closely with a number of such organisations and we see them as a very important part of our business. We believe they do a fantastic job in acting as our representatives in the home country of the student. They provide excellent counselling to students and, very importantly, to their parents. When the student is in New Zealand they act as our main communication channel back to the family.

Q. How much spending money will I need while in New Zealand?

An allowance of NZ$50 per week is average. Check with your school about any extra costs you may need to pay that are not included in tuition fees, such as course costs and uniform costs.

Many international students organise for their parents to deposit money into a bank account they have set up in New Zealand. Alternatively, you can pay any extra expenses with a credit card.

Q. Can I use the internet/email in my homestay?

Homestay families usually allow students to set up their own telephone account so they can access email and the internet from home. This costs about $50 per month, with an initial cost of $50 to $100 for line installation.

There are internet cafes in most towns in New Zealand. An hourly fee is charged, or internet use is free if you buy a coffee.

Q. What equipment do I need to bring?

For outdoor education courses you will need:

  • Good hiking shoes
  • Outdoor clothes
  • Thermal underclothes
  • Swimsuit
  • Hat: summer and winter
  • Small backpack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Outdoor headlamp or torch
  • Ski clothing
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Ski equipment/sunglasses
  • Check with your school to see if it offers rental services for this equipment. Otherwise, outdoor equipment is widely available to buy in New Zealand at a reasonable price.

Q. Can I drive in New Zealand?

You will need to check what your school’s driving policy is. Driving schools are widespread in New Zealand, and the cost of gaining your licence in New Zealand is much lower than in many countries.

Q. Can I join school clubs in New Zealand?

Yes. All schools offer a wide range of clubs, activities and sports that international students can join, most of which are free. Sport is very popular on the weekends and after school.

Q. What subjects do I need to study in New Zealand?

Mathematics and English or ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) are normally compulsory in New Zealand high schools. Students can choose from a wide range of other academic and vocational subjects, such as sciences, history, art, computer studies, accounting and physical education.