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Richie Chen grew up in China, but is no stranger to attending schools overseas. He started high school in South Africa before coming to Palmerston North Boys’ High School in February 2017 to begin year 12.
Palmerston North’s smaller size and relaxed pace appealed to Richie, who’s 17, as a home town. “My parents and I heard a lot of recommendations from our friends about its [Palmerston North] safe and welcoming environment,” he says.
Palmerston North Boys’ High School (PNBHS) helped to organise a homestay, which Richie says makes him feel included in New Zealand’s multicultural environment. “I am living with a Fijian lady and her friends. She is so sweet and caring and is part of my family now.”
Like any move to a foreign country, it was daunting to begin with. “When I first came to New Zealand, I was a little bit scared as it was a new environment,” he says, but making new friends soon helped.
“I joined an international group that has many students from different countries and backgrounds. We play sport together and help each other. I try to get involved in as many activities as possible and make friends with others. Kiwis are friendly and welcoming as well,” he says.
He finds PNBHS’s mixture of hands-on-learning, theory and practical work teaches him to think critically, in a really supportive learning environment. “The teachers always have time for discussion at the end of each class,” he says.
Trial exams, or mock exams as they’re also known, offer a practice run for students before they sit the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), and Richie says that’s been a huge help to gain experience and prepare for the final exams.
While his favourite subject at school is art, which covers painting, photography, and design, he has his sights on a very different career path.
After completing year 13 in 2018, he plans to apply for another student visa to enrol at the University of Auckland to study aircraft engineering.
Aside from study, Richie is keen on the outdoors and enjoys school trips to the snow or camps, where he says students can relax, learn from each other and become friends. Outside of school, he’s an avid basketballer and often hangs out at the City Library and the Youth Space with his friends during the weekends.