Caio & Yago: Two Brazilian brothers finding a home in Te Puke

" “I wanted to come to New Zealand because I heard it was safe and calm, without the dangerous animals in Australia. I love nature and animals and New Zealand is known for both these things.” – Yago"
Caio & Yago

Caio & Yago: Two Brazilian brothers finding a home in Te Puke

There’s something about flying to the other side of the world with a sibling that makes it all a little less scary, so when Yago Vendramim decided to study in New Zealand for a year, older brother Caio decided to head along as well.

The Brazilian brothers, only one year apart, arrived in Te Puke, eager to experience the nature, beaches and top-notch education for which New Zealand is so famous. With the support and encouragement from Te Puke High School’s international team, Caio and Yago decided that while having each other nearby was comforting, they wanted to pursue independence by living with two separate, very different host families.

Four months into their year-long stay in Te Puke, the brothers are relishing this amazing experience. They are experiencing a completely different style of teaching at the modern and innovative Te Puke High School, and are enjoying becoming familiar with the town’s small size and welcoming community.


Caio and Yago are from Brazil’s São Paulo state, having grown up in a rural community called Salesópolis. With their parents and two older brothers, Caio and Yago grew up on what Kiwis would call a lifestyle block – a four-acre plot of land, with plenty of gardens and animals. They come from a hard-working family where Mum and Dad work together on a family business selling agricultural equipment.

Though they live quite a distance from their school and friends, they enjoy the relative tranquility of their town, with less traffic, pollution and crime than is found in Brazilian city life.

Each year the Vendramim family would spend the summer holidays at their beach house in the southeastern coastal town São Sebastião.


Caio, 18, completed his high school education last year after spending a semester abroad in America. When his younger brother Yago, 17, expressed interest in having an overseas experience, studious Caio decided to add an extra year onto his study and come along as well.

“I wanted to come to New Zealand because I heard it was safe and calm, without the dangerous animals in Australia. I love nature and animals and New Zealand is known for both these things.” – Yago


The boys will spend the year studying at Te Puke High School, which they chose because of the abundance of technologically-focused subjects on offer.

“It’s a good school and very different to our school in Brazil. In Brazil, we cannot choose our own subjects and we don’t have sport after school.” – Yago

Te Puke High School is an early adaptor of the modern learning environment concept, using an innovative teaching style to provide students with flexible, open and well-resourced classrooms that focus on modern technology and self-directed learning. It is vastly different from the traditional education system that Yago and Caio are used to back home.


“I enjoy the openness of the classrooms. In Brazil, we sit in the lines of chairs and memorise. I like the NCEA system where we have assessments during the term and a final exam without the pressure of tests every single week.” – Caio

The boys were also surprised that they get to learn practical skills during the school day.

“There is more teamwork here and there are different types of classes, like hospitality where you learn about cooking, food safety and how restaurants run. It’s more formal at home.” – Yago

A major difference is that Kiwi teachers don’t lecture from the front of the classroom; rather they help out at an individual level. They wander around the classroom interacting with students during class, walking up to each table and speaking to each student.


The boys, whose first time living apart was last year during Caio’s semester in America, are living with two very distinct host families. Living apart also forces them to speak English constantly, without the crutch of having their Portuguese-speaking brother on-hand at all times.

“At first it was strange, but we spend our entire lives together, so I think it’s good for us to spend some time alone. It helps us grow independently.” – Caio

Yago lives in a typical Te Puke home a short walk from school. His host family is the principal and his host mother a teacher at the local primary school. He has both a German and a Japanese host brother.

“I love my host family. My host parents are amazing and help me with anything I need. My host siblings have become friends; we have a lot of fun together. I also get to learn about Maori culture as my host Dad is Maori.” – Yago

Caio lives on a lifestyle block out in Pukehina, complete with pigs, dogs and cats. While it’s a lovely family, it was difficult at first being far away from the school and local community. But with support from the international department, Caio decided to persevere and is so glad he did. He has become close to his host parents and two younger siblings, loves the rural environment and the immersion has pushed him to become fluent in English.


Coming from a rural neighbourhood, the boys are loving living in Te Puke, a small town with plenty of space and fresh air. For Caio, having Pukehina beach two minutes away is a special treat.

“Te Puke is small but it has all the basics and everything is close by.” – Yago

Outside of school, the boys spend a lot of time together, and often alternate weekends at each other’s host family’s house. After school, they often play tennis or frisbee and enjoy that you can still access the school grounds on weekends. Yago and Caio are embracing Kiwi life by watching rugby at school, walking up the Mount on their occasional visit to Tauranga, and attempting to surf – even in the cold autumn weather! Both boys have applied for a work visa and, if granted, plan to get part-time jobs milking on a dairy farm.


Caio and Yago agree that food is the biggest difference between their home and host countries, and they dearly miss pão de queijo, a popular Brazilian cheese roll. Food being an integral part of culture, there are certainly differences the boys have picked up on:

“They put mint in chocolate here!” – Yago

“In Brazil, we go home and have rice and beans every day for lunch; lunch is our biggest meal. Here, we have sandwiches which don’t keep you full for as long.” – Caio

The school day is rather different in Brazil, with classes scheduled from morning until around noon, when they go home for lunch and a siesta. The afternoon is reserved for activities like tennis or English lessons.


Still in the early days, the Vendramim brothers are loving their Kiwi experience. Yago, who still has another year of study left, is considering staying on for a second year at Te Puke High School.

“I’d tell other international students to come here, it’s a really good place to live. A lovely country with beautiful beaches.” – Yago

“Make friends with other international students and trust the international department, they’ll help with any problems you have.” – Caio

The boys were lucky enough to have their parents, Pedro and Marcia, visit them over the school holidays. Pedro and Marcia were impressed with New Zealand and pleased to see how well taken care of their sons were at Te Puke High School.

“The reality of visiting Te Puke High School overcome my expectation. Excellent surprise!” – Marcia


The international programme at Te Puke High School is strong, with a legacy of being a welcoming community to a variety of short and long-term students from around the globe. The programme is a perfect fit among the school, which also boasts a highly international local student population. Caio and Yago have certainly benefitted from the school’s inclusive nature and were lucky enough to come during a year where the international director has a special link to Brazil.

Caroline Stevenson, who has just recently started a new job developing New Zealand’s international education strategy at a nationwide scale with ISANA NZ, implemented the programme ten years ago and nurtured it over her tenure at Te Puke. Her passion for international education came from her own experience as a high school exchange student in Brazil.

“I can relate to the student’s experience and understand that it can be a rollercoaster. I know what it’s like to be a teenager in a new country, speaking a new language, far away from your parents.” – Caroline

“Caroline is awesome, and she even speaks Portuguese! It’s really good to have a place that we can come and ask questions and talk through our problems.” – Caio

Caroline has passed the role onto Cathi Fourie who brings with her a wealth of experience in the international education industry. Cathi is already loving getting to know the international students and teachers at Te Puke High School and is excited about carrying on such a strong legacy.