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Scholarship recipients find their way at Otago

Friday, 7 July 2017 3:06pm

A wide range of entrance scholarships are available for students to study at the University of Otago and for Otago students to study at other institutions around the world.

Here we introduce you to just a few of the hundreds of students who received undergraduate scholarships this year.

If you know of any potential applicants who wish to attend the University of Otago, the application form for entrance scholarships at the University of Otago is available online.

If you require any further information, please email: entrance.scholarships@otago.ac.nz

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Ari Palsson
Whakatane High School

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Becks Mercer
Hagley Community College

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Christian Lio-Willie
Massey High School

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Elizabeth Reid
James Hargest College

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Ellen O'Byrne
New Plymouth Girls' High School

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Jennifer Palmer
Orewa College

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John Ma and Callum Hill
Whangerei Boys' High School

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Netana Barsdell
Whakatane High School

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Ronin Ainsley and Tatai Proctor
Te Wharekura o Mauao

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Susana Bryce
Taita College

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Terina Andrews
Te Kura Māori O Porirua

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Yvonne Mitchell
Cheviot Area School

Photos: Sharron Bennett.

Ari Palsson

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With a passion for rowing, when it came time to choose a university to attend after high school, Ari Palsson already had the University of Otago at the top of his list due to the strength of its rowing club. Receiving a prestigious entrance scholarship to attend his top choice university sealed the deal.

The Whakatane High School graduate received a University of Otago Performance Entrance Scholarship valued at $16,000 over three years. The scholarship is awarded to academically able students who demonstrate high-level ability in their chosen area of performance, whether sport, culture, music or arts.

Ari says Otago’s reputation for “top of the line facilities” and continuing success at the New Zealand University Rowing Championships were what attracted him initially.

Now a few months into his studies toward a Bachelor of Commerce degree, he says he is impressed with his Otago experience and his courses so far.

“I feel like I’m learning something new and useful every session.”

During the academic year, Ari lives at Toroa College, one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus, each offering support and care in its own unique style.

At Toroa, Ari says he has found a supportive atmosphere for both his academic and social pursuits.

“The best part of living at Toroa is how easy it is to make new friends. There is a large common room where we can all hang out and play games of pool or watch movies, and there are tutorials for most papers which helps me keep on top of my work.”

Having never been to Dunedin before starting university, Ari says he’s been enjoying getting to know the city.

“Because I’ve been living in a college and I don’t have a car, I haven’t had many opportunities to explore Dunedin outside of the campus, but some of my favourites so far are the beach and Signal Hill.

“Choosing Otago was definitely the right decision.”

Becks Mercer

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Becks Mercer fell in love with Dunedin on her first visit, and had already decided that the University of Otago’s academic reputation and disability support services meant she would like to study there.

After receiving a University of Otago Donna-Rose McKay Entrance Scholarship valued at $6,000, Becks was thrilled to be able to pursue her studies down south with the extra financial support.

Named in honour of the former head of Disability Information and Support at Otago, the Donna-Rose McKay Entrance Scholarship supports students who may not otherwise be able to pursue university study due to the financial implications of living with impairments or long-standing illness.

As a former student of Hagley Community College in Christchurch, Becks says she had enrolled as an adult student with “minimal pass rates” from high school and with help and support from the teachers there, developed the motivation and learning tools she needed to move on to Otago.

After completing a Foundation Year at Otago in 2016, she’s now studying in Health Sciences First Year and plans to eventually major in biomedical sciences – infection and immunity. She wants to become a virologist, and says studying with a disability can make things difficult financially.

“The scholarship really helped take the immense financial pressure off for my first year of Health Sciences in terms of quality of living and extra tuition to suit my learning needs.”

Becks says learning about the human body is a “wonderful thing”, and that the best thing about her first year is having a variety of lecturers and teaching styles.

“The lecturers are all incredibly helpful and strive to push their students toward their ultimate goals. They reflect the value of the departments and the whole course is well put together.”

Outside of her study, Becks enjoys playing sports at the Unipol sports centre, such as basketball with friends or weight training.

“I find it relieves study stress in the height of exam times, and it’s easily accessible and affordable.”

Now settled in at Otago and living in a student flat, Becks says the campus has far surpassed her expectations, and calls it accommodating and well ahead of other learning institutions.

“I knew Otago was a good university, but once I got here and settled in I saw just how much of an academic powerhouse it is. It is a place where you can fulfill your academic learning potential and really grow as an individual.”

Christian Lio-Willie

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Massey High School graduate Christian Lio-Willie says that although the University of Otago’s Health Sciences programme’s reputation was a main factor in choosing to study in Dunedin, receiving two prestigious entrance scholarships took the financial pressure off and encouraged him to make the move south.

A talented rugby player, Christian received both a Performance Scholarship as well as a Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship, together valued at $20,000 over three years.

The university’s Performance Scholarship is awarded to academically able students like Christian who demonstrate high-level ability in their chosen area of performance, whether, sports, culture, music or arts.

Now several months into his Health Sciences First Year programme, Christian says he’s well settled in and has found the mix of papers he is taking to be interesting.

Each paper relates to different parts and functions of the human body, giving a well-rounded preliminary entrance to health sciences, he says.

“There is quite a variety of lecturers and their differences all cater for the different learning styles of students.”

During the academic year, Christian lives at Salmond College, one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus.

In Salmond, he says he’s found a friendly social environment to balance out the study-oriented focus of university.

“Being in a residential college has definitely influenced both my study and social aspects of my life as well as helping me bridge the gap between high school and university to start off on my first year.”

Outside of his study, Christian plays for the local Kaikorai rugby team, though an injury earlier in the season means he’s been playing more football, netball and volleyball for his residential college of late.

As a student of Samoan heritage, Christian receives additional guidance from the Pacific Orientation Programme at Otago, which supports Pacific Islands students in health science programmes.

“The mentoring programme has helped me greatly in learning new material and balancing a healthy lifestyle while preparing for exams. My mentor Eric has closely watched over my progress and the regular catch-up sessions with him have definitely helped me stay grounded.”

Christian prides himself on keeping up with his support system back home, and says his friends and family have been his motivation and pride to do his best in his studies. He credits carrying the same values and beliefs that he grew up with to his new environment in Dunedin, and says the sense of community he found in Dunedin and the University of Otago has been really important.

“My impression of the university is that it is a prestigious and well-oriented learning environment that brings the best out of its students – but also expects the best from its students.

“Dunedin itself is a very safe and easy going town that in comparison to Auckland is very small. Everything is within walking distance which saves a lot of time in your day if you have heaps of places to be. I'd say Dunedin is pretty sweet.”

Elizabeth Reid

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As a national-level alpine ski athlete, James Hargest College graduate Elizabeth Reid says receiving a University of Otago Performance Scholarship meant she wouldn’t have to give up her goal of being a high performance athlete – and to one day compete in the Olympics – in order to pursue her studies in Dunedin.

The prestigious scholarship, valued at $16,000 over three years, is awarded to academically able students like Elizabeth who demonstrate high-level ability in their chosen area of performance, whether, sports, culture, music or arts.

For Elizabeth, Otago’s proximity to the sporting base of Central Otago made choosing the Dunedin university an easy decision as it would still allow her to hit the slopes from time to time.

Now several months into her first year studying toward a degree in Law and Commerce, Elizabeth says she has found her Law papers to be a “fresh start” moving on from high school, and that her lecturers have provided ample support to help the transition.

“The departments are very willing to help with any issues or questions we may have about the course. This is evident in the help sessions and tutoring provided.”

While at Otago, Elizabeth lives at Knox College – one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus – and has found the college to be a “very supportive” environment.

She says the use of a library and tutoring rooms to work with fellow students has helped her academic performance, and she is making the most of the social events Knox organises for its residents to help meet new people and socialise in a common environment.

Having previously travelled to Dunedin for sporting competitions, Elizabeth says the friendliness of the people and student culture gave her a good impression of Dunedin.

“Dunedin for me feels like an extension of home, having so many people from my school and others around Southland that I know here.”

Having competed extensively in alpine ski racing throughout high school, Elizabeth made the decision to put her sporting goals aside momentarily to attend university.

“I still have the hope of going back to it in a few years, potentially for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The decision was not easy for me to make but having the support of the University has made it easier financially.”

Elizabeth says she would definitely recommend the University of Otago to anyone interested in attending, and particularly for high-performing athletes requiring extra support to compete and study.

“From the support of the residential colleges to the university-provided help there is always someone you can ask for help if you need it.”

Ellen O'Byrne

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Receiving a University of Otago Academic Excellence Scholarship, worth $45,000 over three years, was a significant – but not the only – factor in Ellen O’Byrne’s decision to head south for university.

The variety of opportunities available at the university and Dunedin’s appeal made Otago her first choice when it came to setting herself up for future success.

The New Plymouth Girls’ High School graduate is looking to enter the Bachelor of Science programme, majoring in Pharmacology or Biomedical Science after completing this year’s Health Sciences First Year programme.

The unique academic reputation of the university has helped her succeed, she says.

“Despite Otago being tucked away in a corner of New Zealand, many lecturers have studied all over and bring unique international insight to the course, alongside the talented local lecturers.”

While in Dunedin, Ellen lives at Te Rangi Hiroa, one of Otago’s smaller residential colleges; one that she says has a “real sense of community”.

“Moving away from home I immediately wanted a place to study which was vibrant, exciting and most of all a welcoming place to live.

“Te Rangi Hiroa is a superb home away from home. An unexpected touch is that Te Rangi Hiroa, the New Zealander who the college is named after, had ties to my home region of Taranaki, and each floor is named after a river from home. It’s a lovely connection to have.”

The supportive atmosphere of her college extends to both academic and social pursuits, and Ellen mentions a “succeed together” academic environment.

“The college provides tutorials with engaging tutors, plenty of people to discuss study with, and many organised social events. I’d recommend Te Rangi Hiroa College to anyone.”

Outside of study, Ellen plays hockey for the university hockey club.

“My team, the Orcas, are part of a community which has multiple events both on and off the turf and has been a great way to get involved and meet new people. Altogether this has been a sea of fun.”

During her first semester she participated in Relay for Life as part of her college team – an experience she found “incredibly rewarding”.

Having visited Dunedin twice previously on sports tournaments, Ellen says she has discovered a more vibrant side to the student city than she had previously realised.

“My trips to Dunedin gave me an idea of what to expect and the beautiful landscapes, but the city itself is made more vibrant by the student life. It provides student-run events, societies and clubs which the whole town can enjoy.

“It is a very easy place to fit in and become a part of the unique culture.”

Jennifer Palmer

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Jennifer Palmer is a long way from her family in Whangaparaoa but she’s not regretting her decision to study at the University of Otago.

Winning a University of Otago Academic Excellence Scholarship valued at $45,000 over three years went a long way toward reassuring Jennifer that she could afford to move away from home.

“Essentially, it didn’t change my decision – I already had my mind set on Otago – but it did make me feel a lot more confident about my choice and made moving to university much less stressful, enabling me to focus on my studies and activities.”

She is now half way through her first year studying for a Bachelor of Science, majoring in neuroscience.

“Neuroscience is truly multidisciplinary, so I didn’t have to pick between the sciences. It’s a great mix of theoretical understanding-based work and practical applications of what we are learning.”

Though she came from a large high school of 2,000 students, adjusting to university has taken some getting used to, she admits.

“Orewa College is a rather large school, so I’m used to being surrounded by a lot of people. That said, university still is a bit of a culture shock being surrounded by so many people – there are more than 2,000 people taking one of my papers alone!”

She attributes the good study habits and time management skills she learned in school with helping her transition smoothly to university.

“My school was great at letting us manage our own assessments, which is very important at university. Having a school that emphasised individual learning management definitely helped prepare me for this.”

When not studying for her papers, Jennifer has found time to stay involved in music, playing in the Collegiate Orchestra, the Otago Symphonic Band, as well as in a small student-run jazz combo.

She is also finding time for tramping and has joined the Otago University Tramping Club.

“It’s been incredible to get out into Fiordland and Paradise – yes, that’s a real place! – and meet other keen trampers, many of which are international students.”

She is settling into her new home away from home, Selwyn College – one of 15 residential colleges on or near the Otago campus.

“The residential college life of Otago appealed to me as a really unique place to live, and I have made many close friends down here that I simply would not have made if I went to a university closer to home.”

Jennifer says one of the highlights of her time at Selwyn so far has been taking part in the annual Leith Run when Selwyn residents splash their way up the Water of Leith which runs through the centre of campus.

The Leith Run and other unusual college events like Mullet May, the annual cardboard Lindskii Battle, and infamous Selwyn Ballet are typical of the “tight-knit” Selwyn community, says Jennifer: “Everyone here is so friendly and keen to give anything a go.”

Reflecting on her first few months in Dunedin, Jennifer says she is confident she made the right call in going to Otago: “My expectations have been completely surpassed. Not only is the university a great place to study, but it’s also a great place to live and be involved with.”

John Ma and Callum Hill

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Former Whangarei Boys’ High School students John Ma and Callum Hill have more than just their mutual high school in common.

Both were also deemed so academically successful by the University of Otago that they were each awarded an Academic Excellence Scholarship valued at $45,000 over three years.

The similarities continue as they share a passion for medicine, are both now undertaking Otago’s competitive Health Sciences First Year programme, and are both residing at Arana College while studying in Dunedin – a city neither had visited prior to taking up their studies at Otago.

For Callum, choosing to study at Otago came down to some level-headed pragmatism, the lure of free tuition proving difficult to resist.

“I was very much on the fence, almost even leaning to Auckland to be closer to home, but $45,000 is a life-changing amount of money, it’s very hard to turn down!” Callum says.

Gaining the scholarship was not the only factor in Callum’s decision – he was also attracted to the unique lively atmosphere that only a student city like Dunedin can offer.

“I was always gravitating towards the renowned social life of Otago and the Dunedin culture with its true campus lifestyle and fun-loving attitude.”

Like Callum, John says his decision to come to Otago was also solidified upon hearing he had received the scholarship, although he had done some research on the university through word-of-mouth.

“I knew that I’d love to find a career in health, and from conversations I’ve had with friends, Otago sounded like a great place to pursue that dream,” he says, despite having only visited Dunedin “via Google Maps”.

His own impressions of the university have only reinforced this view, finding his lecturers passionate and the practical application of the information learned in lectures a fun way to apply content.

“I often come out of my labs feeling enlightened, whether it’s because the session involved interacting with preserved human tissue models, or because we got to pass electrical currents through each other to induce muscle twitches…”

Callum has also found the Health Sciences First Year lectures have met his expectations so far.

“All the different departments and lecturers run things in slightly different ways with slightly different structures. But the one thing every one of them has in common is a desire to see each and every one of us succeed.”

For both, living at Arana College – one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus – and becoming immersed in Dunedin’s student community have made the transition south an easy one.

“I’m enjoying Arana College very much, it’s a warm, buoyant environment – as our warden likes to put it: ‘home away from home’,” John says. “From Unipol’s amazing sports facilities, to the library, and everything in between, I’m really blown away with how well we’re looked after to ensure we have the best experience.”

Netana Barsdell

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With several family connections to Dunedin, it is little wonder Whakatane High School graduate Netana Barsdell chose the University of Otago to take his first steps toward a career in health sciences.The support he is receiving from the university’s Tū Kahika Scholarship programme is helping ensure he’s off to the best start possible.

“I was already planning on coming to do Foundation Studies because I hadn’t taken chemistry at high school and when I received the Tū Kahika Scholarship, it was basically a full-on confirmation of my going to Otago,” Netana says.

The Tū Kahika Scholarship – sometimes referred to as TK – supports Māori students through a Foundation Year in Dunedin, preparing them for further study in Otago’s Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) course while guaranteeing accommodation in a residential college, and financial assistance for their tuition fees and accommodation costs. HSFY is a prerequisite for those going on to study Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Medicine, Pharmacy, or Physiotherapy at Otago.

Since it began in 2010, Tū Kahika has supported over 100 Māori students to achieve their goals, according to Programme Manager, Zoë Bristowe.

“Tū Kahika is a very successful scholarship programme; we have TK students represented across a range of health professional degree programmes and an increasing number of graduates entering into the health workforce. Students like Netana are the reason why Tū Kahika is working so well. TK students are all very committed to improving Māori health and wellbeing and actively support one another to achieve their study and career goals. It’s a privilege to work alongside such inspirational young people,” Ms Bristowe says.

Even before beginning his foundation year at Otago, Netana was a big fan of Dunedin: “I came down here last year on the REACH programme (an on-campus experience for Year 13 Māori high school students) and through that really got to know Dunedin and how student-friendly it is. It’s not too big for people like me who come from rural areas, yet not too small, so we still get the best of what big cities like Auckland have to offer.”

Netana, who has Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Whakatōhea and Te Whānau-a-Apanui iwi affiliations, says that while his high school in Whakatane helped him prepare, he’s the first to admit that the jump from high school to university has been a big one.

“It is quite different at university and sometimes I think it can be quite a shock for people.”

This year, Netana is living at Studholme College, one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus, each offering support and care in its own unique style.

“Studholme is great at providing areas where students can study and tutorials for those who need it. They are also very accommodating when it comes to having a social life.

“I am lucky to be staying with some of my friends also in the TK programme which makes my life at Studholme even more fun.”

Netana is taking full advantage of the opportunities available to him at Otago, playing plenty of sport, and recently participating in an inter-college Māori and Pacific cultural performance.

Netana says he may be a long way from home, but he couldn’t be happier with his decision to study in Dunedin.

“It is the perfect city for students with everything like the library, gym, classrooms and supermarkets all within an arm’s reach of each other. It’s a very nice place to live.”

Ronin Ainsley and Tati Proctor

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The potential of Te Wharekura o Mauao graduates Ronin Ainsley and Tatai Proctor has been underlined by the University of Otago which has awarded both students a Māori and Pacific Peoples’ Scholarship.
The scholarship, established in 2005, celebrates both academic excellence and cultural diversity, awarding up to $10,000 towards one year of study.

Ronin believes receiving the scholarship heavily affected his decision to attend Otago: “If I hadn't received the scholarship, I would have probably attended somewhere closer to home,” he says.

His passion for sport was another factor in his decision to travel south. “I’m really into my sport and heard that Otago Uni was one of the best universities in New Zealand for the physical education degree,” he states.

Likewise, Tatai found the university a viable option to pursue his passion for sport. “I really enjoyed studying physical education at school and wanted to further my study in this pathway,” Tatai says.

Both are now studying physical education majoring in exercise science at Otago.

Tatai is particularly enjoying learning about physiology and anatomy. “I'm finding PHSE191 – Human Body Systems 1 – interesting as I love learning about the human body,” he says. Ronin also is fascinated by how the body works, stating “HUBS (Human Body Systems) is quite a challenging subject learning about the different parts of the body and how it works.”

Deciding to attend the university offered new challenges for the two, Te Wharekura o Mauao being a relatively small high school compared to the sprawling Otago campus.

“I think the preparation of my school was quite good giving me general life lessons and giving us a lot of support. The teaching help there was really good due to only having 200 students and around 15 Year 13s,” Ronin says.

“Te Wharekura o Mauao prepared me well academically and taught me general life skills, preparing me for the student life in Dunedin,” Tatai adds.

Both have found the university’s Māori Centre supportive of their studies, and are taking full advantage of the workshops and tutorials offered by the centre.

Not only academically supportive, the pair say the Māori Centre has been a haven for the two who, unlike most first-year students at Otago, have opted to flat together rather than live in one of the university’s 15 residential colleges.

“The people and support at the Māori Centre is like another home. They gave me a warm welcoming and helped me find my feet here in Dunedin” Tatai says.

Tatai is happy with his decision to study in Dunedin. “I’m enjoying my time at Otago, having no regrets on my decision to moving down here,” he says.

Ronin adds: “I think it's really good down here. I've enjoyed getting amongst it, meeting new faces. I really enjoy the culture down here.”

Susana Bryce

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Taita College graduate Susana Bryce’s decision to apply to the University of Otago was a first step toward a future in medicine.

Receiving a scholarship under the Pacific Orientation Programme at Otago (POPO) Foundation Scholarship programme has enabled her to take that first step with a highly supported foundation year.

The POPO Foundation Scholarship programme supports Pacific students through a Foundation Year in Dunedin, preparing them for further study in Otago’s Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) course while guaranteeing accommodation in a residential college, and financial assistance for their tuition fees and accommodation costs. HSFY is a prerequisite for those going on to study Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Medicine, Pharmacy, or Physiotherapy at Otago.

While Otago’s highly respected medical science facilities were a big factor when it came to deciding where to study, Susana says the level of support offered through the scholarship cemented her decision, as it allows her to study subjects she didn’t take in high school.

“Receiving this scholarship gave me an assurance that I would have a foundation financially, because coming into university, there are many areas that need attention when you’re taking a leap in being independent,” she says.

“Academically, I felt that I needed to strengthen my other science subjects if I was going to take that step into such an important choice in my career pathway.”

Since it began in 2012, the POPO Foundation Scholarship Programme (then known as the Pacific Foundation Programme), has supported 60 Pacific students to work towards their goal of having a career in health, according to Programme Co-ordinator, Talai Mapusua.

“The scholarship programme exists because of the need to grow the Pacific health workforce so that it mirrors the Pacific population in New Zealand. However we need to grow all areas of the health workforce and so whilst the students usually have an idea of the course they are hoping to get into after the Health Sciences First Year course, part of their Foundation Year is being exposed to different health careers as part of this programme.

“The decision to leave the comforts of family and home is a big one particularly if the student is the first in their family to attend university. Studying at Otago is not just about academics, students are adjusting to a whole new way of living usually different to their cultural upbringing. Susana is certainly making the most of her opportunity through this scholarship and using all the support provided to fill in the gaps that she has in her science background. She has adjusted to the student life confidently this year and is working towards achieving her goals.”

While in Dunedin, Susana is living at Studholme College, one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus, where she says she is enjoying the benefits of living in a smaller college full of “welcoming and accepting people”.

“Studholme feels like a good adjustment when moving from home, and I love the people, the food, and the vibe of it all.”

As a student with Samoan heritage, Susana has connected with the university’s Pacific Islands Centre, and says the sense of community she has gained with their help is “great”.

“The level of support for the Pasifika community in Dunedin was something that sealed the deal for me in deciding to move here, and the Pacific Islands Centre gives that sense of family away from home. Academically, they provide mentors and tutorials, but the moral support is important too.”

For Susana, her Otago experience has exceeded all her expectations. “Being part of the student atmosphere shaped my point of view much better than what I’d heard from others – it’s something you have to experience on your own.”

Terina Andrews

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Terina Andrews has always wanted to become a health professional and use her skills to benefit her community.

So she’s grateful for the support she is getting from the Tū Kahika Scholarship programme that is enabling her to study towards her goal at the University of Otago.

The Tū Kahika Scholarship – sometimes referred to as TK – supports Māori students through a Foundation Year in Dunedin, preparing them for further study in Otago’s Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) course while guaranteeing accommodation in a residential college, and financial assistance for their tuition fees and accommodation costs. HSFY is a prerequisite for those going on to study Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Medicine, Pharmacy, or Physiotherapy at Otago.

Terina, who has Ngāti Ruanui, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngaitai, and Te Whakatōhea iwi affiliations, is looking to one day study physiotherapy.

“I want to be in a position where I can give back to my Māori community, and I believe the most enjoyable and effective way for me to do that is by doing what I love with and for those I love,” Terina says.

Since it began in 2010, Tū Kahika has supported over 100 Māori students to achieve their goals, according to Programme Manager, Zoë Bristowe.

“Tū Kahika is evidencing successful outcomes for students because there is such a high level of manaaki (support) between students and staff. It’s not just for students with ‘gaps’ in science, it’s beneficial for anyone considering challenging programmes (like Physiotherapy) because students get the chance to make connections, sharpen their study skills and work together to achieve their goals. We are excited to have students like Terina coming through the programme as important role models for future Māori students,” Ms Bristowe says.

Though she’d never been to the city before, Terina, a Te Kura Māori O Porirua graduate, chose to study in Dunedin largely because of its reputation.

“Many people told me Otago would be the best choice if I wanted to pursue a career in health while still being able to practise tikanga Māori.”

While in Dunedin, Terina is living at Arana College – one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus, each offering support and care in its own unique style.

“Arana residents work hard but also know how to play hard, so it’s never really a dull moment at the college!”

Though her studies have kept her busy, Terina has found time to join in on weekly sports nights with her college, and occasional participation in kapa haka and waka ama.

Now several months into her Foundation Year, she says she is loving everything about her Otago experience and her new home away from home.

“For me, the Tū Kahika participants are all a big whānau, with the recipients this year being the annoying cousins you can’t get rid of at the hui marae, and the recipients from previous years seen as our seniors who give life advice and study tips to help us because they’ve all been in similar positions.

“The people in Foundation Year have helped me realise that I am not the only one with English as a second language studying toward a career in health. I can’t help but feel like I am not alone and I can study at my own pace without judgement.”

Yvonne Mitchell

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Earning even one scholarship is an accomplishment anyone can be proud of. For Cheviot Area School graduate Yvonne Mitchell, earning three prestigious University of Otago entrance scholarships was an unexpected reward for years of hard work.

Yvonne (Ngati Awa) says she would never have been able to attend university if it weren’t for the three scholarships she received: a University of Otago Māori and Pacific People’s Scholarship, Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship, and a Dux Scholarship, together valued at $17,000.

And that’s on top of the support she received from the Cheviot community through the Cheviot Lions Club and Hurunui Secondary Schools Achievers fund.

Now that she’s settled into student life in Dunedin, she says she’s grateful for the support and isdetermined to do well and “prove that I really do deserve these scholarships”.

Yvonne got her first taste of life at Otago attending the University’s Hands-On at Otago summer programme last year.

Originally interested in studying law, she took part in a psychology starter course and found she enjoyed the experiments they conducted.

It was that experience which led her to apply to study at Otago.

She is now in her first year studying towards a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in psychology.

Yvonne believes her area school learning environment prepared her well for the independent nature of university, and the “willing engagement” of her lecturers has made the move an easy one for her.

“My area school had about 200 people ranging from Year 1 to 13. I had to learn independently by video conference classes. It taught me how to manage my time, remember deadlines without anyone reminding me, and find resources if I didn’t understand something – all of which are important skills I have needed here at university.”

Living at Studholme College – one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus – Yvonne says she has found a supportive learning environment with like-minded people.

“The motto that Studholme is the ‘friendliest’ college is definitely true! The college provides tutorials for all of my courses, and there are study halls that we can book for group study.”

Yvonne considers herself “lucky” to have the support of the Māori Centre at the university, where she receives extra tutorials, resources, and access to the mentoring programme where she is linked up with students in the same programme who are in their second or third year.

“It’s really nice to know I have them for support as well if I ever have any questions or just need someone to talk to.”

As well as her studies, Yvonne has a rich extra-curricular schedule. She plays netball for the PhysEd netball club, and works part time at Distinction Hotel as a waitress. She has also joined the Te Roopu Māori kapa haka group, and the Studholme and Arana Māori and Pacific Performance Group.

“Being involved in Māori culture was an opportunity at Otago that I wanted to embrace.”

Though Yvonne knew what to expect before coming to Otago, that hasn’t diminished her enjoyment of her new life in Dunedin: “It’s definitely what I was expecting and maybe better.”