Filipo Levi says "it was very hard at the beginning", fitting in university studies with his rugby playing. Nonetheless, plenty of hard work, determination and support ensured success.
Filipo graduated with a BA in Pacific Islands Studies while playing for the Otago and Highlanders Rugby Teams. He went on to play for the Tasman Makos, the Samaon national team and clubs in both Japan and the UK.
"I wasn't the best organised when I was younger, because of the physical and mental demands of rugby training; also when I was playing rugby I was not able to attend tutorials and lectures and was always on the back foot with my studies," says Filipo.
After taking a year off, Filipo returned to university to continue his studies and gained a Master of Indigenous Studies. Thanks to the support and guidance of Michelle Schaaf, (the then) Pacific Studies programme coordinator at Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, as well as other staff in the school and the Pacific Island Centre, Filipo learned to manage his time better and the focus on his studies improved.
Filipo is very conscious that, having been a professional rugby player, he is looked on as a role model. He speaks to groups of young students such as those coming up through the sports academies about the importance of doing something else along with their sports, such as tertiary level study.
Filipo now works in the Education Sector in South Auckland, and is pursuing his passion of helping students from disadvantaged communities.
"My studies have given me a deeper understanding of the underlying issues affecting these communities and helped me to support and engage with students and their families. It is important to give back to the community."