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Scholarship students hitting their stride at Otago

Thursday 9 August 2018 1:56pm

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

Scholarship Eve Battersby thumb

Eve Battersby
Rotorua Lakes High School

Scholarship Felix Webby Thomas Hadley thumb

Felix Webby and Thomas Hadley
Francis Douglas Memorial College

Scholarship Harry Averill thumb

Harry Averill
Napier Boys' High School

Scholarship Ionatana Loua thumb

Ionatana Loua
Cashmere High School

Scholarship Jade Mills thumb

Jade Mills
Whanganui City College

Scholarship Joseph Graham thumb

Joseph Graham
Hamilton Boys' High School

Scholarship Moala Katoa thumb

Moala Katoa
Scots College

Scholarship Taingarue Mataira thumb

Taingarue Mataira
Nga Taiatea Wharekura

Photos: Sharron Bennett.

Eve Battersby

Scholarship Eve Battersby image

When weighing up her tertiary study options last year, Rotorua local Eve Battersby was looking to “experience something completely different”. In the end, it was the one-of-a-kind student environment that ultimately led her to choose the University of Otago, she says.

“It is a city that is almost centred around the university, and offers so much more than other unis are able to. At the same time it is such a beautiful city and landscape.”

The 19-year-old was awarded a University of Otago Leaders of Tomorrow Entrance Scholarship valued at $6,000 which further cemented her decision to study in the south.

She has chosen to study toward a double degree – a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in History.

One of the things Eve loves about her choice to move to Dunedin is her decision to live 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 is great – I’ve had so much academic support. The tutorials are fantastic, and during exam period the tutorial rooms practically saved my life. There is always someone willing to help out – subbies or wardens willing to give up their time to help, or give a rundown on exams.

As for social life, there is just as much involvement from the college: they organise activities, and are always ready to look out for students.”

Living so close to campus means there’s been plenty of time for Eve to take part in activities like the college soccer team and debate club.

Now several months into her first year of study, Eve says she appreciates the opportunities she had at Rotorua Lakes High School and how those experiences helped prepare her for life as a university student.

“My high school offered a wide range of subjects, so I had a good idea of what I wanted to pursue.”

Her advice to those making their own tertiary study choices: “Don’t be too set on any paper or course – there are so many interesting things to explore.”

Though she’d been to Dunedin once before – for her sister’s graduation last year – Eve says there has been one big surprise she wasn’t expecting about the city: “It’s not as cold as I was expecting!”

Felix Webby and Thomas Hadley

Scholarship Felix WebbyThomas Hadley image

Former Francis Douglas Memorial College students Thomas Hadley and Felix Webby 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 around $40,000 over three years.

The similarities continue as both are now residing at Arana College while studying in Dunedin – a city Felix had never even visited prior to taking up his studies at Otago.

The unfamiliarity made the decision to come to Otago a nerve-wracking one for Felix, but ultimately the financial support of his scholarship helped clinch his decision.

“It was very important for me and my family,” he says.

However, he says gaining the scholarship was not the only factor in making his decision.

“I want to pursue a career in medicine, therefore my options were Auckland and Otago. I felt that Otago suited me more from both a lifestyle and practical perspective,” he explains.

Unlike Felix, Thomas had previously visited Dunedin for the University’s Hands-On at Otago programme and an Open Day visit. He says his decision to come to Otago was already made and he was therefore not swayed by receiving the scholarship.

“I also considered Auckland but thought I would prefer the university atmosphere in Dunedin. I thought it was the best place to pursue a degree in Science,” Thomas says.

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

“On the academic front, Arana has been immensely supportive by providing excellent tutorials for each of my papers,” Felix says. “However, the tutors also understand that university is about more than study.”

Felix, an avid croquet player, is taking full advantage of the social activities organised within the college and is enjoying the busy-ness of it all.

“There’s always something going on or a new project to get involved in.”

For his part, Thomas has been making the most of student life and getting involved in his college’s sports nights and events organised by the Otago University Students’ Association.

He admits, he’s been pleasantly surprised by how much the city of Dunedin has on offer.

“As someone heavily involved with the outdoors, mountain biking and running, Dunedin goes above and beyond in catering for these activities. The proximity of my college to the trails in the hills for running and riding has improved my experience greatly.

“The atmosphere of Dunedin makes it a great place to live as a student.”

Harry Averill

Scholarship Harry Averill image

Venturing away from Hawkes Bay was always part of the plan for Harry Averill, but the idea of studying in a “city of students” is what ultimately drew the Napier Boys’ High School graduate to the University of Otago.

“I’d always heard that Otago had an awesome student culture and that the student experience was a unique one,” Harry says. “I knew it would be pretty special to be part of that.”

The 19-year-old was awarded a $6,000 University of Otago Leaders of Tomorrow Entrance Scholarship, which he says has been a “huge help” in getting started at Otago.

He is now several months in to his first year working toward a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in International Business, as well as a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Economics.

Already, his choice of study is opening doors he never anticipated.

“I’m required to learn a language as part of my International Business major, so I decided to take up Spanish. I’ve never learnt a language before and I’m really enjoying the challenge.”

He hopes the effort will pay off with an exchange opportunity at one of Otago’s Spanish-speaking partner universities in the future.

While at Otago, Harry 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.

Living in a residential college has made the transition to tertiary study feel seamless, says Harry.

“Within days, I had met hundreds of people that shared my interests and I would now consider some of these people to be my best mates. We all started the year in the same boat with little to no knowledge of the way university works. The college is such an ideal platform to meet people from all over the country.”

This year, Harry is taking a break from the competitive sport that made up such a big part of his secondary school experience.

“I decided to have a break from the intense side of sports and to enjoy it as more of a social exercise.”

A weekly meet-up with mates at the local tennis and squash club, as well as being part of a social basketball and netball team has been an “awesome way to meet new people and keep fit”.

He’s also been spending time getting to know Dunedin, making the most of the local mountain bike trails and taking in games at the stadium.

“There’s so much to do down here, it’s almost too good to be true.”

Ionatana Loua

Scholarship Ionatana Loua image

Moving to Dunedin to study at the University of Otago has taken Ionatana (Tana) Loua a long way from his family and friends back home in Samoa, but for the 19-year-old, it’s an important first step toward a future in medicine.

Receiving a scholarship under the Pacific Orientation Programme at Otago (POPO) Foundation Scholarship programme has enabled him to take that vital 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 Science 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.

Tana was also awarded a University of Otago Māori and Pacific Peoples’ Entrance Scholarship which he plans to put toward future study after completing his foundation year.

Originally from Samoa, Tana moved to New Zealand in 2014 and graduated from Cashmere High School in Christchurch in 2017.

“I really missed home at first but then I realised that I’m here to do well not only for myself, be successful to help my family and also to be a role model for my siblings. Samoans are very family oriented people. When one wins, we all win.”

Tana says leaving much of his family behind in Samoa was difficult at just 15 years old. He says making the decision to come to Otago and move away from the aunty who had adopted him and two of his younger brothers in Christchurch was equally difficult. However, he is determined to follow his dream of becoming a doctor and supporting his family who still live in Samoa.

Before applying to Otago, Tana did his homework. He spoke with his own family doctor in Christchurch about his time at Otago. He read testimonials from other Pacific students to get their perspective on studying at Otago. He also spoke to a friend who had gone to Otago a year prior. But it was receiving the scholarship that cemented his decision to move to Dunedin, he says.

“It means a lot. I just need to focus highly on my studies.”

Of his first few months in Dunedin, Tana says it’s a “good place to call home” and he would even consider buying a house there one day.

“I’ve met some people I can talk with in my own language (Samoan). There was hardly anyone in Christchurch,” he says.

He and the other students in this year’s POPO cohort have become “like a family”, he says.

Since it began in 2012, the POPO Foundation Scholarship Programme has supported over 70 students to work towards their goal of having a career in health, according to Programme Co-ordinator, Kala Fagasoaia.

“Tana is the product of a lot of sacrifice and hard work from his family. He isn’t taking this opportunity for granted and he has been making a lot of effort to make Otago home,” she says.

While in Dunedin, Tana is staying at Arana College, one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus, where he says he’s getting on well but misses island food – chop suey, pork, luau and taro.

In Samoa, where his family operates a banana and taro plantation, he says “you always eat taro and banana with any meal”.

He has made friends with the cooks at the college, and when asked if they had cooked up any taro yet, he laughs as he says, “not yet”.

Though he is loving his time at Otago, he still misses his family, but he knows he has their support.

“Mum just encourages me to do my best and work hard.”

Jade Mills

Scholarship Jade Mills image

Whanganui local Jade Mills spent her formative years inspired by kapa haka – and now she wants to give back by studying towards a degree focusing on Māori health.

Jade, who is of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi and Ngāti Rangi descent, received a University of Otago Māori and Pacific People’s Entrance Scholarship valued at $10,000.

The first-year Health Sciences student says living and studying at Otago and relocating from Whanganui to Dunedin was an easy decision, but one her family struggled with.

“It’s just my mum and I at home and my mum is studying as well, so neither of us are quite well off, so going to Otago was a huge financial stress for both of us.

“When I received the scholarship, it was like a weight had been lifted off the shoulders and it kind-of made me realise it was possible to go down and do what I had dreamed of doing.”

Jade grew up surrounded by kapa haka, and was at one stage involved in four different groups.

Kapa haka, she says, helps her celebrate and connect with her culture and community. The Māori Health major, then, makes perfect sense for the 18-year-old.

“The [Māori Health] major combines two things I’m very passionate about,” Jade says.

“I’m passionate about health and looking after people, and I care very much about the Māori culture and want to keep it going.”

She says she has received a lot of support from both the residential college she is staying at, Cumberland College, and Te Huka Matauraka, the University’s Māori Centre.

“The Māori Centre has been really, really supportive and made me feel like it was another family and made me feel like it was a home from away home.

“[Cumberland] has been really cool too. It’s been great to meet people from all over the place and make some really good friends as well.”

There’s also another group she has been connecting with. She has also been heading along to kapa haka practices with Te Roopu Māori ahead of the annual Te Huinga Tauira o Te Mana Ākonga event.

An avid performer, Jade says she cannot wait to get on stage again and illustrate the importance Māoritanga holds for her.

“Kapa haka has really helped me with all the messages portrayed through the songs, it’s helped me expand my knowledge of the language.

“That’s what has given me my major passion for our culture.”

Joseph Graham

Scholarship Joseph Graham image

A book by one of the most influential Māori doctors in recent memory helped an 18-year-old Hamilton student pursue a career that has been years in the making.

Joseph Graham, of Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Tainui, and Ngāti Manawa descent, is midway through his first year at the University of Otago with support from a Tū Kahika Scholarship.

The 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.

Joseph says he has so far enjoyed settling into a new phase and has just finished his first round of examinations. Adapting to a new style of learning has been something he has embraced.

“There’s no one on your case 24/7, so you’re by yourself – you’ve got to put in the work,” he says.

“I’m enjoying it more this year because I think I learn better that way, to find my drive.”

For most of his time at Hamilton Boys’ High School, Joseph was juggling between becoming a pilot, or moving towards the medical field. Reading Dr Lance O’Sullivan’s book, The Good Doctor, was the turning point.

“That just really inspired me and drove me to try and go to university and do medicine.”

With his career path set, the next decision aas between Otago and the University of Auckland. He spent a week in Dunedin as part of REACH, an initiative aimed at helping prospective students get a taste of the various health science programmes.

It didn’t take long for Joseph to fall in love with Otago, and he has been connecting with his 16 fellow Tū Kahika scholarship recipients in and out of the classroom.

For Māori Health Workforce Development Unit project manager Zoe Bristowe, connecting with other people is a core component of the Tū Kahika programme.

"TK students are all very committed to improving Māori health and well-being and actively support one another to achieve their study and career goals,” Ms Bristowe says.

"The students are now represented across a range of health professional degree programmes and increasingly in the health workforce.

“It’s a great preparation programme for young Māori interested in careers in health.”

Joseph says a tree-planting exercise with the Kati Huirapa community at Puketeraki recently undertaken by the scholars was an important element to helping him feel like he was settling in Dunedin.

“That was really good to do some community activity, it was just sort-of like being back at home.

“Tree planting is something we do quite often back home, and doing it down here with other Māori was just really relaxing and soothing.”

Moala Katoa

Scholarship Moala Katoa image

Scots College graduate Moala Katoa never spent much time away from home before beginning his tertiary studies, but in order to achieve his goal of becoming a doctor and making a difference in the lives of Pacific peoples, he says the distance is worth it.

The 18-year-old, who grew up in Newtown and is of Tongan heritage, says growing up seeing the health problems experienced by his community is what motivated him to pursue medicine at the University of Otago and contribute to the health sector in New Zealand.

Receiving scholarships under the Pacific Orientation Programme at Otago (POPO) Foundation Scholarship programme has enabled him to embark on that mission with a highly supported foundation year at Otago.

The POPO Foundation Scholarship programme supports Pacific students through a Foundation Year in Dunedin, preparing them for further study in Otago’s Health Science 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.

Moala also received a University of Otago Māori and Pacific Peoples’ Entrance Scholarship which he plans to put toward future study after completing his foundation year.

Arriving in Dunedin for the first time earlier this year, he admits the first few weeks were difficult. Thankfully, Moala has had plenty of support from Studholme College – the residential college he’s staying at during his time at Otago.

Studholme College is one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus. Each offers support and care in its own unique style.

“It’s a really homely place and is not as noisy as some of the other colleges. They’re really strict at exam time, which is good.”

Grateful for the financial support the POPO Foundation Scholarship programme offers him, he is also quick to praise the cultural and community support he is receiving through the programme.

“The co-ordinator is really awesome. She’s really grown close to us, and us to her. If it wasn’t for her support, it would have been a lot harder for us.”

Being in a cohort with other Pacific students allows him to maintain his connection with his Tongan cultural identity and he says he is “grateful to be able to speak my culture”.

Since it began in 2012, the POPO Foundation Scholarship Programme has supported over 70 students to work towards their goal of having a career in health, according to Programme Co-ordinator, Kala Fagasoaia.

“Moala has grabbed this scholarship opportunity with both hands and has been an incredible representative of his community here at Otago. He is such an important part of the POPO Foundation Programme family. I really appreciate his leadership within the group and his commitment to academic success. I’m excited to cheer him on through the rest of his journey at Otago,” says Ms Fagasoaia.

Even with several months of university experience behind him, Moala is still “incredibly grateful” for the opportunity his scholarships have given him: “I don’t come from a wealthy family. I’m always looking to improve. If I can do it, you can do it. It’s a blessing.”

Taingarue Mataira

Scholarship Taingarue Mataira image

For one aspiring medical student, the difficulty of leaving her Raglan-based family behind has been made easier thanks to a new Dunedin whanau.

Taingarue Kotuku Mataira of Tainui, Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou descent, is one of 17 Otago students who have been awarded a Tū Kahika Scholarship this year.

The 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.

Taingarue says the scholarship played a key role in helping shape her future.

“I was looking at going to the University of Auckland, but because of this scholarship I decided to come down here,” Taingarue says.

“It was very important.”

While the university scholarship played an critical role, Taingarue also had the support of her family to make the 1327 kilometre journey from Raglan to Dunedin.

“My whanau has definitely been guiding me along, especially when I get lost a little bit.

“I’m creating my own path but I’m still learning what I want to be, so they have been very good at keeping me above water.”

The aspiring medical student admits she does not know which path she wants to take. However, she knows returning to Raglan with newfound knowledge to help her Māori community is a key motivation.
Māori Health Workforce Development Unit programme manager Zoe Bristowe says the Tū Kahika programme is more than just a scholarship.

“TK is a growing whānau of Māori who will go on to make a difference in the health workforce,” Ms Bristowe says.

“It’s inspiring to see so many young Māori from all over New Zealand working together towards a common goal. Tū Kahika is providing a platform for these students to excel academically."

Taingarue has already started immersing herself within the university student fabric in Dunedin. She and the other Tū Kahika scholarship students have been making the most of the tutorials on offer at Te Huka Matauraka, the University’s Māori centre. Down the track, Taingarue hopes to take part in kapa haka with Te Roopū Māori, the University’s Māori student association.

“Living away from home has never really been a problem for me. I know my family are still there and I’m still supported.

“It just feels like home down here now with all of the Tū Kahika scholarship family.”