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Friday 6 November 2020 2:34pm

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The recipients of the New Zealand Scholarship who are preparing to graduate in December.

For many of the recipients of the New Zealand Scholarship studying at Otago has given them the opportunity to follow dreams they otherwise couldn’t have.

When Charmaine Kwan, of Fiji, flew into the Dunedin International Airport and saw grassland for as far as she could see, she thought she had made a big mistake choosing Otago.

However, over the three and a half years she has been at Otago she has grown to love those grasslands.

Her journey to complete her PhD in Higher Education has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

She got engaged and was super happy. Then her father became sick and she deferred her PhD for three months.

“I know that many of you will have faced a number of challenging times during your studies here and I think we can all reflect, particularly on this year, being especially challenging and unexpectedly so, but I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge your resilience and your perseverance in continuing on track and achieving your goals no matter what challenges you faced here.”

Then when all her wedding plans for this year were in place, COVID-19 struck.

However, instead of letting circumstance discourage her from following her dream to complete her PhD on the development and challenges of pursuing Higher Education, she instead chose to be resilient.

She refused to let the pressures from back home and all of the other pressures she had to juggle stop her.

“Despite all these experiences, I’ve learnt from the islands, that if you’re blessed with an opportunity to study abroad, become resilient no matter the circumstance because you were chosen out of the many in your own island country.”

Miss Kwan was incredibly grateful to have received her scholarship and have had the opportunity to study in New Zealand.

“I intend to go back to Fiji and help the people that were not fortunate to experience what I have experienced in New Zealand.”

Likewise, Asena Foliaki, of Tonga, struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic to complete her Postgraduate Diploma in Science (Food Science).

“This year has been a rollercoaster for me, but hey I’m here.”

Despite the ups and downs of this year Miss Foliaki credits the University, it’s staff and aid from Pūtea Tautoko for getting her through to the finish line.

“I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to MFAT for giving me the opportunity to be part of this scholarship and most of all to experience how it feels to study in one of the top universities in the world.”

The objective of the New Zealand Aid Programme, run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), is to support sustainable development in developing countries to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world.

The New Zealand Scholarship aims to build potential leaders through increasing the knowledge and skills of individuals and communities through supporting study at world-class New Zealand universities. It offers full scholarships for undergraduate and postgraduate academic study in New Zealand and in the Pacific.

The 17 NZ Scholarship recipients, who plan to graduate in December and May, hail from Nigeria, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, The Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Thailand, Vietnam and China. Among them there are scholars in health sciences and business who will all leave New Zealand with the intention to improve their communities in different ways.

Megan Smith, Manager of International Marketing, says it's an honour the scholars chose Otago to not only be their University but their home while they studied.

“I know that many of you will have faced a number of challenging times during your studies here and I think we can all reflect, particularly on this year, being especially challenging and unexpectedly so, but I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge your resilience and your perseverance in continuing on track and achieving your goals no matter what challenges you faced here.”

New Zealand Scholarship Completion recipients:

Aminat Opeyemi Razaq, Nigeria – Master of Science (Energy and Technology)

Dr Anumala, Fiji – Doctor of Clinical Dentistry (Periodontology)

Asena Toivaha Foliaki, Tonga – Postgraduate Diploma in Science (Food Science)

Charmaine Lenora Kwan, Fiji – PhD in Higher Education

Jenny Tangis, Vanuatu – Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Dentistry (General Practice for Dentistry)

Kristelle Alina Panlasigui Rizardo, Philippines – Master of Peace and Conflict Studies

Laufanuaosamoa Geodes Mefiposeta Mauala’ivao, Samoa – Bachelor of Surveying

Iarawoi Maine Rezel, Vanuatu – Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Dentistry (General Practice for Dentistry)

Marbie Almarez Alpos, Philippines – Master of Science (Food Science)

Moses Tekwie, Papua New Guinea – Master of International Business

Ngaaia Toabwa, Kiribati – Bachelor of Applied Science (majoring in Software Engineering, minoring in Computer Science)

Orion Ioane Soti, Samoa – Bachelor of Science (majoring in Land Planning and Development)

Patricia Pretika Singh, Samoa – Bachelor of Science (majoring in Anatomy)

Print Khrisanapant, Thailand – PhD in Food Science

Huong Thi Thuy Do, Vietnam – Master of Sustainable Business

Xiaomin Chen, China – PhD in English

Dr Yvonne Golpak, Papua New Guinea – Doctor of Clinical Dentistry (Paediatric Dentistry

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