Thursday 16 November 2017 8:51am
Pacific Scholarship students with their completion certificates (front row, from left) Rhonda Wohemani, Malan Wamoa, Arti Naidu and Fenika Oloapa (back row, from left) Ovini Masi and Vilimone Raqona with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade dignitaries Jonathan Kings and Rebecca Steffens-Smith. Photos: Sharron Bennett.
The hard work and sacrifices of international Pacific scholarship students were rewarded last Friday when the University of Otago New Zealand Development Scholarship Completion Ceremony was held to celebrate and acknowledge the journeys and achievements of undergraduate and postgraduate international students during their time at Otago.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade dignitaries Jonathan Kings (Deputy Secretary of the Pacific and Development Group) and Rebecca Steffens-Smith (Unit Manager of Scholarships) attended the ceremony and reception, held at the Staff Club, to present scholars with their completion certificates.
"We are proud to recognise your investment in your education, and the benefit to your families and communities. I look forward to hearing of your successes in the years to come."
The seven scholars completing this year are all recipients of New Zealand Pacific Scholarship, and have completed undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in a wide range of disciplines. Students are from Fiji, Samoa and Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Mr Kings spoke of how honored he was to be a part of the celebration.
“We are proud to recognise your investment in your education, and the benefit to your families and communities. I look forward to hearing of your successes in the years to come.”
The ceremony was opened with a mihi whakatau from Kaitohutohu Māori/Māori Advisor Hata Temo, who performed a karakia and blessing of the tangata whenua’s gifts of pounamu. Mr Kings presented scholars with their completion certificates, and Hata Temo placed the gift of a pounamu pendant around their necks.
The scholars being presented with their certificates were:
Ovini Masi: Doctor of Clinical Dentistry, Endodontics (Fiji); Arti Naidu: Master of Dentistry, Aesthetic Dentistry (Fiji); Vilimone Raqona: Master of Applied Science, Geographic Information Systems (Fiji); Rhonda Wohemani: Master of Physiotherapy, Sports Physiotherapy (PNG); Malan Wamoa: Postgraduate Diploma in Health Management (PNG); Henrietta Tamapua: Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting and Finance (Samoa); and Fenika Oloapa: Bachelor of Science, Surveying Measurement (Samoa).
Student Arti Naidu receives her certificate from Jonathan Kings.
Master of Dentistry student Arti Naidu emphasised the impact of the opportunity she was given to continue her studies in New Zealand, and gave a special thanks to the MFAT dignitaries.
“If it weren’t for MFAT, I would not be here today. I don’t know how else to thank you except to repeat it: Thank you.
"It was very difficult for us to come to an institution like this, leaving our families behind and focusing on our studies. I’m very grateful."
“It was very difficult for us to come to an institution like this, leaving our families behind and focusing on our studies. I’m very grateful.”
Vilimone Raqona, a Master of Applied Science in Geographic Information Systems student, gave a moving speech in which he spoke not only the sacrifices the students made by giving over their personal and social lives to their challenging studies, but also the overwhelming support and warmth shown by their Otago team that made it all worth it.
“The International Office team of staff were the first faces we saw greeting us at the airport, and what beautiful faces they were! And the great sense of ease I felt at the Pacific Island Centre was crucial. Thank you for accepting me.”
International Student Advisors Gepke Schouten and Claire Slocombe expressed their intense pride in each student for their success and how glad they were to play a part in welcoming and supporting them.
“What you do next matters,” said Gepke, addressing the students before the reception.
“You have the ability to impact real change, with new tools and skills and attributes. You are part of New Zealand’s international family now – a global network of high achievers.”
Rhonda Wohemani (right) presented (from left) Rebecca Steffens-Smith, Jonathan Kings and Hata Temo with traditional Papua New Guinea gifts as a token of her thanks.