Scholars and Alumni
Hear the stories and learn from current New Zealand Scholars and New Zealand Scholarships Alumni.
Samoa: Sina Ah Sam – Bachelor of Commerce, Victoria University of Wellington
In the final year of her Bachelor of Commerce degree, Sina Ah Sam admits to being a bit nervous, but very excited.
The end of 2017 will see her heading back to her home in Samoa after three years completing a double major in Accounting and Commercial Law at Victoria University, ready to use her new knowledge to help her country.
“I want to work for the Samoa International Finance Authority (SIFA). I interned there for the past two summer holidays, working in the accounting and compliance team,” she says.
“I really enjoyed working in accounting and compliance. I got to deal with a lot of accounting practice. I also got to observe the compliance team, which deals with a lot of legislation, which was great because it is exactly what I am taking at Victoria.
“I’m also doing a minor in tax law, so that summer work really helped with my study – having an insight into how it would be applicable in the real workforce, and vice versa.
“SIFA also contributes a lot to the government, local communities, and sponsors many sports teams and many other initiatives. That’s also a part of why I want to work there.” So going back to Samoa, working at SIFA and making her own contribution, will make all her hard work as a New Zealand Scholar well worth it.
Sina arrived in Wellington early February 2015, having been accepted as a New Zealand Scholar. She had just completed her Foundation Programme year at the National University of Samoa (a preparatory course university-bound students take after their final high school year) as the top Foundation Commerce Student.
“Waiting for a Letter of Offer and to hear back from the universities was really hard. They needed our academic reports for the year, which couldn’t come until December. So it was an anxious wait to see if I’d been accepted into the universities I wanted to go to – Victoria and Otago.
“I like to plan, to be a step ahead, so already I was researching on the internet, seeing what the accommodation would be like, what life in New Zealand would be like. I also studied the course descriptions because what’s on offer here is quite different to what’s offered at home.
“When I got my Letter of Offer it was exciting! I really wanted to come to university, and it’s a huge thing with my family. They’re so proud. You are your parents’ investment, so I wanted to do well. My mindset was ‘I want to go to university, get a degree and go on from there’.”
Sina heard she had a place at Victoria University in early January, and arrived in Wellington a month later for the pre-start programme. Luckily, as Sina was born in Auckland – returning to Samoa’s main island of Upolu when she was six – she didn’t also have the stress of applying for a student visa.
“Some of my friends had to wait so long for their Letters of Offer that once they received them, they had to leave in a week. There’s not much time to say goodbye.”
And saying goodbye, Sina says, was easily the toughest thing she had to deal with.
“I’d never experienced being away from my parents before! Coming from my community, we’re so family orientated. Not having that with me is a big challenge. I miss my family!”
Sina said it took a few months to find sense of home. The Samoan Students Association helped, as did the wider Pasifika community at Victoria University, and her church.
Also, her course work kept her occupied – once she got her ears accustomed to the Kiwi accent.
“I had to get used to listening to lecturers speaking so fast! And I had to get used to doing everything online – now I hardly ever use pen and paper. Everything just moved so fast it was hard adjusting. And I felt so much pressure to pass – if you’re on a New Zealand Scholarship you don’t want to fail. It was difficult, but I knew it would be worth it.
“Course-wise, the first year of university wasn’t too bad. But it was a big shift from 100 to 200 level. It required more of my time and critical thinking. It really tested me. I had to sort out my time management to keep on top of my studies. This third year is surprisingly better, as I learned a lot from last year, such as new ways of approaching things, study tips and things like that. Third year has become more practical now we’re nearing the end. It’s pretty cool.”
Even though some of what she’s learning won’t necessarily be applicable in Samoa – some of the taxation laws, for example – Sina says it’s all good knowledge.
“I’m learning with the mindset that I’m going home, and the situation there may or may not be exactly relevant. But it’s just as important to look at the structures and how things are done as much as the content. It gives you a perspective. I like learning from New Zealand as a more developed country.”
With only a few months left before her time in New Zealand is over and she returns home to work for at least two years (as per her New Zealand Scholarships’ bond), Sina says the future is exciting.
“As well as working at SIFA, I want to help in the education sphere. My experience in my Foundation Programme makes me want to go back and help, to be a lecturer or tutor. I’d also like to create a Mentor Alumni Programme, like what we have here in Victoria, for Samoan students to have more support and assistance in their course of study.
“I’d also like to work for MFAT in the trade division. There are a whole lot of things I’m thinking about – including applying for a New Zealand Scholarship for post-grad study. That would be great!”
Indonesia: Muhamad Rosyid Jazuli - Master of Public Policy, Victoria University of Wellington
Public Policy Masters student Muhamad Rosyid Jazuli has plans to return to his home of Indonesia to work for the Vice President before starting a social business to support young mothers.
A lot of has changed for Muhamad Rosyid Jazuli – known as Rosyid – during his time in here on a New Zealand Scholarship.
His once American-tinted English has taken on a slightly Kiwi note, he’s learned about Maori culture and visited as much of the country he saw on The Lord of the Rings as he could. He’s also become the father of a beautiful baby girl. But his desire to help his country through his studies in public policy hasn’t altered.
“I’ve learned a lot from New Zealand, especially when it comes to the political and healthcare systems. My vision is to help my community, especially around maternal healthcare. Ultimately, I’d like to set up a social business, something like New Zealand’s ‘Parent Centre’, to help young mothers learn skills to keep their children healthy.
“In Indonesia we have the people but they don’t have the knowledge people in New Zealand do. Our systems aren’t so different but we don’t have the same level of knowledge inside the system.”
Coming from East Java, 27-year-old Rosyid completed a five-year degree in Business Management at Jakarta’s Paramadina University. His final year was spent on scholarship in Fargo, North Dakota.
With his degree, Rosyid received an up-close look at politics and public policy. In 2013 he joined the media team for Jusuf Kalla, a two-time Indonesian Vice President and former head of the Indonesian Red Cross.
“He’s the number two person in Indonesian politics, so I learned a lot about public policy from his perspective.
“I travelled all over the country with him and was able to spend a lot of time talking about his ideas and perspectives. From that I got a deeper understanding of how public policies affect people’s lives.”
In addition to his media work, Rosyid worked as a researcher in public policy at his former university. “I’ll go back to my old jobs when I go back to Indonesia and my studies here will help a lot.
“Coming back to Indonesia from the United States, I experienced a reverse culture shock. There was so much about my home country I wanted to change. Being in the US was like being on the motorway, then being in Indonesia was like slowing down for city streets. I complained about a lot.
“But with what I’ve learned in New Zealand, I won’t just be complaining when I get home. Once I’ve got my feet on the ground, I know I can tweak what I’ve learned here to start helping make changes.”
Rosyid arrived in New Zealand in February 2016 for his two-year Masters Public Policy, funded by New Zealand Scholarships.
“I saw New Zealand as unexplored land for Indonesian scholars as not many come here. But I knew, as a more developed country, I could learn a lot.
”My time has taught me that a simple system can work really well. New Zealand public policy teaches its people to love and take care of their communities and their country, especially through the healthcare system and various support systems. We must be able to do more for healthcare in Indonesia.”
In terms of advice for scholars considering applying to New Zealand Scholarships, Rosyid says to “do your homework and be open to life in this country”.
“Know your problem and how New Zealand can be part of the solution. Whatever you learn will add to your knowledge – going on a scholarship isn’t just about travelling and taking photos.
“I always want to explore new things. I guess that’s what the scholarship needs – people who are open to exploring and learning.”
Solomon Islands: Lily Wheatley
Lily Wheatley, from the Solomon Islands, received a New Zealand Pacific Scholarship to study in New Zealand in 2012. She graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Economics with Honours from Massey University in 2015.
After graduation, Lily completed an internship with the Economic Development Team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2016. She now works as a fisheries economist in the Offshore Fisheries Division for the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in the Solomon Islands.
She shares her experiences of her time studying and living in New Zealand.
What inspired you to choose NZ as a study destination?
Growing up in the Solomon Islands, I’ve always wanted to get exposure outside of the country. And I have always heard such fascinating things about New Zealand in terms of travel, study, the wildlife, and where popular movies such as Lord of the Rings was filmed.
How did New Zealand live up to your expectations?
I found the quality of tertiary education in New Zealand to be of a high standard, especially with being on a New Zealand Aid Scholarship – which is a good thing, as it keeps you on your toes. I also found the tertiary education system offers a very safe and supportive learning environment with many facilities and services for international students.
I think acclimatising to the weather, initially, was a bit of a challenge. However, these things grow on you and I’m actually enjoying New Zealand’s temperate climate with its wide range of weather activity. With travelling, things like doing the Abel Tasman Coastal Track walk in Nelson and rolling down a huge hill in an inflatable zorb ball in Rotorua is definitely something I will never forget. I don’t know how you could fail to be completely blown away by the different things you can do in New Zealand.
What would you say to people who are considering applying for an NZ Aid Scholarship?
Go for it!! Make the most out of the incredible opportunity of an NZ Aid Scholarship to gain as much exposure, knowledge, and skills from the experience of studying and living abroad in New Zealand.
How will you use your New Zealand study experience once you return home?
The exposure to the study, work practices and culture in New Zealand have been an invaluable experience. The benefits acquired from these experiences will enable me to contribute more meaningfully to resource and development-related issues in my home country.
What was your favourite part about living in NZ?
My favourite part of New Zealand is the work/life balance, the easily accessible beaches, parks and reserves, friendly people, and the generally laid-back way of life.
How will your NZ qualification help your career?
My New Zealand qualification will definitely contribute to building the start of my career. Hopefully, this will also increase opportunities to build work experience along the way – something which is notably important when applying for jobs in the workplace today.