First in family to do bachelor's degree gets scholarship

Atonina Sonyja Tanuvasa is the first in her family to go on to do a bachelor’s degree, and will complete it at Melbourne’s Victoria University.

Hard work and study paid off last year when Atonina, 19 received a scholarship from the Government of Australia to study in Melbourne, after she passed her foundation studies with flying colours.

On April 25 this year, Atonina will leave her mother and three siblings to live abroad for the first time, for the next four years to complete a law degree.

“I’m good in law,” Atonina said, laughing.

Atonina’s mother, Naofofoga Tanuvasa has raised her four children without her husband for the last nine years. She said she is so proud of her daughter’s achievement. 

“It’s so exciting for all of us, especially her grandmother, who is the main person in our life,” she said.

“I one hundred per cent support her – she is making history for our family.”

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Atonina said she knows how tough university abroad might be. Already, she is prepared to knuckle down and study, and try not to make any friends.

“Especially not boys,” her mother laughed.

In her foundation year at the National University of Samoa, Atonina said she drew on her sisters and friends for tutoring and support. 

Her mentor and tutor, Leti Tamasese especially helped.

Being the eldest of four siblings, Atonina said she wants to be a role model to her younger family members, and encourage them to achieve.

“I want them to study, and fight for scholarships,” she said. 

Getting the scholarship was an emotional experience. The mother daughter pair admitted to there being lots of tears, especially from Atonina’s grandmother. 

After her bachelor’s degree, Atonina wants to go further, and take a post graduate diploma or a master’s degree. 

“When I come back to Samoa, I need to be at a high standard,” she said.

“I want to prove that Samoan students are good at study. I want to take my family to the next level.”

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