Scholars prepare for new chapter of life

Twenty-nine young Samoan scholars are all set for the next chapter when they undertake undergraduate degree study programmes at various Australian universities next year.

The students completed the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) Foundation Year this year and are the 2020 recipients of the Australian government-funded Australia Awards, which will cover their tuition fees, return airfares, living stipend and health cover.

Early this month, they attended a private pre-departure briefing organised by the Australian High Commission staff in Apia.

But the journey each one of these students has taken to get to this point has been different with four of them briefly sharing their story with the Samoa Observer and what pushes them to be successful.

Former Samoa College student, Feagaimaalii Soti, said the thought of giving back to her parents and making them proud pushed her to do their best in college and the university’s Foundation Year program this year.

“Like any other kid, it is the hope of giving back to our parents and making them proud. I also think about it as part of making myself into what I want to be, sometimes you’re all the motivation you need,” she said.

Time management in the face of a constant flow of assignments and tests was also critical, added Feagaimaalii, and setting priorities complimented her attempts to organise her day properly. 

“Personally this year has been a year of growth. Something I’ve learnt that has really helped me throughout is being faithful to the Lord. I have conquered and I have prevailed because I have a faithful God in my corner,” she added.

“You can’t really do anything when you’re not happy. I’ve always learned to have a bit of ‘me’ time in between the struggle. It’s important not to lose yourself in the process, you just got to know how to use your time wisely.” 

Another 2020 Australia Awards scholarship recipient is Charla Wendt, who is a graduate of the St Mary’s College, and subscribed to the philosophy of ‘competitive spirit’ in her academic journey. 

But she said the strategy backfired on her as becoming competitive ‘for a winning purpose’ did not work out, as one had to aspire to higher goals in life. 

“That backfired because competition for a winning purpose never works out. My goal then switched to making my parents proud and to glorify God’s name.”

Armed with that new objective, Ms Wendt said she faced challenges on the social and academic fronts which tested her faith and patience.


“These personal challenges really tested how well I could deal with problems involving friends and family. To me it was all a test of patience and faith.” 

Common challenges included procrastination and keeping one focused on the task at hand.

She said having faith in God and His will – no matter how good or bad a situation is and trusting those who help you – were some of her biggest lessons this year when dealing with her challenges.

Asked what lessons she would take away from this year, Ms Wendt said: “If I were to sum it up it would be, if it isn’t a blessing then it’s a lesson.”

Lanulelei Uliate, another Australia Awards recipient who will study civil engineering at the University of Sydney next year, said her main motivation is ‘no goals are achievable without working hard’.

"The aim of this Foundation Year is to get a scholarship for a better opportunity in learning, and you can't get that without putting in the amount of work required,” she said.

The threat of falling behind in assignments and study is always there, said Ms Uliate and students should be on their guard in order to maintain discipline and self-control.

Asiasiga Tualatamalelagi Naseri, one of two students who topped the NUS Foundation Year in 2019, expressed similar sentiments and believes education is a powerful tool that can be used to change the world. 

“Future students must input a great deal of hard work and persistency in their studies as they are undoubtedly significant integrals of success,” he said. “They must find a motive to do so and always have God as the forefront in everything they do.”

Mr. Naseri will study a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at the University of Otago next year.

A total of 449 foundation students were able to graduate from the NUS Foundation Year program. But the Samoa government is yet to confirm how many of them were scholarship recipients.

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