Hurdle after hurdle, she made it
At some point in every person’s life, they come to realize that it is not so much about the journey but rather it’s about the end result that matters most.
As for Fuatino A. Afato-Fatiaki, from the village of Mulifanua and Vailoa Faleata, who was the only Samoan awarded a Masters of Agriculture certificate during the University of the South Pacific’s (U.S.P.) Alafua graduation held at the E.F.K.S. hall, Sogi on Friday, the end most definitely justifies the means.
Although her academic journey was anything but straightforward, the 25-year-old soldiered through some very tough times to finally say with a sigh of relief “I’ve made it”.
Mrs. Fatiaki’s journey takes us back to 2008 where her father became a missionary in Fiji for the Samoan Church under the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa. In 2009 she enrolled into U.S.P. Laucala, Fiji, as a foundation science student.
She made quick work of her foundation studies and moved on to the next stage; that’s where things began to get a little more complicated.
“Upon completion in that year, I enrolled to do my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science majoring in Chemistry,” Mrs. Fatiaki said in an interview with the Samoa Observer.
“I completed my degree in 2012; however I could not graduate in the Alafua graduation until January, 2013 due to cyclone Evans.
“After graduating, I got my first job with Women in Business Development Inc. (W.I.B.D.I.) which lasted about three and half months before I returned to Fiji where I got married and had my first child.”
In returning to Fiji, Mrs. Fatiaki found herself in yet another dilemma; she was unable to find work because the chances of finding a job in a foreign country were slim.
This led to her enrolling back into U.S.P. Laucala to undertake a postgraduate diploma in Science majoring in Chemistry.
In attempts to help her family, Mrs. Fatiaki opted to become a part-time student because her family found it hard to support her full-time study.
But at the end of every dark tunnel, there will always be light. Although for Mrs. Fatiaki there was yet another tunnel after that light.
“So halfway through my postgraduate diploma in Science, I applied for an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (A.C.I.A.R.) scholarship,” she said.
“I was hoping to get sponsorship to complete my studies. In 2015, I was fortunate to be given an A.C.I.A.R. scholarship but I had to transition into a completely different field, from chemistry to agriculture.”
For a young mother to discard all that, she learnt that to pursue something completely different was no easy task but yet again, Mrs. Fatiaki soldiered on.
“I gave up completing my postgrad in Chemistry and moved back to Samoa for my postgraduate diploma in Agriculture majoring in Crop Science at U.S.P. Alafua,” she said.
“Towards the end of 2015, and of my postgraduate diploma in Agriculture, I applied again for A.C.I.A.R. funding to do Masters in Agriculture.
“Fortunately, A.C.I.A.R. kindly offered another scholarship for my Masters from 2016 till 2017.”
And alas, she can finally close her books and look forward to finding work. She explains that her main source of excitement now is being able to support her family and maybe even aspire towards a P.H.D.
“But that (P.H.D.) will be a journey for another time,” she said.
“God has plans for each and every one of us; put your trust and faith in him always.”
Asked about her highlights, Mrs. Fatiaki said there was nothing greater than having two daughters after two degrees.
Asked for just a few of her personal struggles along the way, she said that there was no shortage of personal hurdles for her.
“Being a private student was not easy on my family,” she said.
“Both my sister and I were doing our Foundation studies in 2009. We were fulltime students each taking five courses per semester. It was not cheap.
“Another challenge was relationships; long distance or short you name, I definitely don’t discourage it, and I’ve been there.
“But you need to know what and who are important from what and who aren’t. Passing and making your family proud is more important than failing and losing that boy or girl, trust me.”
Another major challenge for Mrs. Fatiaki was moral and emotional support. In moving back to Samoa, there was much difficulty in trying to study while taking care of her child.
This led to her sending her daughter to Fiji, where her parents resided and that was tough on her emotionally.
But after all she went through, it made her nothing but stronger. Her message to all students going through their own personal hurdles is to remember that everything happens for a reason.
“Live your life where the action is now,” she began.
“Everyone is going through something in their own life right now. Just remember everything happens for a reason.
“If it’s good, explore it and excel. If it’s bad, remember why you started so never ever give up.”
As she breathes a breath of fresh and pressure-free air, she has nothing but thanks for everyone who helped her along the way.
“I am greatly indebted to my parents for everything I have attained in life,” she began.
“Thank you also to my late grandmothers and my only living grandfather, Moananu Paniani for their love and prayers.
“Thank you to the Government of Samoa, to U.S.P Laucala and Alafua and to the A.C.I.R. for getting me to where I am today.
“Special thanks to my husband and my two daughters for giving me hope and reason to aspire for greater things.”