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Bachelor of Nursing student’s story inspires graduation audience

14 February, 2024

Motherhood, long drives, shiftwork, a side hustle and “essay allergy” all navigated enroute to degree


Betsy Ramalasou with husband Paul and daughter Astrid

Betsy Ramalasou clocked up a lot of miles to achieve her nursing degree and now that she’s working in her chosen field, she’s continuing to do so.

After four years travelling between her hometown Ashburton to Ara Institute of Canterbury’s campus in Timaru (Ramalasou completed an entry pathway programme before commencing her three-year degree) she’s now travelling an hour to and from her practice nurse role in Pleasant Point each day.

“It’s for the joy of my job,” she says, making light of the travel. “I love my job, and the amazing staff at my clinic so much, I’m more than prepared to take on the travel commitments.”

Ramalasou has gone the distance in many ways in pursuit of her degree.

Tutors recall a student always prepared to support and mentor others in their own study journeys – which was recognised last year when she took out a prestigious Ara Pacific Eke Panuku Award for South Canterbury Mentor and Tutor of the Year.


“It’s always hugely rewarding to see a student come through our entry pathway programmes and then complete our nursing degree,” senior Academic Staff member Gail Foster said. “Betsy is a student who has shown pure determination and resilience to succeed and somehow she has also found the time and energy to help others achieve too.”

In her address to the graduating students, Ramalasou, who is of Cook Island and Fijian descent, described the challenges of beginning her nursing degree with a 7-month-old baby, running a small beauty business from home and working at Ashburton and Christchurch hospitals as a healthcare assistant - doing assignments on nightshift.

She told graduates that she joked with her tutors that she was “allergic to essays”.

“What kept me going were my tutors’ unconditional support and my impactful clinical placements which brought the best out of me, encouraged me to strive and not to give up.”

Ramalasou was one of almost 80 graduates crossing the stage in person on Tuesday afternoon at the Caroline Bay Hall. Of those, 17 were awarded Bachelor of Nursing degrees.

It’s a department on the rise with, for the first time, a second cohort of 25 students set join the programme in 2024.

“Our March intake is fully subscribed, but we are already inviting applications with a May close off date for a second cohort in 2024 which will commence in August,” Roxane Will, Ara’s Academic Manger Department of Health Practice, said.

She said it was exciting to be at the forefront of efforts to reduce the well-documented workforce shortage in nursing in Aotearoa, but it had created a welcome challenge - growing the Ara Timaru teaching pool to meet demand.

“We are openly recruiting for several positions as we seek to future proof our team,” Will said. “The simple requirement is that you need to be a registered nurse – we will support you to complete a teaching qualification and to also progress your own qualifications in terms of postgraduate study.

These positions are ideally suited to current or former frontline nursing professionals who want to have a career change, work within a supportive team, be active in research and enjoy salary and leave entitlements in line with the Multi-Employer Collective Agreements rates paid to nurses.”


More than 160 graduates were eligible to graduate on Tuesday with certificates or diplomas in a range of fields from early childhood education to digital and media design, health and wellbeing, beauty, business, and arts and design and primary industry business management.

The mihi was delivered by Kaiako Haami Rahui who was recruited to lead Te Reo Māori teaching for Ara in Timaru and Ashburton last year.

At the event, Te Pūkenga Executive Director Rohe 4, Darren Mitchell thanked staff for their “unwavering dedication” and commitment to the goal of “changing lives through education”.  He said graduates had “built a foundation for a more promising future for you, your whānau, family, and your community” through achieving their qualifications and that doing so “had made them even more capable of facing further challenges that life may bring”.

Betsy Ramalasou dedicated her degree to her late father Reoreka Ngutu and her father-in-law Kemueli Ramalasou as well as her husband and daughter.

Thanking the Pacific Achievement team at Ara she said that despite the struggles, sacrifices and challenges, “I look back on what I’ve achieved and know that this was the best decision I ever made”.