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Nervous learners find confidence at Pacific O²

12 February, 2024

“You know you are not alone.”


They’re well practiced at it, but Ara Institute of Canterbury’s Student Support and Pacific team never tire of making new students feel welcome on campus. And once again the flagship Pacific O² event has hit the mark.

“It’s great to get everyone in one space giving our new learners a true sense of just how much we are here for them and want them to succeed,” Māori and Pacific Student Support navigator (and key organiser) Janice Sanft said.

Studylink assistance and support (including giveaways and activities) from Pacific community groups Moana Vā, Vaka Tautua and Tangata Atumotu Trust was also available at the Ara Student Lounge – right down to on-the-spot vaccinations.


Friends Miracle Schwenke, Mele Halaufia, Tonga Alatini, and Hingano Lolohea found the event eye-opening and heart-warming.

“I wanted to learn about the opportunities that you can take hold of studying here at Ara. We’ve got so much support. I want to sign up for everything I can!” Hingano Lolohea said. Tyrepa Akeimo agreed, saying getting the information needed to help during studies was a head start.

Tonga Alatini said she’d come to experience the feeling of Ara. “There’s a sense of excitement,” she said. “It’s really wonderful. There’s so much support to lean on.”

In her second year of a Bachelor of Music, Miracle Schwenke said she wanted to make sure she grew her connection with the Pacific community this year. “I want to sign up to PISA and get involved with other stuff too,” she said.


Koini and Tokasa Drulidruli - breaking new ground.

For some, Pacific O² was very much about marking new beginnings.

Tokasa Drulidruli, studying architecture and construction, was supported by mum Koini who said they were breaking new ground. “Both of my eldest two daughters are heading into tertiary study for the first time this year so I’ve just come in support because we really have no idea about all this. It’s been really great.


Christine and Oriana Tanielu

Hairdressing student Oriana Tanielu said it was good to get financial advice on the spot. “I came knowing that I needed to sort out my Studylink and everything else has been a bonus. I’ve got things sorted and I’m looking forward to my course - I’ve wanted to do hairdressing my whole life.”

Mum Christine said it had been interesting to learn about the types of support available to her daughter. “Plus, I just wanted to come to make sure she’s on track!” she said echoing the thoughts of many supporters at the event.

That feedback would suggest it’s “mission accomplished” for Ara’s Māori and Pacific Student Support Navigators - but it’s actually just the start.


Māori and Pacific Student Support Navigators Emma Robertson and Janice Sanft

“Coming up we have Cultural Home which aims to welcome the wider family or community into Ara, Elevation Pacific which is our mentoring programme, peer tutoring and whole bunch of other initiatives to enhance the learner’s experience. Students have so much potential, and this support helps them unlock it,” Māori and Pacific Student Support Navigator Emma Robertson said.

“The biggest goal of Pacific O² is to make new learners feel comfortable when they walk into a tertiary setting and it’s nerve wracking and unknown,” she added. “We want to remove some of those barriers, so they are set up for success from the moment they start.”

Robertson said it was rewarding watching the transformations during an event like Pacific O², as ākonga accessed the information they needed. “Sometimes you can see it physically. A nervous new learner has become more confident. That’s a big takeaway I see.”