The On Campus Experience program for the University of Otago, was one of the best trips of my life. I began as scared and nervous to even apply for the program, not knowing anything about it, what we would partake in, nor whether or not I had a chance of even being accepted. Once I had missed the initial call, I was even more terrified, “what if they were just calling to tell me I DIDN’T get it?” was a question I began to ask myself, but days later, I received the assurance that I was chosen and that the trip would go underway in late May. It was an all-expenses paid-for trip for 5 days for tauira Māori with outstanding leadership and academics.
We got to experience the on-campus life of an Otago student in Dunedin. I flew down with little information of what exactly I would be experiencing and no idea of how cold it was going to be. As I arrived in Dunedin, I shuttled with about eight other nervous Māori teenagers to the campus in complete silence (which almost made me happy knowing that they were just as nervous as I was); we were able to finally have a normal conversation once we got to the college accommodation about how, as it turned out, no one had a clue about what we were going to get up to for the following four days. We settled in for the rest of the day with time to walk around the town and get to know each other while the remaining 25-odd tauira arrived. The whole trip was played by ear and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
We got to visit the Bachelor of Laws building and talk to tauira Māori about their degree, we visited their marine science labs and the Bachelor of Health facilities where we got to experiment with some of their equipment. We were also there for the open days so we were able to hear about any other subjects and dorms we were interested in. The bonds between me and all the other students on this program grew stronger throughout the week and it felt like I had known them for years! Being away from my friends and family was definitely a challenge, but being able to experience what we’ll be feeling in the coming years of moving out of home, was an awesome opportunity for growth, and to meet like-minded students who I may be studying with in the coming years. Every aspect of the trip was an opportunity for growth and learning. I was able to get comfortable on campus, with some of the Māori staff, some current students, and other year 13 students from around the country.
I could not recommend this trip more for any Māori in year 13 because everyone on campus wants you to succeed and pursue studies in tertiary education whether that’s in Dunedin or elsewhere, they all wish you the best and provide any information and resources you may need. I went in not even considering something like law but from this visit, I left knowing that I am capable and that the support is there for Māori; It changed my whole perspective, and for that, I am grateful.