Three University of Waikato students, who all hail from Rotorua, are encouraging more rangatahi to follow their lead by taking the leap into university life.
Rēhua Selwyn and Te Maiora Rūrehe are both studying conjoint Bachelor degrees in Arts and Laws, and Kiriwaitingi Rei is studying a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business. All three are enjoying a successful year of study and are high achievers both within and outside university.
The trio’s Māori Liaison Adviser Tahangāwari (Taha) Tangitu-Huata will be in town this week when the University of Waikato hosts an Information Evening at the Millennium Hotel on Wednesday. The event is an opportunity for whānau to discover the study options available at the University on both the Hamilton and Tauranga campuses.
Kiriwaitingi Rei (Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Toarangatira, Ngāpuhi)
Former Te Kura Kaupapa Māori Te Koutu student Kiriwaitingi was brought up by her kuia and koro while her mum and dad worked long hours, often away from home. With her whānau heavily involved in kapa haka it was a given that Kiriwaitingi would become a seasoned performer too. Exposed to politics early on when her mum Kirsten worked as former Chief of Staff for the Māori Party, as a youngster Kiriwaitingi dreamt of becoming a politician. However, when the time eventually came to choose, Kiriwaitingi’s whānau encouraged her to pursue a business degree instead. The language enthusiast added arts to the mix to extend her knowledge of te reo Māori and Spanish.
With her mum, an aunty and uncle all Waikato alumni it was always on the cards that Kiriwaitingi would attend too. She was thrilled to win a Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao scholarship that’s gone toward her halls of residence costs but, not keen on being a “poor student”, Kiriwaitingi returns home most weekends to earn money as a kapa haka performer at Te Puia, Whakarewarewa and other tourist hotspots.
Kiriwaitingi has thrown herself into uni life wholeheartedly – she’s in the University's kapa haka group Te Waiora o Te Whare Wānanga, and is a member of Te Ranga Ngaku, a student networking group made up of Māori management students. The hardworking first year student hopes to eventually put her management degree to work on the business side of a tourism venture like Te Puia.
Kiriwaitingi believes the best thing a prospective tertiary student can do is opt for papers that are of interest and align with what they’re good at. “The great thing about uni is the flexibility to change your study path if you want to go in a different direction,” she says.
An advocate of 100% attendance, Kiriwaitingi adds, “My advice is go to every lecture and tutorial and really invest in the journey.”
Te Maiora Rūrehe (Te Arawa, Tūhoe)
The youngest of five, Te Maiora moved from small town Minginui when he was 10 years old to live with his mum’s brother and attend school in Rotorua. Coming from a town with a population around 100, and spending days on end exploring the bush with his DOC ranger dad, monitoring kiwi, checking traps and staying in huts, it was understandably a huge change settling into life in a big city, but Te Maiora was grateful for the opportunity he got to connect with his Māoritanga.
A proponent of education, Te Maiora’s uncle Michael is a lecturer at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and always encouraged Te Maiora to set his sights on tertiary study. The Rotorua Boys’ prefect earned himself a Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust scholarship and Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao scholarship for his services to kapa haka and waka ama.
Te Maiora says he chose law almost by accident after his aunty recommended it but he’s glad she did. “Before taking law I didn’t know much about the Treaty of Waitangi or issues affecting Māoridom,” he says. Now the second year student gets involved in mooting competitions and is on the board for Te Whakahiapo: Waikato Māori Law Students' Association. While it’s early days, Te Maiora is confident that whether he chooses a career in law or not, he’ll take whatever skills he learns back home to share the knowledge.
To anyone considering whether university is for them Te Maiora espouses the benefits of the first year fees free Government initiative. “You have your first year to see if it’s for you or not and you’ll only know if you try,” he says. “My advice is to take a dive into the deep end.”
Rēhua Selwyn (Te Arawa)
Rēhua considers himself fortunate to have grown up surrounded by “most things Māori” - learning about the different art forms within his culture and acquiring te reo Māori. He studied at Te Wharekura o Ngāti Rongomai where he developed a deeper understanding of the Māori world before moving to Rotorua Boys’ High School where he found the balance between Te Ao Māori and the modern world.
Continuing with tertiary study was a no-brainer for the keen sportsman who represented New Zealand in the U19 team at the waka ama world championships held in Tahiti earlier this year. “University has always been in the back of my mind and Waikato simply has the best Māori faculty in the country,” says Rēhua. Also a recipient of the Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao scholarship, Rēhua will put the money toward his fees next year.
Rēhua says a highlight of going to Waikato has been seeing so many Māori in one place with the same goal and always having help on hand if needed. The talented orator recently represented Te Arawa in the Manu Kōrero Nationals where he took out first in the prepared speech and placed 4th overall in the Pei Te Hurinui section of the competition. One day he aspires to teach te reo Māori in a bid to help others recognise the benefits of retaining the language. He believes the support of whānau and a positive attitude have helped him to succeed and encourages others to give university a go.
“Uni is not as daunting as you may think,” he says. “I made the decision to go because I want to make my whānau proud and be a role model for my siblings. If you just wake up every day with a great attitude and put the work in, you’ll be successful.”