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Recognition for Pacific student who quit his day job for a design degree

21 November 2019

Emry Daniels
Emry Daniels quit his day job to study full-time at university.

Video gaming, tech gadgets and te reo Māori inspired 41-year-old Emry Daniels to quit his job and study a design degree – a path that lead to recognition at this year’s TAPA Awards.

Wanting to pursue digital technology as a career, the Tokoroa local set his sights on a qualification in design, which meant quitting his job and leaving the security of full-time employment.

“I was nearing 40 and in a job that didn’t inspire me anymore. I wanted to do something I liked,” said Daniels.

“I like video gaming, tech gadgets, digital design and YouTube. I started off doing night classes at the local Te Wānanga o Aotearoa for Creative Art. I learnt basic te reo, which inspired me to focus on my own Cook Island Māori language.”

Daniels knew he wanted to be a digital designer and, having reconnected with his roots, set his sights on a Bachelors in Communication Design minoring in Te Reo Māori.

But it wasn’t an easy start for Daniels, who says his first encounter with university life was “daunting”.

“Big campus. Serious students. I thought ‘yikes’,” says Daniels.

“But the Waikato University Cook Islands Association (WUCIA) welcomed me and helped me get used to university life.

“They’re all much younger than me, but they treated me with respect and valued my points of view being an older person. In turn they taught me so much about the insights of being a Cook Island university student.”

Daniels takes the University bus from Tokoroa to the University every day, leaving Tokoroa at 7.15am and departing University at 5.15pm.

“I travel on the bus five days a week. That bus system is a life saver, and without it, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did this year.”

Since being at University, Daniels has flourished and, as a result, was recently recognised at this year’s University of Waikato TAPA Awards – an event that celebrates Pacific student excellence at the University of Waikato.

University Assistant Vice-Chancellor Pacific, Dr Keaka Hemi, says the awards signify the success of students who “imua (lead from the front)”.

“Celebrating the TAPA Awards with their families and the wider Waikato Pacific community was incredibly uplifting, and also a poignant reminder of the power of education and the importance of what we do.

“Our recognition of the TAPA Awards in an evening of Pacific culture and entertainment sends a clear signal to those families, and the wider community, that this is a place where Pacific people can thrive and be successful.”

For Daniels, being recognised at this year’s TAPA Awards was an important achievement that validated his pursuit for excellence.

“As Pacific people, we do what we can for our family and community. Though we come here as one, behind us are many. The same goes for us here on campus. The University understand the journey we are on and provides us with support.”


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