The scholarship, established in memory of Huy Vu in 2022 and funded by the University of Waikato community, provides support to an extraordinary student studying in year three or above towards an undergraduate degree programme offered by the Waikato Management School. The scholarship is worth $5,000 and is awarded annually, with preference given to students from Vietnam and/or students from a refugee background.
Petra, who attended Melville High School, hasn’t had the easiest path to study. Growing up as a Cambodian with a refugee background was a challenging experience. Petra’s upbringing was masked by the trauma that her Nan experienced during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, meaning that she had to grow up a lot faster than other kids her age.
“The biggest issue I had growing up was trying to be a normal kid while my Nan was trying to get over what happened in her past.
I had to start working at a very young age as she was too old to work. I have been balancing a lot of things ever since I was a kid.”
At high school Petra faced even more adversity when classes in economics and finance were cancelled due to the lack of uptake by other students. Passionate about these subjects, Petra began ‘cross-schooling’.
“Afterschool I would sit and watch recorded lessons from another local secondary school so I could take the subjects I wanted. I had to do it to get University Entrance.”
While Petra has faced difficulties in her early life, she credits these experiences for shaping her into the person she is now.
“Growing up in this environment has taught me the importance of hard work, perseverance and the power of education.”
When enrolling at Waikato, Petra was excited about the opportunity to learn more about business. She says she loved the creativity of business and how it can benefit a community, but she also craved something that would satisfy the logical side of her mind.
With this in mind, she enrolled in a conjoint programme with a Bachelor of Business in Digital Business and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.
“I wanted to pursue computer science as a challenge but now I really enjoy it. It tickles the yes/no side of my brain while business allows me to be more creative.”
Over the past few years, Petra has excelled academically in both subjects and her willingness to take on this challenge has paid off.
Being awarded this scholarship will open doors for Petra, who hopes to put the money towards a car.
“Each day I travel to campus by bus from Matamata. The only bus that comes is 5:30am and 6:30pm. Getting the scholarship will allow me to be more active in the Waikato community because of the freedom that a car will give me.”
Petra says she is incredibly grateful to have been awarded this scholarship but admits that living up to the legacy that Huy left behind does feel a bit daunting.
“I didn’t know Huy personally, but the mere articles I have read remind me of why I do what I do and why I need to aim for the sky. People like him, who believe in us, are the reason we can look beyond our past and strive for a brighter future.
I am determined to make the most of this opportunity and to be a continuation of light he brought to the University of Waikato.”
Michelle Jordan-Tong, Waikato Management School’s Associate Dean Academic and a friend and colleague of Huy, says that “Huy would be impressed by Petra’s achievements to date and by her passion for giving back to the community. Like Petra, Huy was a strong advocate for the value of education and for supporting others to succeed”.
Huy, who died suddenly in January 2022, was an integral part of the University. He believed in the importance of creating an inclusive and safe environment for both staff and students and creating opportunities for people to grow. He was renowned for his authenticity, his compassion, his willingness to go the extra mile, his wonderful sense of fun and his ability to make a competition out of almost anything.
To honour his memory, friends, family and colleagues can donate to the Huy Tien Vu scholarship fund here.
The University Foundation will acknowledge all donations with relevant tax receipts and information.