Kristoffer Lavasii

Kristoffer Lavasi'i

Kristoffer chose the University of Waikato for two reasons – it offered all the subjects he wanted to study and it would keep him close to home and his aiga (family), immediate and extended.

Summer Research Scholarship

Kristoffer Lavasii

Making the most of uni – learning and serving

New graduate Kristoffer Lavasi’i is Ngāruawāhia born and bred, but with international whakapapa.

He’s Palagi with Swiss ancestry on his mother’s side while his father is from Samoa. His parents encouraged him to go to university.

He chose the University of Waikato for two reasons – it offered all the subjects he wanted to study and it would keep him close to home and his aiga (family), immediate and extended.

But now he’s graduated he’s happily left the nest, having secured a Graduate Policy Officer position in Wellington with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

“Growing up, I cycled through most of the usual potential careers,” Kristoffer says. “A doctor for a while here, a teacher for a while there. But the dreams that stayed with me were the ones that had me becoming an ambassador, because who wouldn’t want to be paid to work overseas and learn to speak other languages.”

His new job is the first step to realising that dream.

“The other career aspiration I had was to be a writer and I still harbour that dream. I’ve loved books since I was young and I’ve always found a rare solace in books and reading.”

Kristoffer is graduating in April with a conjoint Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Social Sciences majoring in English and Psychology.

He says his mother encouraged him to study subjects that would lead to a career.

“I was blessed to be decent at study and found psychology interesting, and I knew I wanted to study English. I’d been at uni for about a year when I decided that my curiosity for law wouldn’t be satisfied with one paper, so I signed up for the whole degree,” he says. “Six years on and you could fill a room with the pages from all my assignments.”

Kristoffer’s university years were enhanced with the extracurricular activities he got involved in on campus and externally by securing summer internships. He was president of the Pacific Law Students’ Association and served on the Samoan Students’ Association too.

“There were a lot of highlights but foremost was being part of Pacific at Waikato. To be in a community surrounded by incredible minds, fiercely devoted to uplifting, supporting and amplifying the voices of our people was an honour.”

He completed two summer internships with the government’s Tupu Tai Policy Internship Programme for Pacific students: one with Te Kawa Mataaho Public Services Commission and the other with MFAT.

“That gave me a practical insight into policy, that vague nebulous thing that exists at the periphery of law, psychology and many other things.

“It ignited my interest and became a clear means by which I could realise my aspiration to serve my community and my people at a level that could make lasting and transformative change,” Kirstoffer says.

“And I won an incredible [Waikato University] Summer Research Scholarship to work with Dr Maebh Long exploring modernism as a frame to understand and interpret Oceania, Pasifika and Moana texts. This and another paper I did under the incredible Dr Alice Te Punga Somerville, Pacific Texts, were great opportunities to see the works of people who shared my heritage being centred and respected. It was a blessing and a chance that too few get to experience.”

If there were any challenges for Kristoffer, it was not to be scared off by imposter syndrome.

“It can be easy to look around your lecture theatres and the seas of students moving back and forth on campus to feel as though you don’t belong or you aren’t as bright. You have to keep reminding yourself that their abilities, their journeys, do not invalidate your own.”

If he had any advice for future students he’d say be prepared to take time over your degree, that everyone’s journey progresses at its own pace and takes its own path.

“It can be easy to look around at others who seem to be moving faster, flying higher. But sometimes the slowest things go farthest, and the humblest beginnings sometimes lead to the most incredible things.”

Kristoffer Lavasii

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