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Student story

Joshua Leota

20 July 2023

'It’s quite confronting when you start to learn about how your mind works..."


Bachelor of Science in Psychology

Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in Philosophy

Master of Science in Psychology

Currently studying a PhD in Psychology at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University.

Josh Leota isn't one to be bound by boxes or stereotypes, keen to provide an example for other Pasifika students considering studying Psychology.

"You are not defined by what you or others may think. You can do whatever you want as long as you have the conviction to do so. All these boundaries and restrictions we place on ourselves aren't real."

He says it took a few years away from study to realise his future was in Psychology.

"I first started after high school, and it was a bit overwhelming – I wasn't really prepared," he says. "It's quite confronting when you start to learn about how your mind works."

He spent time in Australia exploring business ventures, working with young entrepreneurs, and generally picking up valuable life lessons.

"My time in Australia helped me develop personally, and when I came back I was in a much better head space to study. I learned a bunch of personal skills, with time management being the biggest one."

After returning to study at UC he received the 200-Level Psychology Prize for top student.

He says Pasifika bring a unique and positive perspective to Psychology, and is keen to see more young Pacific people pursue it.

"That perspective is one very much founded in community and family – it's very different to how the majority looks at certain issues. It"s important to have those views at the table because if there is only a certain group of people studying Psychology, getting the jobs, and creating change within society, then your voice and your community's voice won't be heard."

Josh is particularly interested in why people hold certain political and moral positions, and how different groups communicate across the political divide.

"I have a few goals around trying to help people understand and better communicate with those who have differing moral foundations to their own."

Josh was also a mentor with the Pacific Development Team.

"I know how tough it was in my first year, and it's good to have someone to bounce ideas off who has done it already. I'd like to be that person for someone else," he said.

His main advice to Pasifika students is to ask questions, not be afraid of failure, and see missteps as a learning opportunity.

"When I was a first year student I didn't ask any questions – I was too scared to talk to anyone. But your lecturers, tutors and advisors are there to help you."

On top of his achievements in academia, Josh has represented Canterbury and New Zealand in Touch, and loves the balance sport provides to his studies.

"It's good to switch off and just throw the ball around," he says.

Josh has also had the opportunity to travel overseas, he completed his MSc in Psychology at the University of Alberta in Canada and is currently finishing his PhD in Psychology at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University in Australia. His PhD focuses on Sleep and Performance in Elite Athletes.

"I was fortunate to be offered a recruitment scholarship to the University of Alberta after working closely with Dr. Kyle Nash, previously an Assistant Professor at UC. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to experience a different culture and way of life, which can broaden one's perspective and foster personal growth."

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