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Student story

MahMah Timoteo

20 July 2023

"It dawned upon me that my future was to be focused around human rights and prosperity..."


Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology

Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Anthropology

After a revelation in high school that her career pursuits were focused only on making money, MahMah became determined that her university studies would be devoted to what truly inspired her.

"People make me happy, or more importantly, helping people makes me happy. Whilst I planned to build my empire around wealth and consumption, families were losing their homes, children were dying of hunger and the environment was in the process of rapid degradation," she says.

"Once I realised this, my intentions changed. It dawned upon me that my future was to be focused around human rights and the prosperity of those who have yet to have their voices heard."

With these world-changing goals, MahMah found Sociology and Anthropology studies were what she needed to discover and critique societal issues.

"My degree offers me a whole new perspective on life," she says. "Lecturers in particular taught me how to analyse and construct my on perspective on a variety of topics instead of regurgitating information being taught to me. This is one of the most valuable skills I have learnt. Completely a social science degree has exposed me to the world and now I have a craving to explore it further."

While UC wasn’t her first pick for university, she later heard of the reputation of its Sociology and Anthropology departments and enrolled with a UC DUX Scholarship.

She has since found that the student community provides support and cultural diversity that made her decision more worthwhile.

"Canterbury offers acceptance. The students at UC are extremely diverse which helps expose one another to different types of people. We mix, mingle and learn. That separates us from a lot of other universities in New Zealand," she says.

It’s this mentality that drives MahMah’s experiences at UC, including her use of and support towards the Pacific Development Team as a Pacifika Mentor and Tutor.

"Before I arrived at UC, I had not identified myself as a Pacific Islander. My first real experience was actually at the Pasifika Orientation Day. I felt as though I had stumbled upon people I had known for years! I was welcomed in with open arms and enough food to feed a small village. I knew right then and there that these were the people that were going to help me through the tough years that were about to follow.

"It was this group of people that help me discover a side of myself that was for many years repressed. I have been exposed to so many different ethnicities, traditions and cultures. Not only has this changed me as a person but has influenced my studies greatly. At the end of the day, the Pasifika community on campus has given me the support and love I need in order to progress and develop."

MahMah is also a UC Host, helping represent UC with campus events. She is also the current President of Fossil Free UC, a student club advocating for awareness in climate change issues and less investments in the fossil fuel industry. "We demonstrate good campaigning to grow a team of leaders who have fun, foster compassion, engagement in activism and a sense of community in the student body."

Outside of uni MahMah is a fitness advocate, training in crossfit several times a week, and promotes plus-size fashion on her Instagram.

Her devotion to ‘making a difference’ both in and out of study has led her to do extremely well, and she has received a number of awards — including a UC College of Arts Honours Scholarship, and a Westland Soroptimist Scholarship from Soroptimist International, a network supporting and creating opportunities for women in education.

MahMah hopes to go onto a career as an author and producer of anthropological documentaries, and eventually within the United Nations supporting human rights and the environment. She acknowledges her degree can cover a variety of eye-opening and disheartening topics around the world, but encourages others students studying her subjects to remember the good that can come from their work.

"People have created the political, economic and social systems we live in today; never forget that you too are one of those people. That means you have the power to make a change. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your aspirations are too big or your dreams are unattainable. You can do it!"

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