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Student story

Michelle Bergman

02 August 2023

Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāti Raukawa

"There are so many people within the University wanting you to succeed..."


(Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāti Raukawa)

Bachelor of Arts in History with minors in English and Te Reo Māori

Postgraduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership

Kaiwhātoro Ākonga Māori, Māori Development Team, UC

Taking stock of her life after the Canterbury earthquakes, Michelle, a mother of two, decided to take a new direction and work towards becoming a secondary teacher.

"I wanted to graduate as a History, English and Te Reo Māori Teacher. I also wanted to become fluent in Te Reo Māori and help contribute to its revitalisation."

As she wanted to study in Christchurch, where her son and daughter go to school, Michelle was pleased that UC offered everything she needed academically to follow this path, including preparatory courses for getting back into study.

Michelle admits that coming back to study as an adult was "really daunting" and she is grateful for the support she received, especially from the Maori Development Team (MDT).

"The MDT is awesome and they are always looking for ways to help you achieve. I found it really helpful to have someone guide me when I first started here and I wanted to be able to do the same for someone else so I joined the MDT as a Tuakana mentor.

‘We have a fantastic team of mentors and our training sessions are great fun. It's awesome to be able to help out other students, especially adult students. We also get to work closely with Te Akatoki Māori Students’ Association and Te Putairiki: Māori Law Students Association."

It's not only the MDT that has impressed Michelle.

"The staff and other students, the attitudes of everyone at UC are really positive and everyone who is there wants to succeed," she says. "I love the people I work and study with. They are all so inspirational and help push you through the tough moments.

‘The kaiāko and other te reo Māori students support by hosting Café Reo where you can casually get together and kōrero I te reo Māori in a natural environment. Te Ao Mārama is a space that normalises speaking in te reo Māori."

Meanwhile, her undergraduate subjects were enjoyable in themselves.

"I love studying New Zealand history," she says. "It is a short history in comparison to the rest of the world, but it is a fascinating history. Race relations in our country make so much more sense to me now.

"I'm also enjoying learning Te Reo Māori. It's great to be immersed in such a positive environment, one where you can practise speaking the language with others in an everyday setting. I can't wait until I can converse fluently with other Te Reo Māori speakers. Learning te reo Māori has also enriched my understanding of Te Ao Māori and has strengthened my connection with my culture."

From her experiences and connections made as a Tuakana, Michelle currently works as the Kaiwhātoro Ākonga Māori (Māori Outreach Advisor) at UC, supporting secondary students transitioning into uni study. Her role is helped along with studies in the Postgraduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership, developing the capabilities of a mentor and leader in the community.

‘I have a passion for wanting to help rangatahi navigate their way through their teenage years and transition easily into tertiary education. I also love helping Māori reconnect with their iwi and re-engage in Te Ao Māori.

‘I originally came to University to become a Secondary School Teacher – this role is my dream job that I never knew existed, so coming to UC opened up opportunities I never knew were available."

As such, Michelle has some important tips for others thinking about their study and career direction.

"Keep an open mind about your degree. Quite often your major and minor subject choices change as you progress. However, the most important thing is to ask for help whenever you need it, no matter how minor it may seem. There are so many people within the University wanting you to succeed, you just have to ask. Make the most of every opportunity that comes along."

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