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Student story

Toby Palmer

20 July 2023

Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa

"I love how you can form a relationship between author and reader that can defy time, space, even reality..."


(Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa)

Bachelor of Arts in English and Te Reo Māori

As an aspiring writer and teacher, Toby finds studying English literature and te reo Māori a highly fulfilling choice, exploring culture and narrative.

"I love words. I love how they connect, and spread, and communicate. I love how you can form a relationship between an author and reader that can defy time, space, even reality," he says.

"Te Reo Māori has been personally enriching, fun, and clearly supports my learning in English. My majors have forced me to write often and in a variety of different ways which I’ve found both challenging and enjoyable. Also, reading widely from different cultures, time periods and genres is really eye-opening."

The diverse community in Christchurch and UC has made his studies even more meaningful.

"After the earthquakes there’s been something really special and creative happening here that made me want to stay around. I’d also heard of UC’s reputation and I wanted to be a part of it," he says. "Honestly, pretty much all the lecturers that I’ve met have been both interesting and kind. I also love how there is a thriving Christian community on campus, and a lot of others keen for open-minded and respectful discussion."

Toby’s faith is his strongest motivation in study, which he hopes to pursue in a future writing career.

"I really value authors whom highlight the integrity and necessity of biblical faith in a Post-postmodern age. The dream is to become a published author who is culturally compassionate, noticeably sincere, and theologically strong."

Being one of the leaders at Student Life, a Christian club on campus, has allowed Toby to also embrace his faith through social events with other students.

"I’m regularly involved to help share the message of Jesus that changed my life four years ago. We aim to do this through respectful discussion, as well as showing genuine love and service on our campus. Student Life are an awesome multi-ethnic bunch that are like whānau to me."

One of his passions outside of uni life is volunteer work with the organisation Drug-ARM, which provides physical, emotional and spiritual support to Christchurch's homeless community.

Meanwhile Toby himself has received academic and cultural support through a variety of UC’s services.

"I regularly use the Academic Skills Centre to improve my writing skills. I'd happily recommend them. They’re lovely to talk with, they 've always had some good advice and it's all free.

"I’ve also appreciated getting to know some of the Māori and Pacific Development Teams, they’re a great support and put on some mean feeds."

His enthusiasm for study is reflected through scholarship awards, including a UC Pacific Achievers Award and an Outstanding Achievement in First-Year English from Graduate Women Canterbury Trust for his results, and a Macmillan Brown Prize for Writers at second place for an essay competition.

Toby’s next steps is to complete postgraduate study in Secondary Teacher Education and become a high school teacher in English and te reo.

He advises other students to have an end goal in mind, focusing their Arts degree towards something concrete and seeking it with passion.

"Be ready to read, read and read. Deeply, critically, and counter-culturally. To do well in Arts, diligence, focus, and drive are practically essential. Karawhiua!"

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