Ivan Lei Sam

BE (Hons) Civil Engineering 2019, MEM 2020

Civil Engineer, Samoan Water Authority

Ivan Lei Sam

What initially brought you to UC to study engineering?

I initially had plans to move over to Auckland and study there as it was a place I was familiar with, and where a lot of my family were based. However, it wasn't until I did some research and had an in-depth discussion with my parents that I realised how highly regarded the engineering department at UC is amongst other universities in the world. I also took into consideration the long history of engineers from Samoa who studied at UC and the atmosphere the campus created for its students. This was a sure decision for me, not only academically but an opportunity to work towards a degree in a new environment which would benefit and develop me as an individual. It has thus far been a life-changing and rewarding experience academically and personally.

At what point did you decide to select civil engineering? Was it during your study or did you have a prior interest in the area?

Most of my uncles in my family were carpenters or worked in construction. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time around sites, helping and playing with my cousins. As I grew up, I found it interesting how buildings came together and how they were able to stand for a long time through tough and intense conditions.

This drove me to eventually enter the same line of work but I found that I had poor hand-eye coordination with tools and lacked the skills needed to be a good carpenter. Going into my final year of high school, I learnt about civil engineering and as I was fortunate to be strong in STEM subjects, I saw this as an opportunity to pursue my passion. Fast forward 5 years later, I am living that dream as an engineer working on numerous projects under the Samoan Water Authority.

Can you tell us about that current role?

I am an Engineering Officer at the Samoan Water Authority under the Planning Design Unit (PDU). I am primarily involved in the design, planning and supervising of new water supply networks and the analysis and evaluations of existing water supply systems. I am currently working on the design of a new rural water supply, and project planning our new office headquarters.

Was working in Samoa always the plan?

Funnily, no. I had planned further work experience in NZ, however, due to COVID restrictions, I had to stay in Samoa. Since being back, it's been great to apply my knowledge and skills to the development of Samoa. Being back for almost 2 years, I have gained an appreciation for this work, its challenges and had the opportunity to see where I can make an impact. Although not the plan, being here has allowed me to grow and learn which I am very grateful for.

What experiences to memories do you look back on most fondly from your time at UC?

The fondest moment is my graduation. Being in NZ and in a new environment made me appreciate the challenges that international students face being away from home and family. The cultural impact this experience has on an individual and the hard work required makes graduating special.

Other than that, the people you meet along the way made the experience even better and learning new things, seeing things from a different perspective. Finally, I remember experiencing the South Island and particularly Christchurch in it's fullness.