'Social Work is a degree that will take you to places you have never thought of going to before...'
Growing up in a big family with her hardworking parents and their strong community values, Ailine developed a passion for helping people that would lead to her Social Work studies.
‘My father is a Pastor and my mother works at a chicken poultry factory, and despite their work and church commitments, they did not fail to provide and care for my siblings and me. Their determination to be there for me and my siblings reflect the way they provide for us by ensuring that food was on the table, clothes on our back and shoes on our feet.
‘I loved the way they catered for not only my siblings and me, but for our church members and community,’ she says. ‘From then on, I knew I wanted to work with people and provide services or help those who cannot help themselves.’
Ailine came from Tonga and was raised in Auckland, before coming to Christchurch for her final high school years. She was first introduced to UC through the UCME XL Outreach Programme, run by the Pacific Development Team (PDT) to guide high school students in their final NCEA exams and assessments.
‘As a high school student, belonging was a huge thing for me. When I toured the campus, I felt the sense of community and togetherness. I was welcomed by the eyes of every current student I came across; and that was when I knew I wanted to come to UC. I enjoy the diverse culture that it brings.’
She received an Emerging Leaders Development Programme Scholarship once enrolled, which recognised her leadership potential and gave her opportunities to develop skills and take part in community projects.
It is this same sense of purpose that she has taken into her Social Work degree.
‘I love being around people and seeing the joy they bring out of others and myself,’ she says. ‘Being in a well-knit classroom, I enjoy knowing that we can feed off each other and be the anchor that someone needs. I also enjoy being around like minded people who have the same passion and purpose that I do.’
Her future career goals are centred on this same idea of supporting and inspiring others who need it most.
‘I want to be intentional with those I come across and invest time in people that deserve more than they think. To keep my fire burning and be that little extra light in someone’s life when they least expect it.’
The PDT has always been a big part of her studies, both as support and a way to get involved on campus towards this goal.
‘Asking for help has been a huge barrier for me when an issue arises; whether it is study related or personal. However, during my time at UC, support services such as the Pacific Development Team and the Academic Skills Centre has helped me immensely. There are things in life that I cannot control and the PDT has helped me through it. They care about my well-being and I am thankful for every help and sit in session I have had with them.
‘I am not the greatest writer, but the ASC has helped with some of the hardest essays I have had to write. Not once did they degrade me as a person and student, but they have boosted my confidence in writing and going with my instinct.’
Ailine since became a Pasifika Mentor for first year students, and also a tutor for the UCME XL Outreach Programme that inspired her to start at UC.
She is also currently a Student Leader with the UniLife team, looking after a small group of first year students starting out at UC.
‘I journey through with them and guide them with first year challenges and we pursue and solve them together,’ she says.
As such, Ailine emphasises how important it is to seek support when needed and to study what you are most passionate about.
‘Be yourself and don’t lose yourself. It can be very overwhelming, but with an awesome support system behind you, all you can do is be proud of your values and uplift them everywhere you go.
‘And if you love people and are passionate about your community and the things that can come out of that community, then Social Work is a degree that can help you do that and expand your knowledge that will take you to places you have never thought of going to before.’
What inspired you to study social work?
The ideas behind social work were illustrated to me from a young age. I was surrounded by family, friends and a community that uplifted young people. I thought, “I want to do something like that”.
Why did you decide to come to UC?
In high school, I joined the XL programme run by the UC Pacific Development Team. I loved being surrounded by a team that cares for youth and wants to help them succeed. I realised UC was a really positive environment and I wanted to be part of it!
Did you kick off uni with an Emerging Leaders scholarship?
I did! We did a leaders development programme, which covered different aspects of leadership such as service in the community, sports leadership and cultural leadership. It equipped me very well for what I hope to do after I get my degree.
And you’ve been on the exec as well?
Yes, I've been on the exec team for two years. It's amazing. I really enjoy connecting with students from other years. That experience has taught me to stand up for myself and be really intentional with the leadership roles I take on and the relationships I develop.
"As a Pasifika student, I can 100% say that UC embraces diversity."
What other UC organisations have you been involved with?
I've worked as a tutor with the Pacific Development Team. It feels great to give back. It’s also created a sense of identity for me, as a Tongan growing up in New Zealand, to help not just Tongans but other ethnicities as well.
How would you describe “UC diversity”?
It’s amazing. Wherever you come from, everybody's here on a journey together. UC definitely supports multicultural students and those from other countries. As a Pasifika student, I can 100% say that UC embraces diversity.
Looking ahead – what would you like to do with your degree?
I want to give back to my community, working with Pasifika kids who are on the streets or in Youth Justice Residences. My degree has really opened my eyes. Now I'm on advisory panels in Wellington, I mentor in high schools... Social work has created so many opportunities for me – and they’re all so rewarding, it’s hard to choose!