'I feel like I’m living up to the aspirations I had while studying...'
Bachelor of Science in Geography
Kaitohutohu Kaitiakitanga, Te Taumutu Rūnanga
With a passion for making a difference, Sef’s studies in Geography looks at human effects on the environment, and ways to improve how one affects the other.
‘Finding a way that the environment, society and economy can all be prosperous without one degrading the other really motivates me,’ he says. ‘I want to be part of the movement that encourages the idea that the prosperity of these three things can be achieved harmoniously.’
Taking inspiration from modern environmental issues affecting the world, Sef hopes to one day contribute to finding the balance between societal progress and effects on the environment.
‘I want to be involved with not only the environment and social issues but in making sure that there is a better relationship between the environment and its people. Ultimately I would love to go back to Fiji and work with companies that engage with rethinking development through community-based economic prosperity and environmental well-being.’
Choosing what to study at first was a challenge, but after trying out Geography courses one year, Sef knew he had found a new interest.
‘Find something that you like and then do it to the best of your ability,’ he advises. ‘And in saying that – UC is vast enough that you can find something that will at least peak your interest as well as the support to help you succeed.’
Sef had always enjoyed visiting Christchurch previously, originally being from Auckland, and so the idea of attending UC was a great opportunity to him.
‘I think I was attracted to the possibilities that Christchurch could offer in terms of rebuilding a city, which incorporates its people and the environment. UC, with the involvement it has in the rebuild, seemed like the best choice to help me be a part of that process,’ he says.
‘Since coming down to Christchurch I have tried to take up at least one new activity a year. So far I have taken up snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking and tramping. It’s safe to say that one of my big interests is to do new things, challenge myself, and spend as much time outdoors as possible.’
One of his favourite aspects of studying here was the freedom to explore these new hobbies while studying.
‘I think that might have something to do with the way courses are structured out and the feedback I got from lecturers and tutors, as well as my enjoyment for what I was doing. I managed to see a lot of the South Island, take up new hobbies, find new friends, and experience new adventures – all while trying to get through one semester at a time.’
Another new opportunity was a summer internship with Environment Southland in Invercargill, which he earned with the help of the UC Careers team.
‘I went to UC CareerHub when I started applying for summer internships and they were able to help not only with my CV and cover letter but gave me a lot of helpful advice for interviews and in being more proactive in job hunting. I was doing environmental data and monitoring and this opened doors for when I finished at UC.’
It’s this passion for positive change that motivates Sef most in his career. Shortly after graduating, Sef began his journey with Te Taumutu Rūnanga as a Kaitohutohu Kaitiakitanga (Environmental Advisor). His role involves providing information and recommendations on environmental issues in Taumutu, including sea level rise, climate change, land restoration projects, and land and water use consent.
‘I work for a passionate community that have aspirations about empowering their whānau members by improving their cultural identity, their social development, and the environment in which they live in,’ he says.
‘I feel like I’m living up to the aspirations I had while studying, in finding a way that the environment, society, and economy can all be prosperous without one degrading the other. And to rethink development through community-based economic prosperity and environmental well-being: Look after the environment and the environment will look after you.’
Sef says the focus on relationships between physical and social geography in his courses were particularly useful for industry. Likewise, the emphasis on communicating findings and negotiating audiences has been especially important to his role.
‘Communication is a big part of my job. I need to be able convey information and advice to a Portfolio with differing personalities, but then I also need to be able to comprehend what their ideas and opinions are. I attend meetings with people from various organisations that have their own strategic priorities so I need to be able to have robust conversations, and I think that UC is a great opportunity to enhance that attribute.’
He still plans to continue advancing his theoretical knowledge in indigenous, environmental, and business policy, and is looking at doing one of UC’s postgraduate programmes in the near future.
For now, Sef is incredibly inspired by his ability to shape New Zealand’s environmental prosperity.
‘The best part about doing what I’m doing is that I love it and I feel that I’m going to be useful to my society,’ he says.