Getting to know Maria
Ngāi Tahu and Ngāpuhi
Bachelor of Arts
What was your journey to study at UC?
After helping my husband run our drainage business I needed a change, so five years ago I started learning Te Reo Māori. Suddenly I knew what I was born to do: to learn Te Reo Māori and reconnect with my culture. My daughter was at UC and she said to me, why don't you come to uni? So, I did!
You’re in your third year now. How has the experience been?
My first semester was harder than I thought. Everything was so new. I was able to reach out to the Māori support team (Te Waka Pāpakano) and my daughter to help me through. But as time went on, I got to know the ropes and understand how everything works. Now I’m flying!
What are you enjoying most about your program?
Whanaungatanga – building relationships. That's been the highlight for me. Every once in a while, I find myself stopping and thinking with amazement, I'm actually doing a degree, and in my fifties too! I find that so buzzy.
What else have you gotten up to as a UC student?
This year I'm running Café Reo. It’s a weekly event where students and lecturers come together to practice their te reo. I was a bit scared to take it on because I'm not very fluent, but lots of people encouraged me to give it a go, so I said yes.
What would you like to achieve with Café Reo?
I have so many ideas I’m actually having to reign myself in. For starters I’ve created a bit more of a café environment and I’ve had amazing feedback. My main focus though is on health and wellbeing, from the food to our time together. When I take on something, I want to do it really well.
Where are you hoping your degree will lead?
My original my goal was to make a difference for Māori children. Then Café Reo came about and that’s felt like a natural fit for me. I’m not sure exactly where I’ll end up, but I know I'm going in the right direction and I'm happy to see where I end up.
How does it feel being a more mature student?
I feel really comfortable here, especially at Te Ao Marama. It feels like home. That’s because I've chosen something that I'm truly passionate about. When I have found myself surrounded by 18 year-olds, I've just decided to embrace it. So I make friends with everybody and get to know them as people.
What would you say to others in similar shoes to you?
Find the thing that you’re really passionate about – and if you don't know what that is, get out there and try things. Give yourself time and permission to ask yourself, what do I really want to do. A degree is an amazing thing to pursue and the flow on effects are endless. I know in my heart that that I'm on the right path.