Getting to know Serena
Master of Counselling
Ngāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou
You’re on a career change journey – tell us about that!
I worked in TV and broadcasting for 13 years, starting as a presenter for What Now at 18. I felt like I was coming to the end of that career and I wanted to do something different. Completing my education has always been important to me, especially as a Māori woman, so I decided to enrol.
What inspired you to choose counselling?
Throughout my career, mental health, family and relationship issues would happen and I had so much empathy for people. I really wanted to make a difference in their lives and so I’ll be working with the same people but doing it with more purpose and experience.
Was it scary deciding to come back?
It was so scary! You think about all the things in life you’ll have to compromise. It really is a huge decision. Luckily I've found that being an adult and having all my life experience behind me has made learning much easier.
Your mum is here studying Te Reo Māori, how cool is that!
My mum and I are really close. She encouraged me to come to uni, and then decided to come back herself. I'm like, yes, let's do this together!
Favourite aspect of being a student at UC?
I’ve had the opportunity to teach in a tutoring role while I’m here. I love being able to pass on what I've learned. I enjoy engaging with students and having intellectual conversations about language, culture and other things you don't normally talk about day-to-day.
What doors will a Master in Counseling open up for you?
At UC, once you've finished your master you can become a registered therapist straight away. That clear track to a career really appeals to me. The program is hugely practical with lots of placements, so I feel well equipped to jump right in.
Have there been any surprises for you at UC?
Yes – I thought I was just coming here to change my career, but it’s also been transformative in terms of my Māori identity. Through my indigenous studies I've had the chance to learn about myself, my people and our rich history and culture. I feel stoked with how it’s worked out.
What would you say to other adults thinking about study?
I’m always telling other people to give studying a go. I tell them, it will change your life. Education is an investment in yourself. It will build up your self-esteem and your confidence, even if you don't end up turning it into a career.
Have you joined any clubs or groups on campus?
As a Māori student you let them know your iwi when you enrol and get connected straight away. Since day one I’ve been part of and also supported by the Māori Development Team (Te Waka Pāpakano). They put on lots of events that are centred around food and whanaungatanga, a sense of family and sharing your daily life.
How do you want to make a difference in the world?
Specifically, I want to improve mental health statistics for indigenous peoples and New Zealanders. The therapeutic skills I’m gaining at UC will help me do that.
Any parting words of advice for others?
It's never too late – or too early – to start. Learning is a lifelong journey.