Hela Tauhehe Teao nearly threw in the towel during her academic journey but managed to find support from her family and the staff at The University of the South Pacific (USP) Samoa Campus to complete her degree in Crop Science.
“I had two biology courses I needed to complete, and it was a struggle when COVID hit. I had to go back home to Tokelau. I was supposed to finish my degree in 2021. So it took me two years. It was a real struggle to go on,” Ms Teao said.
She added, “Back home in Tokelau; there are not so many resources, and we had no labs, making it one of my toughest journeys. I was blessed that the coordinator of the two biology courses allowed me to complete them online; this made the difference and helped me get to my graduation day here in Samoa.”
Like many Pacific Islanders, Ms Teao grew up in a big family that supported her every step of the way.
“I grew up with my grandparents back in Tokelau, and I found out recently that the woman who I grew up knowing as my sister turned out to be my biological mom; I am so grateful for a lot of family and love despite the newfound relations within my family,” Ms Teao shared.
An emotional Ms Teao added, “I grew up an only child, but I am blessed to be in such a loving family. I come from a low-income family, and my dad was a fisherman; I saw how hard things were and knew I needed to do this for myself and my family. They helped me through a lot, even in choosing the university I would attend, USP. “
“I chose USP because it was part of the Pacific, and I quickly learnt how diverse the institution is when I joined. I came to USP Samoa Campus and met many people from different cultures,” she added.
Ms Teao is hopeful her story will help other young people in Tokelau, Samoa and across the Pacific to push on despite their circumstances.
“I hope my story can reach another young person in my home country and that they will be encouraged to join USP and know that they too can make it in Tokelau, Samoa or any other USP campuses they wish to study at.