Keleti’s inspiring story of navigating life’s challenges to complete postgraduate studies

 

Keleti Sophia Tikotani epitomises and takes multitasking to a whole new level. From flying thousands of feet in the sky, shaping young minds through education and being a national rep for Fiji’s netball team, Keleti pursued a fulfilling career while juggling her studies.

Born and raised in Suva, Fiji, Keleti spent most of her life at the Nasova Police Barracks, where she grew up with her parents who were both Senior Officers of the Fiji Police Force.

Despite being raised in Fiji’s capital, Keleti never fails to acknowledge the support and the hands that nurtured them, miles away from the islands of Mabula-Cicia, Tovu-Totoya, and Ketei-Totoya from which they hail and their maternal links to Bua in Vanua Levu.

Her journey is one filled with challenges, perseverance, and determination to overcome adversity in the pursuit of excellence. Keleti’s upbringing instilled in her discipline and a strong sense of community that laid the foundation for her tenacity in facing life’s challenges head-on.

From her early academic years at Veiuto Primary to becoming the Head Girl at Suva Grammar School, Keleti excelled academically and athletically.

After Year 13, she aligned her academic aspiration with her environmental passion and pursued a Bachelor of Environmental Science at The University of the South Pacific (USP).

“I have always been passionate about preserving or protecting natural resources and pursued this programme because it would allow me to do exactly that.”

“When I started my Bachelor’s at USP, I was relieved when I learnt I wasn’t the only one trying to find my way around campus at the beginning of Semester 1 in 2019.”

During her undergraduate years, she found fulfilment in supporting fellow students as a Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) Leader, which reflected her excellent academic performance.

“I’ve always loved helping people. When I became a PASS Leader, I realised that helping fellow students who were struggling with their studies allowed me to bridge gaps and foster academic success. I always felt so content when I helped even just one student.”

After graduating in 2022, Keleti was recruited by Fiji’s national carrier, Fiji Airways, as a flight attendant, allowing her to “soar through the skies, explore new horizons and embrace the adventures of travel”.

Yet, amidst the excitement, a persistent feeling nudged her towards a deeper purpose.

“I always felt like something was missing and that I should do something related to my field of studies or to pursue something further to what I had achieved.”

Driven by a profound sense of duty to contribute meaningfully to her country, Keleti made the courageous decision to pursue postgraduate studies while balancing a demanding job with Fiji Airways.

“During one of my layovers in Fiji, I decided to apply for postgraduate studies and began my upskilling journey at USP in the field of climate change.”

“Juggling my studies and work, especially when occasionally travelling out of the country to international destinations, was tough.”

“There were times when I landed at an international destination such as the US and I’d rush to my accommodation to catch up on school work or to finish an assignment. I would often stay up until 4am US time, which is close to midnight in Fiji, trying to complete my assignment and submit it.”

“I would have a few hours of sleep before we’re wheels up again.”

The journey was challenging. Juggling international flights and late-night study sessions eventually prompted her to apply for a part-time teaching position at USP.

Buoyed by her unwavering faith and determination, she went against the advice of her family and accepted the offer from USP.

Keleti excelled in balancing her studies and her responsibilities as a teaching assistant—but this did not come without its fair share of challenges.

“My family told me not to go for the part-time job because it was less than what I earned. This was a difficult time because I felt like I’d let myself and my family down.”

“At that time, my parents were serving in Nauru as police officers and my family didn’t expect me to leave my flight attendant job so early. They returned the year I left flying, so it wasn’t a good time for me to leave because of financial constraints.”

“There were days I didn’t have any fare to go home, so I had to walk. There were times I just needed some peace, so I ended up staying back at work. Although I went against my family’s advice, I am forever grateful for their support when I boldly decided to focus on my studies and move closer to home.”

“During the second semester, I landed a job I never thought I would get and paid all my fees. I was ever grateful for God’s provision in my life.”

Her perseverance was tested further when an unexpected opportunity arose to try out for the Fiji Pearls, the national netball team.

Despite initial doubts and the challenges of an intense training regimen alongside her professional and academic commitments, Keleti embraced the challenge. This earned her a place in the extended squad and becoming a reserve for the 2023 Pacific Games.

“I received a call from my club coach after starting at my new job and she asked that I show up for the Fiji trials. I told her I had just started at my new workplace and asked if I could opt out, but she insisted that I attended.”

“I wasn’t prepared for it so I borrowed a pair of Converse shoes from a friend and my coach brought my training equipment. I went because I wanted to experience and prove to myself that I can excel academically and in sports.”

“I remember waking up early for training before I could get ready for work. Whilst at work, I’d take a break for another training session with the team, return to work and join the final training session after work.”

“After this, I would then return home or head over to school to catch up on my studies and assignments.”

Through it all, Keleti’s story is a testament to the power of faith, resilience, and self-belief.

Her journey from a young girl who has dealt with challenges and financial constraints to a respected team assistant at the World Bank Group exemplifies the transformative impact of perseverance and a steadfast commitment to personal growth and community service.

“You can do both. You can pursue your passions and excel academically. Believe in yourself, stay resilient, and trust that every challenge is an opportunity to grow. Most importantly put God First and you will never be last.”

As she continues to make a difference in her field of work, Keleti is a beacon of inspiration and a testament to the strength of embracing challenges and pursuing one’s dreams with unwavering determination.

 

Meanwhile, USP is now accepting new and study resumption applications for Semester 2, 2024. Explore our programmes at www.usp.ac.fj/programmes and apply online at www.usp.ac.fj/apply.

For resuming students, submit your study resumption application at www.usp.ac.fj/resume.

Students can also apply for credit transfer by heading to www.forms.usp.ac.fj/application-for-credit-transfer. Make sure to submit your application at the start of the semester.

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