Moala Katoa [2013-2017] | Scots College

Moala Katoa [2013-2017]

Scots College graduate finds community support at Otago University

Scots College graduate Moala Katoa never spent much time away from home before beginning his tertiary studies, but in order to achieve his goal of becoming a doctor and making a difference in the lives of Pacific peoples, he says the distance is worth it.

The 18-year-old, who grew up in Newtown and is of Tongan heritage, says growing up seeing the health problems experienced by his community is what  motivated him to pursue medicine at the University of Otago and contribute to the health sector in New Zealand.

Receiving scholarships under the Pacific Orientation Programme at Otago (POPO) has enabled him to embark on that mission with a highly supported foundation year at Otago.

The POPO Foundation Scholarship programme supports Pacific students through a Foundation Year in Dunedin, preparing them for further study in Otago’s Health Science First Year (HSFY) course while guaranteeing accommodation in a residential college, and financial assistance for their tuition fees and accommodation costs. HSFY is a prerequisite for those going on to study Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Medicine, Pharmacy, or Physiotherapy at Otago.

Moala also received a University of Otago Māori and Pacific Peoples’ Entrance Scholarship which he plans to put toward future study after completing his foundation year.

Arriving in Dunedin for the first time earlier this year, he admits the first few weeks were difficult. Thankfully, Moala has had plenty of support from Studholme College – the residential college he’s staying at during his time at Otago.

Studholme College is one of 15 residential colleges on or near Otago’s Dunedin campus. Each offers support and care in its own unique style.

“It’s a really homely place and is not as noisy as some of the other colleges. They’re really strict at exam time, which is good.”

Grateful for the financial support the POPO Foundation Scholarship programme offers him, he is also quick to praise the cultural and community support he is receiving through the programme.

“The co-ordinator is really awesome. She’s really grown close to us, and us to her. If it wasn’t for her support, it would have been a lot harder for us.”

Being in a cohort with other Pacific students allows him to maintain his connection with his Tongan cultural identity and he says he is “grateful to be able to speak my culture”.

Since it began in 2012, the POPO Foundation Scholarship Programme has supported over 70 students to work towards their goal of having a career in health, according to Programme Co-ordinator, Kala Fagasoaia.

“Moala has grabbed this scholarship opportunity with both hands and has been an incredible representative of his community here at Otago. He is such an important part of the POPO Foundation Programme family. I really appreciate his leadership within the group and his commitment to academic success. I’m excited to cheer him on through the rest of his journey at Otago,” says Ms Fagasoaia.

Even with several months of university experience behind him, Moala is still “incredibly grateful” for the opportunity his scholarships have given him: “I don’t come from a wealthy family. I’m always looking to improve. If I can do it, you can do it. It’s a blessing.”

Learn more about Otago University Entrance Scholarships

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