Palmerston North local, Nicole Tipene, was working towards her nursing degree before making the switch to study a Bachelor of Bicultural Social Work at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.
Throughout her life, she has consistently shown genuine compassion and concern for others and wanted to work in an industry where she could serve the community.
But soon after beginning her nursing degree, she became more open to and curious about te ao Māori (the Māori worldview).
“I was challenged by a teacher on my whakaaro (opinion) on something to the point where it changed my perspective on the world. I got interested in Māori spaces, Māori issues, myself, and my whānau. I decided I wanted to do social work, and I knew I had to study here.”
Nicole is in her final year of the four-year degree, something she is proud of, considering she didn’t complete secondary school.
The mum of three hopes that by completing her degree, she can be an example to her tamariki (children) and break generational cycles for her whānau.
“Te Wānanga o Aotearoa has helped open doors to further education, and I’ve been able to reconnect in an identity sense. The tools I’ve learnt help navigate barriers and challenges, and they reassert my confidence.”
Studying in a space where Māoritanga (Māori culture) is celebrated was a key factor in Nicole’s academic success. She praises her kaiako (teachers) for creating a classroom environment where tauira can be vulnerable without judgement or pressure.
Nicole says the learning was “real and raw, and it was a safe space to explore yourself.”
After completing her degree, Nicole has high hopes for her future and the future of her whānau. But for now, she continues to focus on her study and make the most of each class and lesson.
“We go deep into ourselves, and what comes out of that are tools we can use outside of here. We can use them in our everyday lives, and that’s the reason that I can accomplish my goals.”