Failure was not an option for Sio Kihe-La'a Talakai-Alatini when she began her Master of International Tourism Management at AUT in 2012.
As a mother and a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Tourism Management, Sio wanted to succeed not only for herself but for her family.
Sio's thesis was based around nurturing an understanding of home. She used visiting friends and relatives (VFR) to understand how relatives maintain relationships from one country to another.
Her research was based around an event that occurs every three years in an outer island of Tonga. Sio’s participants had all travelled from different countries including the United States, New Zealand, Australia, as well as the main island of Tonga, to come to this week-long event.
Sio’s ambition was to capture the reasons why the diaspora of Tonga would come back to their homeland and how they maintain relationships with their loved ones.
The inspiration for Sio’s work stems from her upbringing. Migrating from Tonga to New Zealand with her family when she was three years old, Sio felt confused about where to call home while growing up.
"Growing up in New Zealand, I didn't have the opportunity to travel back the my homeland. This research not only gave me that opportunity, but it helped me to understand why it is important to come back and visit Tonga."