2nd-year student, Bachelor of Arts in Māori Development
From a high school student uncertain about his future to second-year university study already dreaming of a PhD, Abel Kururangi Johnston has come a long way in the last two years.
“In July 2017 I was in my last year of high school and had no idea what I would do next. We had a career fair at my school, and I picked a few tertiary institutions that looked interesting and did some more research on them. What stood out about AUT was that its website was very easy to navigate.
“A little later, my old man and I went to AUT’s open day, AUT LIVE, where we talked to quite a few people. I first looked at communication studies, then Māori media and eventually settled on Māori development. I had grown up bilingual and my dad is the general manager of an iwi trust. I’ve always been around Māori language and culture, and have always found it interesting.”
Freedom and opportunities
What he loves most about the Bachelor of Arts is the freedom to explore a wide range of topics, says Abel who was the head boy at Nelson College before he came to AUT.
“I really enjoy the variety of stuff I’ve been able to study as part of the Bachelor of Arts, from history and economics, to culture and society. I love learning and I like the freedom to study what I find interesting. I love researching and I know I want to do a Master of Arts when I finish my degree, and probably a PhD as well.”
But before he takes on postgraduate study, Abel is planning another big adventure – studying overseas.
“Next semester, I’ll be going on a student exchange to Champlain College in Vermont. I was nominated by the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Development to go on this student exchange, supported by a Connor Glassett Memorial Scholarship. I really want to see Washington, DC; Boston, New York and Canada. And because this will be the closest I’ve ever been to Europe, I’m hoping to see Europe as well.”
Advice for other students
Just go to things on offer, Abel advises other students.
“You’ve got to do something social. I’m in four clubs and I go to everything – I just love meeting people. There’s so much happening at AUT; just have a look around and talk to people. I even ended up MC’ing for the social part of a postgraduate health conference here, and that was the best conference I’ve ever been to.”
It’s not always easy to find your community, especially when you’re from out of town, he admits.
“In my first week at AUT, I walked into the marae and asked, ‘Do you need someone to help in the kitchen?’. I now have a job at the marae, welcoming international delegations to AUT. We get some really cool groups coming through, and I’m also involved in the noho marae experience for international students, which is always fun.
“If you’re Māori, go to the orientation for Māori students and the Māori Liaison Office, and join Tītahi ki TUA, the Māori students’ association. Just go and meet people.”