Growing up as a Pacific Islander there are certain things that matter. Firstly GOD. Secondly FAMILY. Thirdly SERVICE. All these things in that order are the most important and what we are raised on. So it makes sense that we go through our entire lives always putting these things at the forefront of our being.
Its hard to put into words the journey through education and University as a Pacific Islander. I can think of one word. Lonely. Its a lonely road sometimes. Sure they say that there are various schemes to help e.g. MAPAS, Pacific Success. But its a lonely place when no one in your family have been through university and no one in your family understands why you aren’t just going out and getting a job.
They talk to you about what God wants, they talk about their needs as your family, they talk about your service to them as a young person within the family. All of these things usually point to the financial aspects of how the family runs. So it is very lonely. Its lonely when you have classes and you don’t quite understand some of the academic language. Then you go home and you want to talk about it but everyone is tired and/or at work, so there really is no one to share the struggle with.
You are always thankful for your parents sacrifices for you. ALWAYS. But there is that little bit of pain when you see them working and asking you to work and you know you need to, to help support them, but you also know there is a 2000 word essay that needs to be written too! Its lonely when you have all this pressure on you and no one truly understands. There is pressure from Uni to get the work done, to fit the institutional mould and there is pressure from home to work and earn money and contribute, even if they wont say it out loud, the pressure is there.
So it is lonely. Its lonely when your Uni mates who are not Pacific Islanders are all young and carefree. Even though you are young too! They don’t have a family to provide for. They don’t have to work a 40 hour week plus go to Uni fulltime, all to keep the lights on at home. They, and I realise I am generalising here, don’t have the same top 3 things that matter so much it makes you feel completely guilty. God, Family and Service. They don’t have to spend all night writing an assignment, then getting literally two seconds sleep before getting up to help cook for Sunday lunch and ferry older people to and from Church.
But the positive from all of this is the moment you graduate and get a well paying job. The moment you can pay for things without working the ridiculous hours and doing essays and assignments on top of that. The moment you can pay all the bills and your parents can relax and save their money or spend it on something they want! It is the success of being the first person in your family to graduate from tertiary education. The first person to fit the western worlds mould of success. The positives that come from being a role model to others in your family. The young ones seeing you covered in Ula Loles in pictures and imagining their own success and their own Ulas hanging around their necks.
Lonely but definitely worth it. Thankful for the opportunity to share the loneliness and the success.