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Gypsy-Rose Koteka

We are thrilled to reflect on the successful completion of an extraordinary opportunity brought to you by TupuToa. Thanks to the generous funding from Education New Zealand’s Prime Minister’s Scholarship, Māori and Pacific tauira had the chance to participate in a transformative 1-week onboarding and 8-week internship and entrepreneurship program in Taipei, Taiwan, widely renowned as Asia’s Silicon Valley.

From March to May of 2023, our selected group of 19 talented individuals, including TupuToa alumni and current interns, embarked on a remarkable journey of cultural exchange and personal growth. Throughout this period, they immersed themselves in the dynamic and innovative environment of Taipei, gaining invaluable professional experiences and forging lifelong connections. The program provided a unique opportunity to explore Taiwan’s thriving tech industry, learn from industry leaders, and navigate the exciting challenges of entrepreneurship. Our interns not only enhanced their skills and knowledge but also developed a deeper understanding of Taiwanese culture and its vibrant traditions.

Gypsy, one of our Taiwan tauira and a passionate third-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, has embarked on a transformative journey with TupuToa. Through her participation in our program, Gypsy has not only expanded her academic horizons but has also become an advocate for Pacific and Māori students striving for excellence in a predominantly Pākehā-dominated society.

Gypsy’s academic path was influenced by a life-changing student exchange program to Sweden in 2019-2020. Upon returning, she found herself drawn to the study of other cultures and their intricate belief systems. Cultural Anthropology resonated deeply with her, and she delved into its captivating world, realising its intertwined connection with Religious Studies. Recognising the significance of both disciplines, she decided to pursue them as her majors, further enriching her educational journey.

Introduced to TupuToa by a liaison at her university, Gypsy was encouraged to seize the opportunity presented before her. She applied for TupuToa, embracing the chance to gain invaluable professional experience and forge meaningful connections,

“I had to catch up with a liaising person at uni. Her name was Raegan, and she really encouraged me to apply for TupuToa as I was in my second year of uni at that time, and she kind of said, you have nothing to lose. Why not take up on the opportunity that’s been given? So she helped me apply. And it was kind of like the start of my journey with TupuToa”.

Gypsy’s recent internship experience with ANTEC, under the guidance of Tina Wilson, the Trade Commissioner in Taiwan, has been an enlightening one. As an intern researcher, her role involves conducting in-depth research on current and past clients of ANTEC. Her objective is to gather feedback and insights to enhance the existing free trade agreement between New Zealand and Taiwan. Through this experience, Gypsy has discovered the importance of networking and building lasting relationships, which she believes will greatly benefit her future career prospects,

“One of the biggest learnings I got was networking is such a huge, huge aspect to have in your everyday life. I guess it’s definitely who you know, and not what you know”.

Reflecting on her previous internship during TupuToa’s summer program, Gypsy recognises the stark differences between the corporate world and her previous experiences in customer service and the food industry. The internship taught her the invaluable lesson that networking plays a pivotal role in professional growth. She emphasises the significance of cultivating connections that go beyond the work sphere, as they can lead to lasting friendships and potential job opportunities.

“Creating those connections and relationships definitely would help towards future jobs – definitely looks good on the CV. But not only that, I could also make relationships. These relationships could last longer than just work, I guess, sphere for things, and it can go further, like friends who go for coffee and could possibly find jobs through them or just become a really good friend”.

Looking ahead, Gypsy envisions herself completing her degree and potentially taking a year off to reassess her goals and aspirations. She aspires to secure a job that aligns with her interests and values, while also contemplating further studies, possibly at the postgraduate level. Her dedication to continuous learning and personal growth is evident as she explores the possibilities that lie ahead,

“Most definitely I’ll go into post grad, and then hopefully, even to a master’s, but definitely time will tell whether or not I continue that far up.”

When asked about her advice for aspiring interns applying to TupuToa, Gypsy’s message is resolute: seize the opportunity fearlessly. She emphasises that the experience offered by TupuToa is unique and invaluable, particularly for Pacific and Māori students who may come from small towns with limited opportunities. Gypsy encourages applicants to strive for excellence, regardless of the scale of their achievements, and to take advantage of the international internship opportunities offered by TupuToa,

“My advice would be go for it. You have nothing to lose. It’s an experience that most if not all especially Pacific and Māori students won’t be able to get especially if you come from a small town. Having these opportunities allows us individuals to grow as much as we can and be independent as much as we want in today’s society, especially when its pakeha dominated. So definitely do apply. Keep striving for excellence. Whether they’re little or huge. Do what you have to do. If you want to apply, it’s great because we also have offers like international internships as well, so that’s also another great opportunity to grab while it’s there right in front of you.”

Gypsy’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of TupuToa. We are proud to support passionate individuals like her who embrace cultural diversity, push boundaries, and empower themselves and their communities. Together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable future for all aspiring professionals.

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