Joshua Aliifa’alogo has a strong passion for helping people and giving back. He credits his Samoan parents and the strong cultural values they instilled in him as a child, for the guiding principles of his life.
The 23-year-old is currently in his final year of a Master of International Development and Planning at the University of Otago. Joshua already has a Bachelor of Arts in in Geography and Pacific Island Studies under his belt.
Born and raised in Mangere, Auckland, the youngest of six children, and the only one born in New Zealand, Joshua decided to move to the South Island for his tertiary studies to explore his horizons and learn to be independent.
“I consider myself very fortunate that we grew up in our culture, learnt our traditions and values. I have friends who weren’t as lucky.”
Joshua was in the final year of his undergraduate studies when he heard about TupuToa and acknowledges that at the time he didn’t realise the impact it would have on his life.
“I didn’t really know what to take to internships, how to make the most of them. The TupuToa workshops were great preparation and importantly inspired us to be proud of our Pacific heritage and believe that we could make it in a Palangi world.”
Joshua’s first internship was with ARUP, a multi-disciplinary firm that focuses on planning, engineering and computer science, in Auckland. The warm and welcoming international team made Joshua feel completely at ease and hearing stories from his colleagues made him realise how diverse the world is.
“The team was great. They gave me work to do from the very first day and shared their knowledge. A colleague from Europe shared his journey from Europe, to adapting to life in Australia and then New Zealand. And I realised that everyone has their own journey and their own challenges.”
TupuToa’s Navigators Team, who act as mentors for the interns, were also a great help.
“They never see us as just interns – they treat us like we are part of the family and are regularly checking in on us and providing guidance and support, and making sure we aren’t getting too stressed with the demands of study and work, and also family responsibilities.”
Joshua’s second internship was with the Resource Consents Team at Auckland Council. He describes it as a very different experience from ARUP.
“This time I was working as part of a large, public sector team with a hierarchical structure – so it could be hard to have my voice heard sometimes. I also didn’t think that the leadership necessarily reflected the diversity of Auckland so I raised it with the senior leaders. But what I did see was a team that put their heart and soul into making Auckland better and I learnt a lot.”
As part of his studies, Joshua also undertook a New Zealand Institute of Planning qualification, a field of study he enjoys given “it’s a combination of legal advice and compliance and also giving advice to people who want to own their own land and make their families feel safe. It’s a great opportunity to help Maori and Pacific peoples learn about their indigenous land and help them build their own homes.
In his final year of studies now, Joshua is very much thinking about the future and jobs that he would like to apply for. He is also very aware that while he is the second in his family to go to university, he’s the first to graduate as his sister had to give up her studies to support their family.
“It’s been difficult because my mum has been on dialysis for the last ten years, but she is very strong. And my dad is the perfect husband and father and looks after her.”
Joshua’s advice for other interns is to “always take your full self, especially your culture to where you are interning.”
“Be open to learning new things and learn how to network. If you see something that you are not comfortable with, have the courage to ask why. And share what you learn with your peers.”
For employers taking on Maori and Pacific interns, Joshua suggests learning a little about the culture will be helpful, and getting to know people at a personal level.
For himself, he’s looking forward to building his career and giving back to his community. “Hopefully someday I can offer internships to others.”