Success Stories 28 Feb 2020
Sokopeti Vite's interest in economics and finance all started from her family's small kava business back home in the Kingdom of Tonga.
Hailing from Tokomololo, Hoi Tongatapu, Sokopeti says she's been blessed to grow up in a household full of love and solid support.
"My family has always been my inspiration," she said.
"My father is a weather forecaster and a farmer, while my mother is a homemaker but helps my dad out with the farm as much as she can."
"My parents have always pushed my siblings and me to strive in school. They have always believed that education can uphold our family, the community, and the country as a whole."
Although life in Tonga was simple and peaceful for Sokopeti, she would soon swap the warmer weather for Palmerston North's cooler climate when she was awarded the NZ Aid scholarship. Since studying and living abroad, Sokopeti says she has pushed herself further to try new things and immerse herself in opportunities such as the PCF Summer Internship programme.
Interning at Fonterra Research and Development Centre in Palmerston North, Sokopeti was placed with the Finance Team working on an accounting/finance project, called Asset Verification.
From her family's kava business to being in a global dairy company, Sokopeti says both circumstances have made her think about her future career when she returns to Tonga.
"At home, my parents run this little kava business to generate more income for our family, and it made think of how the resources we have in Tonga are efficiently utilised so that it can help sustain a family and community."
"Whereas the internship has pulled me out of my comfort zone to be more practical and has enhanced my perspectives on the differences between a developed economy and a developing economy."
Although Sokopeti was the sole Tongan among the summer interns, she was fortunately not the only Tongan at Fonterra having gained some mentorship with the Kingdom's first food science PhD, Dr. Palatasa Havea.
Dr. Palatasa Havea (who is now the Dean Pacific in the Office of Pasifika Student Success at Massey University) was Fonterra's Principal Research Scientist and acknowledges that where he is at now is the result of being persistent and determined, despite him failing numerous times at school.
His backstory serves as an inspiration to all Pacific students in high school and at university.
"Failure is only an event in life, not a person," Dr. Havea usually advises Pasifika students.
"I was in a situation where the environment and everybody else telling me I won't amount to anything, but I had a dream and I believed my dream far more than other people did."
"If you have faith in your dream then what other people say doesn't matter."
With her last semester now underway, Sokopeti expressed she is a different person now compared to when she was first started her studies and out of all her achievements, the internship is her most proudest.
"Being a recipient of the PCF Summer Internship programme allowed me to extend my abilities, skills and knowledge in creating constructive solutions and practical working ethics that could help improve the development and progress of my home country's economy."
Top left Image: Sokopeti in her homeland Tonga.
Second image: Dr. Palatasa Havea. Source: Stuff Online