'Twin' paths diverge now study starts

00:18, Feb 14 2013
Michaela Matenga and Ella Marwick
SEPERATE WAYS: Sporting mates Michaela Matenga, left, who is studying at Otago University, and Ella Marwick, studying at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, outside Nelson Hospital.

Close friends Michaela Matenga and Ella Marwick "are like twins", but this year will follow different paths to pursue tertiary studies at opposite ends of the island.

The young women played rep netball and touch rugby together in Nelson, but attended different secondary schools.

Both start tertiary study this year and hope for a career in health services, but Michaela is heading south to Otago and Ella will remain in Nelson.

Michaela, 18, was Nayland College's top female athlete in 2012, and Ella, 17, won the equivalent "general sporting excellence" award at Waimea. Both have featured in the Nelson Mail for their sporting successes, but 2013 will bring them a new academic challenge.

And for Michaela, who headed south for Otago University today, there is the added challenge of starting a new life in Dunedin.

The first in her "huge" family to attend university, she plans to complete a foundation course at Otago to prepare her for the gruelling first-year health-science course, which determines who is accepted into the university's highly competitive medical school.


She was accepted into Arana hall of residence, a popular boarding hostel that prides itself on hosting leading students from around the country.

Michaela will be assisted in her studies by two scholarships; Tu Kahika, available to about 20 Maori health-science students each year, and a Maori and Pacific Island students Otago University entrance scholarship. Each scholarship would contribute about $10,000 toward Michaela's expensive eight-year degree, which could easily leave a student under a mountain of debt, she said.

"Obviously the money is nice," she said. "But the main reason it is good is there is heaps of support. It's not like you are going down to uni by yourself."

Ella is staying in Nelson, studying nursing at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology on their half-a-degree for free scheme, which she said was about $20,000 cheaper than studying away from home.

Her course began on Monday and already Ella can see that she has chosen the right path.

"I have always wanted a job where you feel like you are putting your energy into something that's worthwhile.

"Once you start you kind of know, or you don't, and I know it's the right path."

She said an accountant's salary was attractive, but that kind of work would bore her. Instead, she would eventually specialise her training, possibly to become a paramedic. "I want a bit of excitement in my life," she said.

Her initial training would take three years and involve practical placements at hospitals and medical centres around the region.

Michaela's Nayland College science and maths teachers inspired her health-science ambitions during recent years, she said, while her Porirua upbringing instilled a desire to help others.

"It wasn't the best growing up, surrounded by violence and that. So, I have always wanted to help people. Help them come out if it, I suppose," she said.

"I am not only doing it because I enjoy the physical, fixing side, but I also want to talk to people too."

Michaela will miss her family in Nelson and Ella too, but will visit whenever she can.

The Nelson Mail