‘Be bold and courageous:’ Tongan teen heads to Yale
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
A West Auckland teen is officially on his way to Yale University this week - and has some simple advice for rangatahi: “Be bold and courageous.”
Andrew Fa’aoso, 18, arrives in the US on Sunday and will be on campus at Yale a week later.
His departing advice for upcoming young students from New Zealand?
“Be bold and courageous - and take the steps you think are necessary to better yourself, even if they differ from the expectations other people project onto you.
“Have a group of people around you that drive you forward and will be with you throughout the whole process and journey, whatever it is.”
In April, an emotional video clip of Fa’aoso, who has British and Tongan (Houmakelikao) heritage, went viral on TikTok.
The video captured the moment Fa’aoso received the offer to attend the US Ivy League university on a fully funded scholarship for four years.
Fa’aoso plans to educate fellow students about New Zealand and Tonga.
“I’ll be proud of my Tongan and British heritage and share those two key parts of my roots with those around me.
“I think it’ll be interesting to see how accommodating the academic structure of Yale is to vibrant perspectives and cultural knowledge from other places in the world.
“It’s quite rare for someone of Pacific descent, let alone from New Zealand, to experience an Ivy League education.”
Fa’aoso says he has “strong mixed emotions” about arriving on campus soon.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, but I don’t genuinely know how I will feel until my feet touch the ground of Yale’s campus and I have the chance to experience the environment.
“Only then will I be able to tell or comprehend how I genuinely feel.”
Fa’aoso is looking forward to the scenery, food and people he will meet while staying in the oldest residential college dorm.
“The residential colleges have such strong history and it’s crazy to believe that I’ll be sharing the stomping ground with previous successful [alumni] who have become respective world leaders - Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett and various politicians, journalists and writers.”
He will be there with three other Kiwis he recently met through The Yale Alumni Association.
Fa’aoso has been volunteering with the United Nations Youth and Netsafe while preparing in in New Zealand.
An aspiring journalist, Fa’aoso works as a reporter and producer for Auckland student radio station 95bFM.
He plans to study towards a Bachelor of Arts Double Major in Political Science and Sociology.
Along with journalism, he wants to work for a humanitarian organisation as an advocate.
“(My) future goal is to settle back here in NZ after establishing a career overseas,” he says.
“I thought about giving work back into the community with young people or working in the media here in NZ.”
Mum Melodie Hallam is proud of her son and says she will miss him when he leaves next week.
“I will miss everything - but especially his hugs, our banter, our debates and hearing him say: “I love you” every day.
“I am most proud of his resilience, honesty, work ethic, and maturity. He is my life.”
Hero Image: Andrew Fa'aoso has been accepted into an Ivy League college, Yale University, in the US. Photo / Michael Craig