Working as a checkout operator and supervisor early in her career gave Kararaina King (Ngāpuhi, Tainui) an insight into human behaviour and a desire to learn more about people.

First time study

With her sights set on the Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology), her first steps towards her goal was completing the New Zealand Certificate in Study Career and Preparation (Level 4). The programme helps to develop the necessary skills for further study at a tertiary level, including developing writing skills.

Kararaina says it was initially nerve-wracking starting the New Zealand Certificate in Study Career and Preparation (Level 4) through online and distance learning with Open Polytechnic, as she had left school at thirteen and it was her first time enrolled in tertiary study.

However, her thirst for knowledge helped her overcome those concerns. “Learning new things was what I enjoyed most about studying, it’s the not knowing, that’s the exciting bit,” she says.

Guidance key to success

Having little experience using digital platforms, Kararaina was impressed with the help she received from the tutors and student mentors at Open Polytechnic.

“I’m not a device savvy person and the student mentors helped me step-by-step to use iQualify which is Open Polytechnic’s online learning platform.”

“My tutors were always there to help, and the student advisors also helped me to create a study plan. In the beginning I didn’t know I needed a study plan, but it really helped,” says Kararaina.

Having a study plan showed her where she was starting from and what she could accomplish with her studies. “A study plan makes you really excited for your future studies and what you can achieve. To be honest in the beginning, I had no idea what tertiary study involved, I was quite new, lost.”

Open Polytechnic were welcoming and accepted Kararaina’s enrolment based on her previous work experience. “It was hard being turned down by other tertiary providers, especially after I had made the decision to study, but I was ecstatic when Open Polytechnic accepted my application.”

“I enjoy online learning because it’s in my own space and my own time.”

Balancing work and study

Distance learning can be challenging, especially when time is limited, but the key to managing this is with communication, says Kararaina.

 “When you are working and studying, communication with your tutor is key, they help you, they support you.”

Kararaina was working two jobs while studying, one as an essential worker at Waitakere Hospital and the other as a cleaner at Radius Arran Court Rest Home & Hospital. For her work, she was required to take a course in cleaning protocols through Careerforce, which meant for a while, she was studying this, in addition to her Open Polytechnic studies.

Having to detach from one course of study to then carry on with her Open Polytechnic studies was not always easy.

Kararaina recalls there were times it was difficult to keep going with her studies, especially when she did not pass her fourth assignment, after having passed the first three.

“I was really hard on myself and called my tutor crying, she gave me all the awhi (help) in the world to carry on, and I did because of her; I was able to resubmit, and I passed.”

Kararaina says she was able to get an extension when she needed one, “I found this very helpful, it was really lovely to have tutors who understood me and my situation.” 

She says studying requires a certain level of patience.

“Having patience was very hard, with working full-time, being a mum, and family life but, if you time it right and pick your study times, you can always find at least an hour or two a day for your studies.”

The best time to study, she says, was the 20 minutes she spent studying with her five-year-old son every afternoon as it provided the perfect opportunity to unwind after work. She also made sure when she had to devote focused hours on her study, she scheduled those activities after her three children had gone to bed.

Whānau and friends part of the study journey

“My youngest son missed a year of school over COVID-19 and had to catch up, so every time I would study, he would sit with me and do his homework, it was a nice family thing to do together. It helped put my mind at ease and I was able to focus more.”

"My son now calls his homework ‘study'; it's very cute,” says Kararaina.

She says her husband and family have been her biggest supporters, and three of her friends have been inspired to study too. “I think seeing me at home, with my head down, focusing on my work got them thinking about studying too. They are stay-at-home mums, so why not get an education or a certificate while you are at home and bringing your babies up.”

A passion for youth

Kararaina says her goal is to one day help youth.

“I want to strengthen their minds and show them that where you come from does not define who you are. My goal is to help our future generation.”

“For young Māori, especially, who are thinking of studying, I would say believe in yourself, studies will bring another side of yourself that you didn’t know existed.”

“Triumph from believing in yourself and your own efforts. It’s the best feeling you could ever have.”

Her advice to others thinking of studying through Open Polytechnic is to figure out what career you want, find your passion, and go for it.

“I remember being at school and I had no idea what I wanted to be when I was an adult. I got to twenty-eight and realised I wanted to study, and that I had a passion to study towards."

“For anyone who is not confident about studying I recommend Open Polytechnic because they don’t discourage you, instead they support you and lift you up in your education, they want you to pass.”

A future in Psychology

Having successfully completed the first steps towards her education goals Kararaina is feeling both excited and nervous about her next study journey – starting the Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) in July.

“I am ecstatic to carry on with my studies after having the support from my student advisors and tutors. They made me believe in myself.”

For anyone who is not confident about studying I recommend Open Polytechnic because they don’t discourage you, instead they support you and lift you up in your education, they want you to pass.