A Year of University Life in Retrospect-A Hero to Zero?

I wrote this article on the eve of the 2019 Rugby World Cup where New Zealand will play England in the semi-finals for a spot in the finals, the whole country New Zealand (where I currently call home) is apprehensive. Our nerves are definitely up there for this rugby-driven-mad nation at the bottom of the world. The build-up in the media has been profoundly huge and to be honest, we are excited about this massive game.

But then, we lost the game!

The whole nation wept.

The mood was even more sombre. It was like being at a funeral. It was gutting. Yes we were all hurting. NZ Herald reflected that very dark mood in their piece here Our Dark Mood

Does that mean we went from heroes to zeros?

No. Not necessarily.

Despite the All Blacks putting the hard work and skills into the game and played with their heart and soul even though it wasn’t enough, they still came away as winners. Yes they were outplayed by the best team in the world but they were gracious in their defeat. They still maintained their mana.

The raw emotions the All Blacks players felt, I was in their shoes. I totally get that “defeating” feeling. It happened to me at University this year when I didn’t do well in my first year back at University after a hiatus. I felt so defeated, humiliated and embarrassed. They would have all felt the same way.

I wanted to feel “normal” again after university. I just wanted to relax and be comfortable again-something that the last 8 months have seen very little of, for me.

I suffered behind closed doors. For 3 weeks in July after finding out my examination results, I was devastated.

The 2019 New Zealand Rugby Team in Japan for Rugby World Cup-#AllBlacks during a Haka performance. Photo Credit: NZ Herald

I have finished 8 months of university studies towards my degree in Medicine-a journey that is now taking a totally different shape and pathway. It is this journey that I’ve learnt so much about this year as I reflected on our Otago University’s Vice Chancellors words during our 2019 Orientation Week; to create great memories, to be grateful and to act like a superhero. 

It has been a brutal one with major transitioning and re-adjusting to university life. The workload has been intense-it feels inhumane and gruelling at times to say the least. My health suffered massively as nothing seemed to work in my favour-but I am still forever grateful for a wonderful year.

But I also gained a lot. I came away with a wealth of knowledge that I never had before. I was enriched with creating wonderful memories, putting my advocacy skills into practice with becoming class reps and making new friends. I was very grateful for their support.

My very special group of friends; Katie Frost, Rhoda Delaney and Yue Chi as “mature students” at the Dunedin Chinese Garden 2019. Photo Credit: Leina Isno

My extended gratitude goes to my friends who supported me financially. There were a few people who have also dug deep into their pockets to support me on my journey here at the University. That support system was positive for me as I struggled to find comfort and place at the university with my journey.

I remembered talking to my father on the phone after having a complete meltdown about his lack of support towards me and my journey a couple of months ago. He reminded me that it was extremely challenging for him to support me financially as he couldn’t sustain an income being a grassroots farmer. But he also reassured me that he has never forgotten me. I was always in his prayers and thoughts. It was these words that broke me.

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I suffered behind closed doors.

I was in a very dark place.

My mental health suffered.

I felt extremely broken, very fragmented.

I felt like my whole world had been torn apart.

But have I really gone from a hero to zero?

I have not done enough in my first year at university.

But I never gave up.

I got back into the groove of university, deciding it was best to go through the year. It’s the right thing to do, to complete the University year despite it being so traumatic and humiliating.

My study methods have not been effective.

I had responsibilities as a landlord. By New Zealand laws I had to provide a service to my tenants-an appropriate service and responsibility that wouldn’t lead me to the housing courts and tribunals. Thats what a good business does-it looks after it’s customers. I have a real estate business and I had a responsibility to deliver an adequate and efficient service.

I never had a backup who could deal with my real estate affairs and liaise with my property manager to ease the pressure off from me. I bore the burden of it all. I had worked so hard over the years to build up my base and assets. There was no way I was letting my hard work go down the drains.

I had a huge sole responsibility to look after my tenants as a Landlord and to provide them with a service of satisfaction. Photo Credit: Leina Isno

The 2019 Christchurch massacre had a huge impact on me especially after recently being on an International Red Cross Mission. I struggled with refocusing on my studies when our New Zealand Colleague Red Cross Nurse Louisa Akavi made international headlines with being captured by Isis after being captured in Syria.

I was so broken.

I was torn.

It was traumatic for me trying to transition into university without my family support.

kiwi tears
I struggled to pull myself together at University after my recent International Red Cross Mission and realising the gunman at the centre of Christchurch Massacre was from Dunedin, the city where I was currently studying. Photo Credit: NZ Stuff

I was going through my own fertility journey. It was a very isolating journey as I struggled to make sense of it all. I wanted a family very much. It hit me real hard that option was not going to be a viable one for me.

The phone call from the Fertility Nurse on the 8th April 2019 broke me-I had only 11% chance of saving a couple of my eggs this year and time was running out.


I balled my eyes out under a tree at the university grounds. It was distressing. My levels of prolactin had shot through the roof with the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and the Pituitary Macroadenoma.

Oh Baby! The whirlwind of emotions that I had to go through as I struggled with my own fertility problems broke me too. Photo Credit: Leina Isno

I broke down learning my mum’s sister had passed as I was ready to sit for my first semester exams. She had been suffering from a chronic thyroid tumour. She had lost her battle to the silent disease.

I was thrown into disarray.

I was burnt.

But I put in the extra work needed to help me get through the exams. It was the toughest journey of all.

On reflection, do I still go from a hero to a zero?

No. Not at all.

If anything, the year has taught me a lot.

The lessons of humility and being grateful were the big ones for me.

I was grateful for such a challenging year.

It made me a stronger person. It had opened many more doors and opportunities again.

Maybe the way forward would be to take a gap year from University and reflect-and I am doing just that.

I am going on that Eat Pray Love journey to heal.

Samoa 2019
A special “Eat Pray Love” in Western Samoa 2019 as I was part of the Red Cross International Mission to help eradicate the Measles Epidemic. Photo Credit: Andrea Chapman



2 Replies to “A Year of University Life in Retrospect-A Hero to Zero?”

    1. Thank you so much Lisa for your note. I was looking through my pantry and I’ve used up the whole bottle of olive cooking oil and I thought of you-I saved the bottle. Today, I opened up my children’s book to write (after my final summer school exams yesterday) and I saw your daughters Easter egg note to me-What a beautiful moment! I’ve totally embraced it. You have all been in my thoughts-thank you for your note here. It has been a brutal year but glad I persevered through.


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