Rodney Naro navigated lock downs and missing home to gain a Master in Information Technology (IT) on a scholarship to Southern Institute of Technology, New Zealand; he has recently returned home to use his qualification in his career and is also well-prepared to take the next step in his education.
From the East Sepik province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Rodney’s profession is in IT, he’s currently employed as an IT tutor at PNG Unitech, in Lae.
Rodney qualified to receive a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Scholarship and chose to complete his master’s at SIT. He learned about SIT through the MFAT e-portal during the scholarship process. He said there were two obvious reasons to choose SIT from the pool of approved institutions for MFAT scholars.
“I wanted to isolate myself from other PNG colleagues, the reason being to concentrate on my studies. I also wanted to explore a new setting instead of the larger, well-known big cities (Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch).
Rodney’s focus areas of interest are software/systems development, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud-computing, Business Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).
His primary goal in coming to SIT was to complete a level 9 NZ qualification (master’s), with the intention of it facilitating further study at PhD level. Rodney said the subject combinations in his programme were “perfect”.
Starting in Semester 2, 2020, over three semesters he studied ICT projects and systems, ICT trends and issues, Web App Development, Business Intelligence, Research proposal, IT Security, ICT Infrastructure, Mobile App Development, and culminating in his Research thesis; he graduated at the end of 2021.
“Indeed, I’m delighted to have completed the programme and accomplished my goal.”
Studying away from home, in another country brought a fresh set of challenges for Rodney. “Covid-19 for sure,” he laughed, “however, being resilient I was able to overcome this.” He missed home as well. “I was homesick the first two weeks”, and he missed the garden food, “all the natural stuff”, he would normally eat in PNG - watermelon, pawpaw, pineapple, oranges, bananas, taro, and yams, to name a few.
At SIT, there were more adjustments to be made, like getting along with course mates from other countries. “Though challenging at first, said Rodney, “afterwards, it was fun and exciting.”
His philosophy to overcome these new situations comes from his favourite saying: “Be content with what you have, as they say – minimalism.”
In the end, Rodney recognised all of his experiences contributed towards creating a healthier and friendlier network with his tutors and course mates. As well as this, he made gains in other areas.
“I improved a lot in my time management and my approach towards getting things done on time.” Another positive was having the chance to explore nascent technologies and the use cases. However, the pinnacle for Rodney was getting to write his thesis.
“It’s something I will treasure, as it will certainly add value to my career in education.”
Living and studying here has given Rodney a newfound understanding of NZ and changed some of the ideas he had prior to his arrival. “The perception I had before heading to NZ was different, though I knew it was a developed nation, especially the way Kiwis do things, paying close attention to detail when executing their tasks.”
He mentioned a couple of highlights from his time in Invercargill. “I enjoyed the Southland lifestyle. The country life reflects my home.” And the second related to his course content: “Augmented reality in my learning was actualised during the Covid-19 lock-down periods, my applause to SIT with regard to this.”
Rodney offered “a mega thank you to Dr. Oras, SIT Head of Postgraduate school of IT, who showed trust and confidence in appointing me to be the postgrad IT rep.”
He said having the opportunity to become a student mentor was a sensational thing because it provided the avenue to interact and get to know fellow students personally and become closer buddies.
Rodney wanted to acknowledge the support he’d received through the many relationships formed during his time at SIT: “My sincere thanks to all SIT staff (IT and English faculty members, International House and Accommodation) who supported me during my study period. A special mention to my best, day-one brother, Phil Dobson, you're a champ bro, keep in touch, and finally, the whanaungatanga|close connection and friendship with my whanau in Windsor.”
After graduating, Rodney returned home to PNG and has settled back into the job he had prior to taking up his studies. “Of course, continuing on in the IT sector is where my focus is at the moment.”
Well on the way to achieving his educational goals, Rodney says his master’s certainly helps in the elevation of his job level. “Moreover, with this qualification I’m set to take on PhD studies come 2024. I will apply next year (2023) for an MFAT scholarship.”
Reflecting on his experiences here, Rodney believes “SIT offers a friendlier and conducive learning setting, boosted with passionate, hard-working staff. It’s a welcoming community with its people and the natural beauty of the countryside. In my opinion, Southland and the South Island is where the heart of Aotearoa is.”
In his advice to other students, he refers to his favourite phrase again: “Be content with what you have - MINIMALISM. And remember to be at the right place, with the right people, doing the right thing at the right time.”