A week-long internship at the New Zealand Consulate-General in Honolulu, Hawai'i has been a trip of a lifetime for 2018 Prime Minister’s Pacific Youth Award winner Asena Tolungamaka.
Asena arrived back in Auckland last week after a jam-packed visit to Honolulu, hugely grateful for the experience, which was part of her Air New Zealand Leadership Inspiration Award, supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“The biggest thing I gained was an insight into foreign affairs and diplomacy on the international scale,” Asena shares.
“It was incredible seeing how important relationships are for our country, and how to foster relationships in the unique, Kiwi way.
“I also think the sincere connections I made with like-minded and inspiring people who genuinely want to see me thrive are something I'll carry with me wherever I go.”
The University of Auckland Law student has a strong interest in politics, which was fuelled by the busy itinerary she had while in Hawai’i, organised by MFAT.
During the seven days she spent in Honolulu, Asena was a guest speaker at Pacific Forum’s Asia-Pacific Affairs Leadership Program; she visited the Marine Corps Base - Camp HM Smith, where she celebrated Waitangi Day; and listened to Ambassador Harry Harris - a retired United States Navy four-star admiral and former Commander of US Indo Pacific Command - speak at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies.
“I also had a roundtable discussion with incredible educators and graduate students at University of Hawai’i’s East West Centre; a one-on-one with Justice Sabrina McKenna of the Supreme Court of Hawai’i; and I was interviewed by Bill Dorman - news director of Hawai’i Public Radio.”
A highlight of her visit was attending the inaugural Consular Corps Ball where Ambassador Karena Lyons was sworn in as the first New Zealander to be the Dean to the Consular Corps, she says.
“Finally on my last day, I spoke to a group of New Zealanders who are attended Brigham Young University (BYU) and later I got to experience the Polynesian Cultural Center.
“I experienced these opportunities as a result of the warm relationships the team at the New Zealand Consulate-General in Honolulu have cultivated and wide networks they have brought to the table,” Asena says.
Having not travelled overseas often, visiting Hawai’i was exciting and enriching and Asena soaked up every experience, she says.
“I absorbed a number of key lessons and loved learning from the leadership of our Ambassador Karena Lyons and the team at the New Zealand Consulate-General.
“I know these learnings will take me far.”
Hosted by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples (MPP), the Prime Minister's Pacific Youth Awards recognise excellence and outstanding achievement by Pacific youth in New Zealand.
The awards are geared towards giving Pacific youth the opportunity to boost their future potential even higher – something MPP is committed to achieving.