First migrant student president finds purpose

Geo Robrigado has overcome challenges and found his place in the community

When I moved to Wellington from Manila, in the Philippines, in 2013 I didn’t know what was in store for me.

My family was here, I had already completed a bachelor’s degree but I knew I had a chance to explore new opportunities.

Like anyone who moves overseas, there were things I had to get used to. The way they study in New Zealand is different to how it's done in the Philippines and completing my first year of classes here had many challenges.

But the one change I love is the Wellington weather. Coming from a tropical island, it’s so nice to now live every day under 40 degrees Celsius.

I felt like coming to Wellington gave me a sense of independence. I found new opportunities and chose to forge my own path here. You’re surrounded by intelligent people who want to discuss hard topics and hear different perspectives, and I’m never one to shy away from a debate.

After my first year of study, I managed to get a six-week internship in Poland. While there, I encountered the growing refugee crisis first-hand and came back to Wellington with my dream of becoming a lawyer reignited. 

I also wanted to find other ways to be involved in my student community, which led me to VUWSA, an organisation tasked with representing the student voice on campus and in the wider community.

After two years serving in various roles I was voted in as VUWSA President for 2020. I see it as both an honour and a responsibility. 

It shows migrant and international students are just as well received as New Zealand students in our university community. I hope by me being in this position that it inspires other migrant and international students to run for these sorts of positions. 

The student community here is amazing. Whether I’m with law students at Pipitea Campus, my Filipino community at our student-run club, or being invited to join and learn from our Maori and Pasifika community, I always feel welcomed and valued.

I started out in Wellington not knowing what the next steps would be, and now I can say I feel a part of the community which I'm so happy to serve. 

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