Alumni Spotlight: Andrea Nailoi Gabriel


Andrea is a senior at UC Berkeley, majoring in Ethnic Studies with an emphasis in Pacific Studies (University of Auckland). She is a proud product of the California Community College system and will one day create and implement programming at the community college level that will empower, encourage and inspire Pacific students to become strong leaders both inside and outside of the classroom.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the University of Auckland's "Center for Pacific Studies" because there was nothing comparable in my Ethnic Studies department at UC Berkeley.

Rather than taking classes I had minimal interest in, I did my research, talked to alumni and had many discussions with my study abroad counselor. For the first time ever, the University of Auckland has provided peers, staff, faculty and curriculum that reflects, highlights and values my traditional Samoan upbringing.

What did your program provider and university assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) provided me with a weeklong orientation before University started. I was also blessed by the UCEAP New Zealand team (Ivan & Emma) who were in contact well before my arrival and who stayed connected throughout my term. Having actual people on the ground here in New Zealand was amazing. I also earned some scholarships via UCEAP that helped to fulfill the financial burden of living away from home.

On my own time, I was responsible to find courses that would count towards to my degree. I applied for and secured funds for student housing. I was also responsible for getting my visa sorted as well as arranging my air travel to Auckland.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Get connected! The best way to have a satisfying study abroad experience is to open your mind and your heart to new opportunities, cultures, people, and points of view. Whether that's through study groups, university clubs/organizations, intramural sports, exploring the city or hikes in the wopwops.

Getting connected is the way to go! In my time at Auckland Uni I have met new friends, joined a Maori and Pacific Leadership Through Learning program, and I have even managed to travel to Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. These opportunities would not have manifested had I been locked up in my room all day and night. Challenge yourself and step out of those comfort zones.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I am taking four courses per semester which is roughly the equivalent to full-time at UC Berkeley. Much of my curriculum is practical studies which include things like speaking gagana Samoan (language), performing Fijian meke (dance) and learning the Maori Kapa Haka (performing song, dance, and chants of the indigenous Maori people).

From campus I might take a 10-minute walk to Queen St (the heart of the city) where friends and I can grab a feed, explore, catch the ferry to a nearby island like Tiritiri Matangi, visit the touristy Skytower, or have an ice cold adult beverage with some of the Kiwi locals.

There is so much to do here in Auckland and there is always some sort of Pacific event, showcase, or presentation happening that I can attend. I love it here!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was the financial commitment. I wanted to ensure that I could afford to study in New Zealand comfortably. I overcame these fears by seeking advice from my college/financial aid/study abroad advisors. I continued to work two jobs over the summer in order to build my savings. I also secured three scholarships (a.k.a free money!) Last but certainly not least, once I arrived in New Zealand I created a monthly budget and stuck to it!

How would you go about traveling to neighboring Pacific islands while in New Zealand?

The University of Auckland has mid-semester break (two weeks) & study break (one week) right before exams. Stay on top of your assignments all year so that you can plan travel during those breaks without missing any instructional class time.

Apply to the Air New Zealand mailing list because they have amazing 24-hour deals where you can find extremely cheap tickets to the islands. Additionally, look into mobile apps or Facebook pages that offer deals, such as "Grab a Seat".