Destination Colombia for Te Pūkenga Prime Minister Scholarship winners


Destination Colombia for Te Pūkenga Prime Minister Scholarship winners

December 12, 2023 | 11 min read

Te Pūkenga has awarded five Prime Minister Scholarships for Latin America (PMSLA) to ākonga from across our national institute. Our proud awardees are Jayden Houghton (NMIT); Olivia Robinson and Georgia Willoughby (Wintec); Jess Nicholson and Justina King (Otago Polytechnic). 

The Prime Minister's Scholarships are funded by the New Zealand Government and administered by Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao (ENZ). These scholarships aim to enable Kiwis to broaden their horizons through life-changing learning experiences. The scholarships are fully funded, covering programme fees, travel and medical insurance, and contribution towards flights, visa and living costs.  

Our PMSLA awardees will be participating in a six-week internship in Medellin, Colombia. Internship placements have been organised via The Intern Group (TIG) who provide a thorough process to ensure our ākonga are matched with a well-suited host organisation and to a role that suits their career and study aspirations. TIG not only facilitate ākonga in obtaining their internships but will also be available in Medellin to offer ongoing support throughout their internship programme 

We caught up with the PMSLA awardees to find out what they hope to learn from this life-changing experience in Colombia. 

Jayden Houghton, 19 

Technology has been a passion of mine since I was young and I'm always looking for ways to develop my skills in this area. 

I am currently halfway through a Bachelor of Information Technology at NMIT | Te Pūkenga. 

The opportunity to experience another culture and develop my career through an international exchange programme is unique and special. I try to live my life by taking every opportunity that I can, so I knew I had to apply. 

I believe that this internship will help me develop my career skills by applying them in a real-world setting, from coding and technical concepts to teamwork and collaboration. This experience will also give me a deeper understanding of another culture, which will help me to better relate to colleagues and work in a diverse team. 

Olivia Robinson, 18 

I'm all about rally cars, horses, and hanging out with my family and friends. When I'm not in the workshop or racing, you'll find me the beach! 

I'm currently in my second year, working towards a Bachelor's degree in Accounting at Wintec | Te Pūkenga Hamilton City Campus, where I study full-time.  

I applied for the scholarship because I believe in the power of education, and I'm eager to gain experience and knowledge during the internship. My goal is to learn as much as I can, bring it back home, and use it in my work while sharing it with others. Let's make the most of this opportunity! 

Georgia Willoughby (Bellamy-Hill), 23  

I am born and raised in the mighty Waikato town, Cambridge, which is known to be the town of trees! 

I have always been passionate about sport, so I started playing netball when I was 5 until I was 15, and then I started playing for my local football club (Cambridge Football Club) when I was 17 years old, and from there the rest is history! I have played in the Women’s First Team for six years, in 2022 I was the Women’s Club captain for my club and this year I managed/played in the first team.  

I work at a cafe in Cambridge called ‘Carleys Kitchen’ and we specialise in making homemade goodies such as pies, sweets and we make some pretty great coffee! I have the best team there! I have such a great support network with my work team, my family and my friends who all encouraged me to go ahead with the scholarship and for them I am forever grateful! 

I am studying a Bachelor of Strategic Management at Wintec | Te Pūkenga Hamilton City Campus. 

My relationship coordinator at Wintec came and spoke in one of my classes and I was very interested in the opportunity. I decided to apply so I can build confidence within myself, but to also learn new ways of business which I could bring back to my community.  

I am wanting to learn and embrace what the internship has to offer! I am also wanting to bring back the knowledge I gain and share this within my community, but also with Te Pūkenga, other students, my work and my community! I am also wanting to gain a sense of self-confidence and grow as a person, but also as an entrepreneur. I am so excited for this experience, and I cannot wait to get stuck in and experience life in Colombia!  

Jess Nicholson, Kāi Tahu, Pākehā, 28 

I am a self-taught ceramicist from sunny Whakatāne. This year I moved to Ōtepoti to be on ancestral whenua and develop a ceramics practice rooted in cultural and environmental sustainability. I use clay to research and express my Māoritanga. Along with recycled clays and glass, I incorporate local uku, kōhatu, sand and ash into my work to connect with my Kāitahutaka and te taiao. 

I am studying the diploma of Art & Design at Te Pūkenga Ōtepoti (Otago Polytechnic) on Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe, Kāti Huirapa and Kāi Tahu whenua. 

I applied for the scholarship because I am interested in the clay practices of other cultures and participating in a cultural exchange. Despite not having an indigenous clay practice, Aotearoa has a thriving community of Māori ceramicists. I am looking forward to learning about traditional Colombian clay practices, sharing my knowledge and love of Aotearoa art, and seeing how this experience influences my practice going forward. 

I will be interning at Demonte Studio, a Botanic Studio in Medellin that works closely with local ceramicists to create large botanical installations. I look forward to learning more about designing and creating large works as a small business. I am fascinated by all the ways artists take their ideas and make them real. 

Justina King, 21 

I have recently completed my Bachelor’s of Design (Communication) at Otago Polytechnic, and plan to continue study in Fashion Design next year. My design communicates meaningfully, using thought-provoking storytelling to leave impact. I strive for practices conscious of social and environmental impact, where design is well-researched, collaborative and diverse. I am also an illustrator at Critic Te Ārohi, Otago University’s weekly publication. 

My style can be described as romantic, dreamy, contemporary and nostalgic, with elements of pop-surrealism and conceptual art. It is often inspired by psychedelia, Japanese fashion culture and pretty things. 

However, I am highly adaptable. I have designed outcomes for projects requiring styles that differ from my own, whether that be simple or ornate. Whatever the style, my outcome is always informed and directed by a client’s needs, wants and story. 

I’d like to specially mention my dear lola, or grandma in English, who I affectionately called Mama. Mama Sergia raised me from the moment I was born – from walking in the snow at 4am to the hospital all the way from the other side of town, to our last conversation around about this time last year –  where I had just sprained my ankle and was struggling to put a meal together. Even though she was already 92 by this point, and it took her some time to do things, she insisted on helping me.  

Mama was a creative, resourceful, self-assured stylish woman, who did what she wanted and did not give two left feet what anyone thought about it, but she also made sure you were safe and fed and happy. I never knew it, but these outlooks and values on life have carried on through me. The beauty and appreciation for certain details and style has surfaced in my designs, and to say she had no influence on my designs would be lying. I feel my graduation is something I spent my life expecting her to see, only to end in the tragedy of her passing. I feel getting this scholarship has something to do with her watching over me as a guardian. 

As someone who grew up in two cultures, immersion in another culture is one of the best ways to gain perspective and open up your mind to possibilities or ideas you may have not considered before. Learning about design from another perspective is really important to me, and I think an extremely valuable and necessary skill is knowing how to design for a variety of audiences. Working in Colombia is a great opportunity for getting that learning and experience, and extremely invaluable. I think the learning I would get from this experience cannot be substituted for anything in New Zealand.  

I want to broaden my learning and experience so that I can learn about how to approach design outside of a solely New Zealand perspective. I also want to broaden my mindset on life and ways of living. I also love learning languages and I’m really excited to use Spanish within a real-life context. 


Te Pūkenga ākonga off to China thanks to Prime Minister Scholarships 

A separate group of 12 Te Pūkenga ākonga is travelling to China in December 2023 for a six-week entrepreneurship and innovation programme at Jinhua Polytechnic as Prime Minister Scholarship for Asia awardees. Find out more about the awardees:  

Te Pūkenga ākonga off to China thanks to Prime Minister Scholarships