For three sisters, the decision to learn more about their culture came after they enrolled in a Pasifika-targeted course at Auckland University of Technology.

Vanny, 28, and her twin sisters Vannet and Vannear Lao, 22, have spent the past three years studying towards a Bachelor of Pasifika Education: Early Childhood Teaching.

They are among 4500 AUT students to graduate from their studies tomorrow.

The sisters, who were born and raised in South Auckland, decided on the course in a bid to understand more about Pacific culture and become better teachers.

“The whole diversity of South Auckland – with Pasifika, Asians etc – we just thought it would be good for us to learn the cultures of Pasifika, which is kind of similar to our own culture as well.

“It was good learning the cultural side. For us, we’re not really cultural and we didn’t really know much about our own values and beliefs in culture.”

However the surprise came when they became increasingly interested in their own background as a result.

“Doing this degree – and having to do assignments, where the lecturers made us relate it to our own cultures and made it more about ourselves – has brought us closer to who we are as Cambodians.

“We lived the Kiwi lifestyle, not the Cambodian lifestyle.”

“Mum’s really happy and proud of us – everyone is.”

Being in the same classes provided a unique support system, but also led to lecturers splitting them up in class presentations so they could branch out on their own.

“We always helped each other out, always asking: ‘Can you give some ideas for this’?” Vanny said.

To acknowledge their Cambodian background, the sisters have made traditional outfits to wear with their regalia at their graduation ceremony in downtown Auckland tomorrow.

After graduation, Vanny is planning to take up a job as an early childhood teacher at a local centre. Vannet is moving to Australia and Vannear is going off on her OE.

“If [our plans] don’t work out, we can always save up enough to open up our own centre one day.”

4500 graduates
2747 female graduates
1681 male graduates
3600 number of caps and robes
6000 handshakes



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