Postcard to home: Marcella Atu Fitina

Published in the March-April 2017 issue

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Marcella Atu Fitina and her husband Charlie Siwa from Papua New Guinea have both received Australian Awards Scholarships to study at Southern Cross University.

Marcella Atu Fitina and Charlie Siwa from PNG

The aim of the federal government initiative is to contribute to the long-term development needs of Australia’s partner countries, providing opportunities for people from developing countries to study full time at participating Australian universities.

More than 1000 students apply for these scholarships each year with less than 10 per cent receiving the award.

Marcella said she was honoured to arrive at her new home on the Gold Coast in January and is settling into university life well.

She is studying a Master of International Tourism and Hotel Management while Charlie is completing a Master of Business Administration at the Gold Coast campus.

Marcella’s Postcard to home:

I studied my undergraduate degree at Divine Word University in Madang and Charlie studied at University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby, PNG.

We are both from a tiny Polynesian outlier called the Mortlock Islands, it is in the province of Bougainville. What I love most about PNG is its diversity of many cultures. It has taught me to be more appreciative of other cultures and I especially enjoy learning about other cultures and traditions.

I chose to study in Australia because I needed to have exposure to the international tourism industry and I believe there couldn’t be a better place to start than in Gold Coast. I also wanted to have a higher qualification that is recognisable worldwide.

We feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity and to have both received the same scholarship. It’s means a lot to us as we plan to contribute to the development of our province, Bougainville, which is still recovering from the Bougainville crises which occurred in the early 90s.

Australia is a really beautiful country. It is so cheap and safe to move around and there is so much to take in, we seem to be learning new things every day. We arrived right before Australia Day and have been able to spend some nice time at the beach and meeting other people.

What I love most about Southern Cross University is the staff are so helpful and friendly – especially Sarah from International Student team! The University is so student-oriented in that it provides all the essential student academic support services needed for any student to excel in their studies.

Australia is a very different place to Papua New Guinea. Customer service here is just unbelievable! Too good! In PNG food is very expensive while it’s so cheap here and there’s a much greater variety to choose from. The lifestyle back in Arawa where we just came from is very slow-paced and relaxed. It is such a contrast to the fast pace here and great focus on punctuality, something we really need to get used to, haha!

It’s hot all year round in PNG so we mostly stick to light summer clothes. It will be interesting now to experience autumn and winter and needing to get winter clothing. I love clothes shopping so it’s going to be fun!

People we meet often ask how my husband and I met. We met in my third year of studies at Divine Word University. I was organising a concert to create awareness on the effects of the rise in global warming on the Mortlock Islands. I got people from our islands to perform our traditional dances. One of our traditional dances is called the knife dance and while looking for knife dancers I was referred to Charlie and given his contact details. I got in touch, we met and the rest is history.

In terms of my future goals and career, I plan to contribute towards the development of the tourism industry in Bougainville. As Bougainville is trying to gain independence, I believe that the tourism industry may contribute immensely towards building its economy.

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