“One day I want to go back to Ethiopia and build dams and bridges over the Nile,” says 18-year-old Zemedkun (Zed) Masrsha as he walks across the University of Auckland’s Student Quad with a spring in his step and a smile on his face.
Zed is in his first year of an Engineering degree, studying engineering design and mechanics, as well as science, biology and chemistry.
“I love it here,” he says of the University. Although the work is “hard at times” he is relishing the opportunities tertiary study will give him. He hopes to become a civil engineer and one day return to his home country.
Zed is the first member of his family to go to university. It is a dream come true, in part because of the financial support of a Scholarship for Students from Refugee Backgrounds, which has contributed towards his first-year fees. The generosity of hundreds of alumni – many of them contributing through the 2016 Telephone Appeal – has enabled the University to award three such scholarships each year.
Last summer, Zed worked loading containers at Sleepyhead’s manufacturing headquarters in Avondale. Funds from that job, plus the scholarship, meant he could enrol at university.
Zed grew up in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. After the 2005 elections, his family were keen to move to another country to secure a better future for their children.
In 2007, when Zed was nine years old, his family moved to New Zealand and settled in Avondale. He attended Avondale College, excelling both academically and in sports. He achieved NCEA Year 13 with Excellence and played soccer for Avondale’s First XI for three years.
Now he is taking up every opportunity at the University of Auckland. He has joined the African Society and has applied to be on the Engineering Faculty’s Futsal Team.
“New Zealand has given me so many opportunities and the lifestyle is so much easier here.”