PhD to focus on skilled migration by New Zealand Pacific Islanders

Rachel Yates has been awarded a Victoria Doctoral Scholarship to investigate the migration of skilled New Zealand Pacific Islanders.

PhD student Rachel Yates with Korean students

A life-changing experience teaching English abroad has inspired the PhD topic of a Victoria University of Wellington scholarship winner.

Rachel Yates has been awarded a Victoria Doctoral Scholarship to investigate the migration of skilled New Zealand Pacific Islanders.

The New Zealand-born Pacific Islander’s research will focus on the experiences of young Pacific women teaching English in South Korea. While the PhD topic is inspired by her own experiences, Rachel says an updated and diverse commentary on Pacific Island people and skilled migration is timely.

“Being a Pacific Studies graduate, I was aware of the common statistics and negative stereotypes associated with Pacific people in New Zealand, but what I witnessed overseas was far from this reality. I met Pacific people from New Zealand who had graduated from tertiary education and were now living and excelling abroad in a somewhat cosmopolitan existence.”

Rachel spent two years teaching English in South Korea from 2009–2010, but says it wasn’t smooth sailing at first.

“I remember landing in Korea, and the culture shock! I cried for a good hour; I really was not prepared for it,” says Rachel.

Seeking some familiarity, Rachel found a rugby group online, which eventually connected her to other New Zealand-born Pacific Islanders living and teaching in Seoul.

“The experiences we had in Korea were life-changing and memories that I will cherish. The people I met overseas were inspiring and I want to record this in some way.”

As the first New Zealand-born graduate of Pacific Studies at Victoria University to receive a Victoria Doctoral Scholarship, Rachel says she has mixed emotions.

“I’m feeling proud, as this scholarship has in some ways validated my intended research and ability in academia; scared, thinking about the next three years and the challenges that will come; and thankful to everyone that has helped me through this journey in education so far.”

Rachel hopes her story will motivate the next generation of learners.

“Like many others, I truly believe in the philosophy that success builds on success. I also hope that this research will contribute to wider discussions of migration, transnationalism and Asian-Pacific experiences.”