This week Fiapaipai Tanea-Sakuma proudly graduated as the only female Samoan student in her class.
But three years ago, in a new country away from her family and surrounded by strangers, completing her Bachelor of Computer and Information Sciences felt a long way off.
Ms Tanea-Sakuma, 28, failed her first exam and doubted her decision to come to Auckland from her home in Apia, Samoa to study at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
"My first year I was feeling nervous, didn't have many friends, and had a fear of failing my papers," she recalled yesterday, dressed in her graduating regalia.
"But I talked to the Pasifika (student support) advisers, and they said they believed in me."
Her grades slowly improved from fails to As, and her lowest grade in her last year was a B+.
Ms Tanea-Sakuma led a final year assignment which looked at cloud computing, something she said was now an interest.
In the new year, Ms Tanea-Sakuma will return to Samoa, where she will work either as a business analyst or network administrator.
Speaking at the Pasifika graduation on Tuesday night, she spoke of her desire to see more Pasifika students studying computer science - to take their place in a field which was helping to shape the world.
This week sees AUT celebrate its largest ever graduation as 4,180 students receive their qualifications.