No one in Anna-Marie Southern's family can use sign language to speak to her aunt who is deaf.

This, and a passion for language, has inspired the young Northland woman to leave her seven siblings and become the first in her family to head to university and study a Bachelor of Arts majoring in anthropology and sociology and minoring in New Zealand Sign Language.

Miss Southern has been awarded a Victoria University of Wellington Foundation Trustees' scholarship for that achievement. "Receiving the scholarship showed me that somebody believed in me. It isn't just my family supporting me anymore, the university thinks I can do this too," she said.

She had wanted to attend university for as long as she could remember. Her inspiration to study sign language comes from a passion for language and a family inspiration. "My aunty is deaf, and she grew up in a society where sign language was not widely used - it still isn't.

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"Nobody in my family can speak with my aunty in sign language, and I knew this would be something special," she said.

Miss Southern said she loved Wellington and wanted to use her studies to help the wider community.

"I want to travel and have the chance to use the skills I've developed at Victoria to improve culture and communities."