Former Te Puke High School student Abhizith Cherukuri has just been accepted onto the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree course at Otago University after completing the three year Bachelor of Science degree. Stuart Whitaker caught up with him before he returned to Dunedin.
Abhizith Cherukuri received a slew of awards at the 2017 Te Puke High School prizegiving.
He also received the annual Dr Leonard Randall Memorial Scholarship to assist with his tertiary studies.
Three years later, and he's about to embark on his next step on the road he first set out on as a Year 11 student - to study medicine.
Since leaving school Abhizith has completed a three-year science degree at Otago University.
Along the way, as a second year student, he won the Gareth Jones Prize for the best performance by a second year anatomy student.
Gareth Jones is an Emeritus Professor at the university.
Abhizith says he was quite shocked to receive the prize.
''At first I was shocked because they didn't tell us before the year ended, and then at the end of the year they just said students who did exceptionally well at the academics, they get the award.
''But I was really glad, knowing how well known Professor Gareth Jones is across the medical field and his contribution to Otago. I felt quite honoured.''
He has been accepted onto the university's Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree course.
''My first plan was to do health science, then try for medicine, but I didn't get in so I did a degree and chose the graduate pathway to medicine and that's worked.''
Now he has five years of study and internships to look forward to, and says he is settled and happy with the way things are going.
''I applied for many different courses for next year, but the one thing I had in mind to get was medicine at Otago. I applied to other universities and I applied for medicine at Auckland as well, but preferred to stay at Otago.''
He says his final years at Te Puke High School prepared him well for university life.
''Towards the end of Year 12 and in Year 13, the science teachers really helped us do a lot of research and how to write essays - I think that was a big help because in my whole degree, every exam, every assignment always had that similar essay style of writing and that was something that really helped.''
The general culture of the school also put him in good stead, with students encouraged to take leadership roles.
''I was a leader in the chess club which was really cool. And in my degree there were assignments where we had to do presentations to a live audience, so I had to do a lot of leadership and communication with team members, so that definitely helped.''
He says he has happy memories of the school.
While at university he has been part of the student association and has been a class rep, liaising between students and lecturers.
As for where his studies will take him, he isn't exactly certain.
''At the moment I'm quite open in my direction or specialisation. I just want to get to know [medicine] in general. [The course] has a general broad perspective of everything in the body so I'll have to look and see which area I'm interested in.''
While the course covers surgery, Abhizith doesn't think that is an area he will look towards. Abhizith's family came to New Zealand from southern India in 2012.
''We came through a lot of financial hardship when we first came to New Zealand so coming from that to getting into medicine has been a giant leap.
"One of the things I have to be thankful for is student loans and allowances because in India if you want to go on to tertiary education, you have to pay straight out of your pocket. So the student loan really helped me out.''
■ Abhizith received several awards at the high school's 2017 awards ceremony: Best Student in Mathematics with Statistics 31, winner of the Senior Science Shield donated by Mr and Mrs WM Bowyer, winner of the Te Puke Paper Plus Proxime Accessit prize, winner of the Walker Family Cup and a Te Puke High School Proxime Accessit Medal.