Andrea Waqa-Montu, Fiji

“I would listen to amazing people talk about how instrumental they were to effect change in their respective areas of work, and as time passed, my desire to influence change, and not just write about it, grew. I couldn’t ignore the pull towards making a difference.”

Human Interest and Families: This series focuses on our employees who live and work overseas, and how Tetra Tech supports them and their families with their transition.

The following #TtInspires story is related to projects that are implemented by our Australia-based international development organization Coffey, A Tetra Tech Company and funded by The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Andrea is the acting communications coordinator for the Fiji Program Sector Facility (FPSF) at Coffey, a Tetra Tech Company; and she is also the 2015 recipient of the Australian Awards Scholarship, which provides opportunities for people from the Indo-Pacific region to pursue post-graduate studies and drive development in their countries.

After working for 15 years in globally recognized organizations including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Foundation of the Peoples of the Pacific International (FSPI), Andrea wanted a more in-depth understanding of the paradigms of development to complement her communications background. Her natural curiosity led her to apply for the scholarship; and after completing the program, she received a master’s degree in social change and development from the University of Newcastle in Callaghan, Australia and later joined Coffey.

“I’m not going to paint a beautiful picture; it was not easy going back to university, it was exhausting,” says Andrea. “I was the oldest one in the group, but I knew I had an archive of real-life experiences that my peers didn’t have. It took a lot of courage and determination.”
Andrea and her colleagues at the graduation ceremony (Sydney, Australia)

Looking back at her experience, Andrea credits her success to the unwavering support from her family and her time-management and organizational skills. When she enrolled in university, Andrea was a full-time mom to a seven-year-old daughter and was expecting her second child. She made it her priority that when she visited home, she didn’t do any school work; she wanted to devote her time to being a good mom and wife. Throughout the week, she set up a studying schedule, which she followed religiously, to complete all of her assignments; Andrea knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and she needed to dedicate ample time to study. Her greatest satisfaction was attending classes knowing that she was informed and could contribute to discussions.

Andrea with her daughter, Makayelah, receiving her certificate of completion (Sydney, Australia)

Andrea strives always to set the best example for her children, and she knew this sacrifice had been worth it when during the presentation of the diplomas, her daughter ran up to the podium, hugged Andrea, and whispered in her ear, ‘I am so proud of you mom, when I grow up, I am going to go to University too.’

“While, I enjoyed learning, meeting new friends, and experiencing Australia’s culture; this small exchange between my daughter and I was the highlight of my journey,” says Andrea.

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