Fogamoni Nicc Moeono finished his high school years in Samoa with a “blurred image” of where he’d like to work – something to do with renewable energy, perhaps in a power station.
As he completed his engineering studies at Waikato that image became clearer and today Nicc is exactly where he wants to be—working as a graduate engineer in renewable energy for Samoa’s Electric Power Corporation (EPC), close to Apia in a village called Tanumaganono, near one of EPC’s power plants.
“I’d never heard of the University of Waikato but my scholarship career advisor recommended its mechanical engineering degree and offered to link me up with Professor Mike Duke.
"On my second day in New Zealand I met Mike. He gave me the ins and outs of the degree, what to expect and career pathways leading into renewable energy. He talked about other majors too, but mechanical was the obvious choice for me.”
Nicc is a Matai (chief) in his village, Falefa. Before coming to Waikato he completed a university preparation course, and as a top-performing student he was granted an MFAT New Zealand Aid Scholarship to finance his studies. Once he’d settled into Hamilton he threw himself into life on campus.
“I had my hands full. Alongside my papers, I became a student ambassador, joined Pacific student clubs—Samoa, Tonga and Fiji—and also founded the Māori and Pacific STEM student club. It was good to be able to support other Pacific communities and students. During the pilot year of STEM, I learned more about Māori culture, the differences and similarities between our two cultures, and also the key people to help find support for Pacific and Māori students.”
Nicc says being a student ambassador was great for his self-confidence; talking to potential students, sometimes hundreds of them, about what the University of Waikato was all about.
He was also a residential assistant and later a senior residential assistant in the University’s halls of residence, Bryant Hall, Orchard Park and College Hall, responsible for the welfare of students learning to live and study away from home.
“All these experiences outside of the lectures helped me to develop skills I now use all the time—communications, leadership, management, adaptability, problem solving…”
Waikato’s Bachelor of Engineering has a practical component, where students are required to gain work experience. At the end of his first year Nicc returned to Samoa to do a summer internship at the EPC.
The Samoan Government is striving to increase its renewable energy options, including solar, wind and hydro as it tackles climate change, so EPC was the ideal place for Nicc to test himself.
“It gave me a taste of what to expect as an engineer. It was hands-on experience and it gave me a good feeling of [power] plants.”
His second internship was connected but in New Zealand, at Vortex Group in Rotorua.
“They were working on a few hydro projects destined for installation and commissioning in Samoa. My degree really came in handy as I worked on CAD, procurement and in the workshop, including building some parts.”
Now working full time for EPC, Nicc’s looking after Samoa’s renewable power plants.
“Alongside maintenance, ensuring power plants are healthy and operational, I get to work on special projects and do some design work. Most of my days are spent out in the field, with plenty of variety, which is what I like. And every now and then I still refer to my old university notes if I’m uncertain about something.”
He still finds time to give back to his community. There’s a world-wide organisation called Global Shapers, a network of inspiring young people under the age of 30 working together to address local, regional, and global challenges. The first and only Pacific hub is in Samoa and Nicc’s on the executive board as an impact officer.
“It’s about working with youth to tackle issues important to the community, and helping out in whatever way we can.”
Meanwhile he has advice for anyone considering university study—especially at Waikato.
“Do something you’re passionate about. Make the most of everything that’s on offer. You can experience so much all in one place… it’s a place where you can develop yourself professionally and personally.”