Sonny Togiatama

Sonny signed up for a number of clubs and groups when he arrived at Victoria in his first-year, but VILP was one of the few groups he saw through to the end.

Standing out from the crowd

VILP graduate Sonny Togiatama

“VILP takes a lot of time management and organising. It feels like you’re taking on an extra paper each trimester. But I found the programme really thought-provoking and challenging.

I also wanted to stand out from the crowd. With the number of students attending university gradually increasing, VILP was a way of differentiating myself,” he says.

Working with students across the globe

Sonny is New Zealand-born and proud of his Niuean heritage. He says VILP is a good way of meeting students of other cultures and interacting with others on global issues.

“I took part in the three-week Global Enterprise Experience. I was a co-leader for my team, which was composed of students located in Nepal, Jordan, Vietnam and Rwanda.” Over three weeks the team members, had to create and develop a solution to a social problem. “It was hard work, but a rewarding experience,” Sonny says. And he found as co-leader he was often the one driving the team towards making decisions and getting work done.

Gaining confidence and leadership

Sonny says he didn’t always have the confidence to be a leader. “I used to get told I wasn’t assertive enough. At high school I was a Polynesian Club leader, and I remember being asked to speak at an inspirational night but I was too nervous and bailed. Looking back, I wish I had the confidence to do it. That confidence is something that’s been built up through these VILP initiatives.”

In his last year at Victoria, Sonny helped establish the University’s first Niuean Students’ Association. He also volunteered as a mentor for other Pasifika and Maori students, and as part of VILP, helped organise an on-campus debate on global inequality.

Making a difference

He says VILP has given him the self-confidence, inter-cultural awareness and leadership skills to stand up and help others, which will help with his future career. “I want to do something where I can help people, because seeing that you’ve made a difference to other people, that’s really awesome.”