Rotorua teen talks of first moments at Harvard University

A Roturua teen who is now studying at Harvard University has opened up about the upsides and downsides of being on campus for the first time.

Rotorua High School's 2022 deputy head boy Koan Hemana has become the second Māori in history to study medicine at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He spoke with the AM Show about his time on campus so far.

"I moved in a couple of weeks ago, on the 24th, and I've been doing an international orientation since then, getting to know the community and all the buildings," he told AM hosts Ryan Bridge and Laura Tupou.

"I'm probably still going to be using a map for my four years here," he laughed.

He described the community as welcoming, expressing how happy he was to be there.

"I was involved with a third-party college counselling, a group known as Crimson Education started by Jamie Beaton, a while back."

He was also a New Zealander who graduated from Harvard, he said.

Through Crimson Education, Hemana received the Te Ara a Kupe Beaton Scholarship. 

"That directed me towards the websites in which to apply, help me out with writing essays and helping me to get better grades and stuff like that," he said.

"It was a jam-packed last couple of years in high school.

"I like to say Harvard takes a more holistic view of your application, so grade may not be weighted as much as you might think compared to other universities, but for sure get that excellence as much as you can.

"I only did NCEA, I know a lot of New Zealanders that come here have taken International Baccalaureate (IB) and Cambridge, but for me, it was solely NCEA."

He said it all comes down to showing that you're "academically competitive."

Koan Hemana opened up about his very first moments arriving at the Harvard College campus.
Koan Hemana opened up about his very first moments arriving at the Harvard College campus. Photo credit: AM Show

Hemana opened up about his experience with orientation week so far.  

"It was pretty crazy arriving at the steps of Harvard, the big welcome sign was surreal.

"Gathering my key and my Harvard ID card was all pretty special and I still have to pinch myself every now and then.

"I went a week early for an international programme, just getting to know that community, I think it's about 14 percent of Harvard College as a whole is international, which is relatively big I've learned."

Hemana said he plans on having lunch with a few other Kiwi students at Harvard.

"That would be interesting," he laughed.

He admitted his shared dorm room wasn't what he initially expected.

"Just this morning my roommate moved in and we do share a room, it's like a suite complex, however, don't let that name fool you," he said. "It's not as flash as you think."

"It's just a common room with two rooms that are doubles, there are four guys and one ensuite bathroom.

"I can imagine throughout the year it could get pretty hectic sharing one shower."

Watch his interview above.