Ebony Kalin from Hāwera, Taranaki only person in Australasia to be selected for Duke University

A South Taranaki teenager off to study at Duke University in America is the only Australasian student of the 25 international students selected for early acceptance in 2024.  

Duke is rated seventh of the 431 American universities and 25th globally.  

Ebony Kalin told AM on Tuesday she is "a country girl who has been on the farm for 17 years of my life".  

Kalin, who is 18 years old, was the top academic student every year at her school in Hāwera, Te Paepae o Aotea, and did her best to take every opportunity she could to get involved in her school and wider community.  

"I love to get amongst it and take advantage of all opportunities," she told AM co-host Lloyd Burr.

She said halfway through 2023, "a staff member put a Duke University application in front of me and said, 'hey why don't you test yourself internationally?'"  

To apply, she wrote two essays, one about why she wanted to attend Duke and the other about being from a small town and her belief that where people come from should not limit their success.   

Since then, she had been offered $110,000 worth of scholarships for universities around New Zealand and had decided to go to Auckland University on a $34,000 scholarship, until mid-December when she received an acceptance letter from Duke.   

"Now my plans have drastically changed," she said.   

Duke's footprint is twice the size of Hāwera, where Kalin lives, and she said, "I don't think that part's quite sunk in.  

"The move to Auckland was going to be a big deal, let alone to the other side of the world, so yeah, it's pretty exciting."  

To make the move, Kalin needs to find $125,000 for course fees and living expenses.   

She has applied for scholarships to Duke but because of the delay in American students finding out their admission status she will not know whether she has secured one for a while.   

Kalin intends to study political science and public policy at Duke.   

"The governance space is a really big passion of mine, from being a youth MP to starting a youth committee in Taranaki.  

"That space is a really exciting place to make a difference and going forward that's where I want to be," she said.   

She hasn't yet decided what a job might look like for her in that space.   

Asked if she wanted to eventually become a politician, or even Prime Minister, she replied, "not sure if I'd be quite Prime Minister or a politician, I'd just see where it takes me".  

AM co-hosts Melissa Chan-Green joked "That's a politician's answer".  

Asked if she had any advice for students watching, Kalin said, "it doesn't matter where you come from or what school you attend or what sports team you're in or where you start off," she said.  

"It's where you end up and it's the hard work you put in between."