THERE is no substitute for hard work as Marica Baleivanualala can tell you after she won top honours at the Fiji School of Nursing graduation this week.
Becoming a nurse has always been a vision for this young woman who was brought up in Seaqaqa.
Marica said she would not have won the Outstanding Overall Performance award in the Diploma of Nursing course if she had not put in the extra effort in her work.
Marica, 21, traces her roots to Muana-i-Cake Village on Fulaga in Lau but considers herself to be from Seaqaqa where she, her siblings and parents have lived most of their lives.
She is the daughter of a cane farmer and a simple housewife.
Dressed in sulu and jiaba with gafigafi (waist mat) on graduation, it was plain to see how proud she was.
"This is something I did not really expect to win," Marica said.
"I worked hard because I wanted to be a nurse and a good one," she said with a smile but being dux is a bonus and proves that walking the extra mile is not bad after all." Marica is the first in the family to join the order of Florence Nightingale and is proud of it.
"No one in the family has been a nurse and this did not happen to me until I enrolled at the Fiji School of Nursing," she said.
"It was also the reason I had to make it, so I could be the first in the family."
Marica said her upbringing was one she always admired because her parents had seven daughters and two sons to look after. She is the third eldest.
"I was brought up in Seaqaqa and like any other who was brought up in the North, especially Seaqaqa, the usual sights are the sugarcane fields, sugar train and trucks that transport cane to the mill," she said.
"The experience I had from my upbringing was totally different from what I encountered when I enrolled at FSN.
"Everything was new, a culture shock you could say, but I had to adapt fast to the new environment so that I could cope."
Marica did cope very well and her results told the story of her hard work.
"I started school at Vunibasoga Primary School and went for secondary education at Seaqaqa Central College where I completed Form Six," she said.
She went to Labasa College to do Form Seven but left after the first term because she had been accepted at FSN.
"It was the first time for me to leave everyone at home and come to Viti Levu."
And for someone who has been so close to her brothers and sisters Marica admitted it was tough.
"But I knew this was an opportunity I should not miss because I would need to help my parents when I get a job," she said.
"I managed to survive at FSN partly because of the support I was getting from my family in Suva, especially my late uncle Mitieli Baleivanualala and other relatives. I owe them a lot.
"Graduating was something I had been looking forward to since the day I enrolled at FSN and to be recognised for the effort and hard work I put into my studies is really overwhelming but my studies do not end here."
Marica will do her internship at Nabouwalu Hospital in Bua where she can travel to and from Seaqaqa to visit her family but it is not the end of the road because she wants to pursue a degree in medicine.
"I want to be a doctor."
According to Marica the secret to success is to trust in the Lord and respect the advice given by elders.
"I would like to encourage those who are willing to take up nursing to take the challenge and be part of the family.
"Nursing is a noble profession and I challenge young people there to try it."
But above all, the country girl says that the key to all achievement is hard work and more hard work.
Adapted from Fijitimes Online