Liam James Sahay Anderson, a half Fiji-Indian and half Kiwi-European descent student of Wellington College was awarded as co-Dux for the year 2019 as he excelled in his academics scoring a total of eight scholarships in the year 2019 from his College. His co-Dux Nicholas Patel gained a total of five scholarships, with 4 at ‘outstanding level’.

Recognising his excellence in academics, he was also named as the receipient of the Prime Minister's Award for 2019. Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins announced his name on 8 May this month. 

Liam is currently pursuing Bachelor of Science from Victoria University of Wellington majoring in Chemistry and Physics, sitting courses in Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Mathematics and Spanish.

As a part of becoming co-Dux, he received Outstanding Scholarships in Chemistry, Physics, Spanish and Statistics and in another category of Scholarship in Biology, Calculus, English and Health and Physical education.

Besides these spectacular achievements in academics, Liam has also won six total prizes at NIWA Science and Technology Fair for four consecutive years. In his extra-curricular activities, Liam has also excelled as a cellist playing for College's orchestra and a tutor at Wellington Music Centre.

In an interview with the Indian Weekender, Liam shares his passion about science, his strong educational support from his parents, his pride being a Kiwi Fiji Indian having a strong association with the Wellington Hindi School, and his goal of pursuing a doctorate in the near future and helping the community, here in New Zealand or overseas through scientific knowledge.

Liam with his family during a festival

IWK: Tell us about your passion for academics, especially science subjects.

Liam: I found my passion for the sciences back in primary school, where it was an available niche which allowed me to build my identity. I became more and more passionate about learning how things around me worked when my mother bought me science encyclopedias from a local book fair. My academic success is founded upon the strong values of hard work and determination instilled by my school and in my household. Combined with the desire never to be satisfied and always do better, this has allowed me to achieve at the highest tier.

IWK: Tell us about the co-Dux award received.

Liam: Every year, a Year 13 student with the most outstanding grades achieves the Dux award. In 2019, I was ranked academically equal to another student, which meant that there were two Duxes (co-dux) instead, rather than a Dux and Proxime Accessit. Additionally, each year group also has a 'dux' for coming first academically. I received 'Junior Dux' Awards in 2015 (Year 9) and 2018 (Year 12).

IWK: Can you elaborate on the difference b/w 'Outstanding Scholarships and Scholarships'?

Liam: The New Zealand Scholarships are difficult papers designed to test the critical thinking of top-performing NCEA Level 3 students in their desired subject/s. The scholarship exams have certain "cut-scores" for the number of marks attained in the paper, which are used as grade boundaries. The three outcomes are No Scholarship, Scholarship and Outstanding Scholarship depending on how well someone performs in the exam.

Therefore, I did exceptionally well in Chemistry, Physics, Spanish and Statistics. While Scholarship is attained by about 3% of the level 3 cohort for a particular subject, Outstanding Scholarship is reserved for the top 0.3%.

Liam James Sahay Anderson at the 2017 NIWA Science and Technology Fair

IWK: Can you also tell us about winning NIWA awards for four consecutive times?

Liam: From 2014 - 2017, I participated in the NIWA Science and Technology Fair for the Wellington region to develop and display my passion for science. My experiments ranged from electrochemistry to plant biology, and each year I won at least one prize. I enjoyed the experience of understanding how scientists work in real life, not just how science works on paper, and it gave me confidence that my skills are valuable and that I should develop them further in the future.

IWK: How do you manage between your academics and equally excelling at extra-curriculums?

Liam: From a very young age I had the opportunity to learn to play a variety of instruments at Wellington Music Centre, before settling with cello, which I have been playing ever since I was 6. I was able to juggle my academic studies with my extra-curricular commitments through time management and by not over-committing myself. While I also occasionally played sports like badminton and futsal, and also lead a cultural club for three years at high school, I always ensured I had enough resources to excel in the academic field, which was my highest priority.

IWK: Are there any mentors who inspired and pushed you to achieve these feats?

Liam: My biggest supporter was my mother. Being raised on a sugar cane farm in Fiji, she worked extremely hard to gain a double major in Economics and Geography at university in New Zealand. She guided my decisions and was always there to support me. However, I also looked up to the headmaster and staff at Wellington College, who made it evident that excellence was something that could be attained by every student. Therefore, it was my mission to give back to the College through my efforts.

Liam James Sahay Anderson with his parents after receiving the Prefect Award at his college

IWK:  How does it feel to make such feats and representing your community on a national level?

Liam: It comes as no surprise that a child of a hard-working family is able to achieve at the highest level, just like many other Indians and Fijian Indians across New Zealand. Through my childhood, I have gained an appreciation for my ethnic background through attending Wellington Hindi School and participating in the Wellington Indian Association events, like Diwali. I believe that being proud of my cultural heritage has made me a more conscious individual who also appreciates other cultures and diversity. It makes me feel a greater sense of belonging by being a successful role model for people like me.

IWK: What do you aspire to become, and how do you plan to contribute towards the community through your education?

Liam: Once I complete my Bachelor of Science at Victoria University, I wish to do postgraduate studies in chemistry in New Zealand or at an overseas university. I want to use my skills in science to help the national and international community and to improve the lives of people through scientific knowledge. I would love to work along the lines of scientific and technological development, as a researcher and developer or as a university lecturer. I am currently tutoring students in science and mathematics, just as I have done in high school as a tutoring prefect, and this is why I am considering an academic educational role.

My advice to aspiring youngsters of my age group would be to think that at the end of the day, they must be prepared to sacrifice some aspects of their life to reach their full potential in others. Remember to accept opportunities as a challenge to better yourself, but also make sure to lift up others around you, especially those who are less inclined.