Yumi Casualina Nafe
MSc in Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing, Maynooth University
Yumi, who hails from Tonga, is studying the MSc in Geographical Information Systems and Remote Sensing at Maynooth University. Yumi worked as a Senior GIS Specialist for the GIS Department under the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in Tonga.
My name is Yumi Casualina Nafe and I am the only Tongan fellow for 2022-2023. I am currently pursuing my Master’s in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing at Maynooth University.
Back in Tonga, I was the Senior GIS Specialist for the GIS Department under the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources. Our role is to produce geospatial information to maximize sustainable decision-making on land and marine resources in Tonga. My responsibility is to supervise geospatial data collection, entry, map production, and identify potential applications of GIS systems.
The GIS and Remote Sensing Programme at Maynooth University offers modules on Aerial Surveys, Spatial Analysis, and GIS in Practice, which I believe will increase my existing knowledge and skills to support the service at our office. I am particularly interested in learning how to analyze and interpret satellite imagery. Tonga consists of 170 islands, of which only 36 are inhabited. Most of these islands are remote, and with the lack of resources available in Tonga, it is difficult to collect data, especially during emergencies.
My course is offered in various forms, such as lectures, discussions, and practicals. Thanks to the practical sessions, I now have a much better understanding of how to analyze satellite images, analyze spatial data, and create standardized maps.
Aside from the opportunity to study in Ireland, this fellowship has given me the opportunity to pursue studies without any financial constraints. The financial coverage offered by the fellowship from travel, accommodation, stipends, university fees, and insurance has allowed me to focus solely on my studies.
My main challenge in Ireland was adjusting to the time difference. Tonga is 13 hours ahead of Ireland, so it would be 3 am here and I’m wide awake because it’s only 4 pm back at home. Other than that, adjusting was manageable thanks to the University’s international Office and ICOS. Both provided information and tips on what to do before and upon arrival which helped me get things done.
The weather is the biggest difference I’ve found between home and Ireland! It’s amazing how you can experience all 4 seasons in 1 day here in Ireland. Unlike where I come from where it’s warm and sunny every day, Ireland’s weather is full of surprises.
I’m hoping to expand my network during the fellowship. The programme of study will primarily allow me to interact with people working in a similar or the same field. Upon returning to Tonga, I’m hoping there would be a network where we can share ideas to improve our professional development. There are very few experts in the field of GIS in Tonga, even within my office. Therefore, getting the right advice can be a challenge. Through the network, when I come across an issue at the workplace, I will have friends to consult.
My favorite part of the fellowship so far has been meeting new people! I’ve met people from different countries and backgrounds, and it’s been very interesting hearing their stories. I’ve made some good friends whom we plan to travel together around Ireland and Europe. Right now, I’m looking forward to experiencing St. Patrick’s Day!
I highly recommend the IFP to those who wish to pursue postgraduate studies. It is a great opportunity, especially for Pacific Islanders to learn in a new environment and explore the other side of the world. Ireland offers high-quality education and a rich culture that one will appreciate.
To anyone in Tonga (or other parts of the world) who is thinking of applying – Challenge yourself and go for it! The experience will be worth it.