Baby and study went hand-in-hand

Otago Polytechnic student Jema Shaw (23), of Dunedin, will graduate a bachelor of culinary arts...
Otago Polytechnic student Jema Shaw (23), of Dunedin, will graduate a bachelor of culinary arts today after juggling study with the birth of her son halfway through her degree. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Having a baby halfway through a degree may sound like a headache, but for Jema Shaw it gave her purpose.

After three years of study and attending many classes with her child Arapeta by her side, the Otago Polytechnic student will graduate a bachelor of culinary arts in Dunedin today .

Miss Shaw found she was pregnant at the end of her first year, but a moment of "what do I do" was short-lived.

Support from her lecturers, one of whom was also pregnant at the time, flooded in and the future of becoming both a chef and mother looked bright.

"I was in the [polytechnic] kitchen’s fully pregnant, until I dropped basically."

Which she did, right before the semester break during her second year.

The first paper after having Arapeta would be the most difficult.

"I was breastfeeding, so I would lie down with the baby and just have my computer on three or four cushions piled up."

But with her family’s support and home care for Arapeta, from a couple who had also looked after her when she was a child, Miss Shaw said she quickly learned to "fly through it".

She said studying at Otago Polytechnic helped her fulfil her own needs, which meant she could offer the right needs to her son.

"That is what success is."

Before starting the degree at the food design institute, Miss Shaw had been farming.

But her heart had been set on dealing with food further down the production line.

"I asked my mum, do you think it would be a crazy idea if I just became a chef, and she was like, no just do it.

"So I did and I do not look back."

She will not be leaving the classroom anytime soon, continuing to study for a graduate diploma in sustainable practice and planning to go to the University of Otago’s College of Education to do a master’s in teaching and learning.

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