Why I work and study: how working helps me as a student

krisi blog 1So I bet there are more than a few of us out there who are working and wondering if study is for them or are studying and aren’t sure if you want to take on a bit of work. As a university student and an employee, I am here to tell you it can certainly be done. In fact, it is truly worthwhile to gain some experience working while studying, just as it is important to have a source of income while you study!

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My journey as a working university student can be seen as a bit of a road-trip. I was off and running, green lights all the way! I knew in which direction I was headed. I wanted to study and work towards my dream career but I knew that I wanted to keep working and earn some income to help me with the costs of studying along the way. I also applied for a few scholarships which helped purchase most of my text books, which also really helped.

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After the excitement of it all started to wear off and I became well-versed in sitting down to a study session after a shift at work, I noticed myself take a detour from time to time. It is ok to procrastinate and everyone gets tired sometimes. After all, all this study and work… who could blame you if a yawn or two escapes from your mouth!

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After a while I really started to notice a difference in myself:

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Ok maybe not quite Einstein, but I was growing personally and professionally. I had gained all of these awesome skills, like self-management, and I even got an exciting new role at work… which was great. I realised that all of my time and effort had brought me a long way on my journey. I began to feel so proud of myself; I had achieved some short-term goals already.

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Then, all of a sudden, I found myself here, in the third year of my degree, powering through it seems, having countless valuable experiences that are inching me closer and closer to that dream career of mine.

My goal’s now are so much clearer than they were to begin with. I have even scheduled in time to do volunteer work in a related area to my degree. These experiences, studying, working and volunteering, have only driven me to learn more. I have been getting increasingly excited about the career ahead of me.

Everyone’s journey is different. I would love to hear your experiences about working and studying and what you have gained from doing both.

Til next time,
Krisi

Riding the University Rollercoaster

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Here we are, the end of Semester 2, where has the time gone, I don’t know! It feels like yesterday that I had to wave goodbye to my Mum and Dad as they departed Steele Rudd College – my home for the next little while. From the ups of college events, meeting new friends, lecture recess and volunteering encounters to the downs of panicking when submitting an assignment wondering if I’ve done it the right ‘University’ way and the large amount of study endured throughout lecture recess, it’s safe to say that the past ten weeks have been quite like riding a rollercoaster.

The Beginning of Rudd Life – O Week!

Undoubtedly, my college experience started out with a bang. Thanks to Steele Rudd’s Residential College Committee, there was an array of activities arranged for Orientation Week: Rock climbing, dance lessons, riding a mechanical bucking bull, picnic lunch and games at Picnic Point, water slides, inter-college toga trivia and many more.

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Inauguration Dinner

All USQ Residential College students were invited to attend the annual Inauguration Dinner for 2013. Awards were presented to returning students and new students received a warm welcome from our Residential Life Manager Katharine Bigby. This occasion allowed us to mingle with students from other colleges whilst enjoying a delectable meal. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the icecream! And Pavlova, cheesecake, éclairs… mmmm…

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For those of you like me, who had this awesome idea of a ‘holiday’ in mind, we were obviously dreaming. Although this period meant no lectures or tutorials, this didn’t exclude study and assignment work from our daily timetables – hence the term ‘Lecture Recess’.  In saying this, I found this time to be an excellent opportunity to catch up on any study I had got behind with and to take time out to relax with the fam bam and catch up with friends. Of course, I am still left completing assignments to the last minute (Note to self for the millionth time: Start assignments early!), however I managed to submit them on time!

 Youth Leadership Forum

A memorable and rewarding experience for me so far was volunteering for the Youth Leadership Forum. This was held on Friday the 19th of April and was organised by the Faculty of Education. Being an Education student, I considered this an excellent opportunity to meet new people and gain experience. Potential school student leaders from Years 9 to 12, from nine different schools around the district attended. The theme of the day was ‘Leading a Team, Leading a Project’ with a focus on the practical skills needed to lead a project team. Jean Madden, the founder of Street Swags for the homeless, was the guest speaker. To be able to listen to Jean’s speech was inspirational. Jean emphasised the importance in being determined to complete a project, instead of contemplating only trying to do the project. Her motto was ‘Don’t talk about giving it a red hot go, make that change and ensure it happens’. I spent the afternoon helping facilitate workshop activities with the students at McGregor College. I had a great group – they provided much comic value for my afternoon!  It was an amazing day and I would recommend it to anyone. I already have it on next year’s bucket list!

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Living on college and being an on-campus students adds the convenience of running across the road 10 minutes before your lecture/tutorial starts and not having to find a car park (instead, you get to listen to everyone in class whine about how they had to drive around for 30 minutes just to find a park!) J My tutors and lecturers are great and so helpful (at first I thought I was the biggest pain in my class by asking questions, but they love to assist any way they can!) I have already made lifelong friends who make this experience even more worthwhile.

Although riding the University rollercoaster has at times been challenging, I wouldn’t swap it for anything else.  It has already been a huge learning curve and to sum up what I have learnt this semester so far, I would suggest:

  • Don’t leave assignments to the last minute – start as early as you possibly can!
  • Focus on the one assignment you are doing, and stop thinking about the other four or five that also need to be done!
  • Follow the study schedules allocated – these keep you on track and save last minute cramming!
  • Always remember your lecturers and tutors are there to help, if you’re struggling with something, ask them!

I have come to the realisation – once you overcome the downhill sectors of the ride, along comes the uphill and enjoyable part!

The Year to end all Years…

In two days’ time I will commence what I have been told is the most grueling year of a student’s life. A year that will test my academic ability, jeopardize my social life, reduce my sleep bank balance, and compromise my sanity. In two days’ time I will begin a journey that may ‘make or break’ me – Honours Year*. I don’t think the reality of the situation will actually sink in until I’m sitting in that classroom, beginning an 8-day intensive workshop on multivariate analysis, research and thesis proposals, ethical dilemmas, and counselling techniques. For the moment my brain is still enjoying being on holidays, pleased to have completed my undergraduate science degree and to only have casual employment, volunteer work, coffee dates, and road trips to be concerned about. It is hard to comprehend that I should be preparing it for an onslaught of reading, researching, and revising. A week or so ago I was enjoying my 21st birthday with family and friends – not a care in the world – and now I am bracing myself for the return to study; my textbooks and laptop to be my most important companions.

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Thankfully, I am not to brave the storm alone. My family and friends – some of whom have already completed similar study – have been amazingly supportive so far, and I know they will be there again, despite how stressed out, cranky, or deliriously tired I may get.

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I am exceptionally lucky in that my boyfriend is also a psychology student and about to begin honours himself, as are several of my friends. I have been teamed up with an amazing thesis supervisor, and have been allocated the topic that most interested me for my research project (Autism Spectrum Disorders). I am confident in the USQ staff and facilities. Ultimately, I think I’ve been given the best chance to succeed that I’m ever going to get. I wouldn’t say ‘bring it on!’ but I’m also not running in the opposite direction just yet.

This year will be a balancing act – I hope to continue working and volunteering (I help at Lifeline one day a week) and maybe even to see daylight and my friends every now and then. Stupidly or not, I even have a cruise booked for July (everyone needs a break!). I’ll check in with you again in a few months to let you know how I’m travelling, and just how skilled I am at time-management…

I thought I’d end with the top three events from my holidays (holidays which are about to fade into nothingness all too soon): 1. As mentioned above, I turned 21! 2. My Rotaract Club organised a movie night that raised almost $1200 for Guide Dogs Queensland – thank you to anyone reading this who supported it! 3. Last but not least, I volunteered at the Woodford Folk Festival – and would recommend it to anyone; especially if you are a poor student and fancy a free ticket and accommodation.Image

Oh, and I also got be on a bus, wearing my new, free USQ t-shirt! Make sure to come along to the Phoenix Carnival on the 24th Feb (I am especially looking forward to the fairy floss, movie at sunset, and dunking machine hehe…) Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3CaOfSy5cU

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Well, that’s all from me for the mo’ – off to gather stationery for the big day! :S

- Gena

*For those asking ‘what is this insane-sounding honours year?’ Differences from an undergraduate program include:

  • Week-long workshop blocks (with class from 9am-5pm each day), which occur four times a year, rather than several 2/3-hour classes each week. Workshops are often held in the weeks usually considered holidays.
  • A research project/thesis due at the end of the year, as well as other ‘normal’ subjects each semester.
  • Though it is an on campus program (and cannot be completed unless you attend the workshops), more external-style study is required and students must take the initiative in catching-up with their supervisors and staying on task.
  • The program only takes one year of full-time study to complete.

For more information, The University of Southern Queensland website is more accurate than I (check out http://www.usq.edu.au/handbook/current/sci/BSCH.html).

Holidays, where are you?

This is it. This is the last holidays I have to relax before I enter into my final year of uni – officially received my results and passed everything. YAY! While I love living on College, it feels so good to come home and not have to worry about uni work or being woken at 3am when someone comes home from the club. There are some days though where I don’t feel as though I’m on holidays. With work, my little brother graduating grade 12, trying to keep my boyfriend occupied and Christmas just around the corner, these holidays feel jam-packed– and it’s only just beginning!

My Parents, Alex, and his lovely grad partner, Kathrine, ready for graduation!

The day after I arrived in Townsville I began work as a Christmas Casual in Townsville’s newly renovated shopping centre; which seems to steal all my money. I traded in my study brain for a… working one? With the shopping centre already so packed a month away from Christmas, I have decided I should attempt to start my Christmas shopping early. Hopefully I can avoid the pre-Christmas freak-out and the dreaded car-park hunt.

With my parents living it up in New Zealand, I have been elected the official Christmas interior decorator while they’re away and I take this role very seriously. I love Christmas. I think my family is feeling the festive season early this year with Mum making an army of Christmas Snowmen and my brother’s also getting a jump on Christmas presents. It’s great to have everyone together to celebrate over a lunch filled with seafood and tropical fruits. I love receiving presents, and more importantly (cough cough) giving presents. I think there’s something about Christmas that brings peace of mind after several months of going crazy trying to find the perfect present.

Christmas shopping is going well and Mum’s little army of Snowmen gather around the Concannon Snowman, ready for a busy month ahead

So in-between helping my little brother organise himself for his graduation, working, Christmas shopping, watching the cricket and occasionally having a quiet day on my days off work,  I ventured out and went to watch a Crocs game. Unfortunately, this became their TENTH loss this season… out of 10 games! Being so busy, I have slowly gotten around to catching up with friends. With some friends still finishing exams and others working, it’s sometimes hard to find a time that suits everyone. Thankfully I’m home for three months.

When will the Crocs get their first win?!

Overall, being at home is a time to relax. It’s important to take time out to recharge before tackling the study workload again. Family are the most important thing and I think now that I live so far away that’s become more evident. It’s important to spend as much time as you can together because you never know when they’ll ditch you for New Zealand.

Merry Christmas!

My secret skill: Juggling!

The dictionary definition of juggling is:

  • to perform the tricks of a juggler
  • to engage in manipulation especially in order to achieve a desired end
  • to handle or deal with usually several things (as obligations) at one time so as to satisfy often competing requirements

The latter two relate to me. I have mastered the skill to juggle the responsibilities of family life, my full-time university studies, a casual job and my ‘me’ time. This, at times, leads to feeling like the star attraction in my very own ‘family’ circus, and my 3 girls are the ringmasters  ;)

I am sure that I am not the only one out there who feels this way at times, you long for the mid semester break, to have the chance to catch a breath just in the nick of time, only to start back again and sit through long nights of study before end of semester exams. You take a break and it starts all over again, a constant juggling act.

This mid semester break I had the opportunity to travel interstate for a ‘real’ holiday, at my family reunion.  It was a challenge to prepare my assessment early to ensure the time away was really a holiday. But it definitely paid out in the end. I cannot stress how important it is to ensure a good study/family/work balance together with fun and recreation. I think I had forgotten what it felt like to just sit and do nothing, listen to the waves – we were at the beach – and just spend time with the family. I even got a chance to go quad biking on the largest sand dunes in Australia with some of my family. Best fun I have had in ages!

It can be so easy to get caught up in the stresses and deadlines of uni life. However, by keeping on top of things, or when necessary, knowing when to let things go, we can achieve all we need to without missing out on anything.  There are occasions when I don’t get time to do the housework because an assignment is due. If I work late, I’ll order pizza for dinner, and if I have a kids soccer match to attend, I stay up late and study. It all balances out in the end. A bit of give and take, and a lot of quality time with the family is all it takes for me. My eldest daughter Chloe says she’d much prefer that I spend ½ hr doing something with her, then spending half the day in the same room on the laptop working. Quality time, not quantity. I wish I could say the same for work, lol. But there is nothing I can do about the time spent at work. Having said that, there are times I have to turn down a shift to ensure I am there for my family.

Knowing your priorities and planning your time will help you stay in control. I ask myself, is what I am doing now going to matter in the long run? Is it going to make my life easier or more difficult? Does it really matter if the dishes are not done until morning? When necessary, there are things I need to take out of my ‘juggling’ act to make my time as a uni student more successful without hindering my family, work and recreational time. What are some things you could take out of yours, even if only for a short time, to help you through when needed?

Dreams start early

As a father and having worked for a number of years in children’s theatre and after-school care, children have often amazed me with the confidence they have in talking about what they are going to be when they grow up. They never say “What I would like to be if this happens or that happens”, or a thousand other qualifications, but simply: “This is what I am going to be”. Sure kids change their minds, some more than others, but the dreams held by a child at a given moment in their lives stay alive as real and achievable goals.

With a little help from my double-trouble twins (OK a lot of help!) we came up with a story as viewed through the eyes of a child, which reflects the above phenomenon – how dreams start and where children believe the dreams will take them.

So what happens along the way to some of us that causes us to forget our dreams or put the dream off until tomorrow. “Tomorrow” – that place of the future where all sorts of wonderful things are going to happen if you ever actually get there? To a child, having a dream turn into reality is as natural as falling asleep, night follows day, eating an apple or a pear, or putting mud on your face. It is a natural expectation for a child that if I say it, I will do it.

So I asked myself “Why did I wait so long to make my first dream come true?” And then I asked myself “Why did I wait so long to move on to the next dream…” (I’ve always been one of those kids that has a lot of dreams) “…knowing that dreams can become reality”. The answer was clear. Unlike a child, I lost confidence in my dreams, so much so that even after achieving one dream I still doubted whether I could turn another dream into a reality. I was afraid of shadows and the shadows returned again – shadows that were no more than tree branches scratching at the windows. Then, as with the first dream, I opened the window, I stepped outside the door, I went beyond my familiar comfort zone, and I started to climb that new tree, the very tree that scared me. And I thought what would have happened to my dreams if I stayed frightened of the shadows, and what would have happened if I didn’t find this new tree to climb. The answer was clear: a different reality would have happened, different to the one I that the child inside of me who dares to dream wants in his life.

At USQ we have the possibilities, the courses, the degrees, the international reputation to help you turn your dreams into reality. And you don’t have to do it all on your own. We have the people to help you negotiate your way through the shadows. Lecturers, librarians, ICT support, Student Relationship Officers, Learning Centre Staff, students, a whole community waiting to work with you toward your dreams. A place where once again you can have the confidence to believe that your dreams are a natural expectation.

This is Lindsay Nicholson, father of three, husband, former lawyer from another life, current USQ Bachelor of Science (Psychology) student, signing off and wishing you happy dreams and prosperous realities. The eye lids are feeling heavy. I think I will go and have a dream. Nighty night…

Concannon College and the Chamber of Studies

I think Professor Dumbledore said it best, “I will only truly have left this place when none here are loyal to me… Help will always be given at college to those who ask for it.” Or something to that effect.

Like many students who attended Hogwarts, I moved far away from home not knowing a single thing about my awaiting destination or the people there. I received a letter in the mail saying I had been accepted into the USQ family at Toowoomba. At just 17 years of age, I packed my 3 suitcases (which did not impress my dad or my two brothers who had to help carry them) and set out on a nerve-racking voyage from Townsville. I have since learnt that packing my snow jacket was definitely a good idea this winter!

Before moving to Toowoomba, I had to decide between 3 Colleges – Concannon (the fearless crocodiles), McGregor (the fiery devils) and Steel Rudd (the soaring seagulls). My decision was made and I just needed to wait for the ‘Sorting Hat’ to have the final say. Lucky for me, I got my preference and Concannon was, and still is, my home. With countless college activities, uni club dress-up parties and intercollege events (10 points for Concannon!) it didn’t take long to settle in. While I sometimes struggle out of bed a few minutes before class begins the 2 minute walk to uni assures me I’ll make it in time. And after a long, hard day of studying I know there will always be someone waiting at college when the day is over. Even though I moved so far away from my family, Concannon has become a home away from home.

Living on college gives me the opportunity to meet people studying a range of different degrees from (defence against the dark) arts degrees such as theatre to science degrees like chemistry (potions classes).  If I need a distraction or help I can just open my door or window and I’m sure to see a familiar face. Or sometimes I just bang on the wall to get Hermione’s attention next door. She loves it when I do that.

Residential Shield competitions between the three colleges are obviously a highlight for most. With an event roughly once a week, members from all colleges come out in college colours like a pack of wizards gathering for a quidditch game. With events ranging from soccer and afl to trivia and idol there is something to cater for all (10 more points to Concannon!). The points are then tallied after each event and totalled at the end of the year where the overall winner is announced over a delicious feast. While these events often end in a group celebration or a group commiseration, it is always a group effort.

Even as Harry Potter fought against the difficulties thrust upon him throughout life, he knew he could rely on his family at Hogwarts to battle with him. I know if I ever come across He Who Must Not Be Named that my fellow Concannonites would join forces with the other colleges and stand behind me, Mrs Weasley style.

I think the message to take from Harry Potter is no matter where you are and the troubles you face, you will never be alone. Whether you’re struggling with study or an outfit choice, college life provides more than a place to sleep. Just like Harry Potter and those who attended Hogwarts, I have found a home away from home. So if you’re unsure about studying and living on college consider these words from some wise old man: “it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”

My time

Hi, my name is Clare. I am studying a Bachelor of Commerce with a Major in Accounting at the University of Southern Queensland, Springfield campus. As this is my first blog, I thought I’d start by giving you an insight into my week as a Mum, a student, an employee and a volunteer. So you can see just how much you really can achieve, I think you may be quite surprised!

My days start off with the early morning school rush. If I am organised enough, I am up first to get some washing out and housework done, and maybe even fit in a cuppa before the kids start harassing me to do their hair or yell ‘Mum, where are my shoes?’ If I’m really lucky I may even get a morning shower, ha-ha!  Most mornings I do flying solo, as my awesome hubby [Luke] is a registered nurse and he is in and out with shift work.  But my girls know what they need to do, it is the same everyday! Get dressed, brekkie, teeth, hair, shoes and socks, pack their bags, make beds, and get in the car. Below is photo of my 3 beautiful girls [Jennifer, Chloe and Hannah] on our way to school, and judging by the fact their hair is tied up, and their smiles, this would appear to be a successful morning of getting ready for school on time ;)

Once the 2 oldest girls are dropped at school, Hannah either goes to kindy, travels with me to uni, or hangs with Dad. Hannah is so flexible, and has been coming to uni with me, on occasion, since she was just one week old. The University of Southern Queensland has been great with the need I have to bring her, I just needed to fill out a form and arrange permission with each of my lecturers, easy!

During my day I either attend lectures, study, do assignments or housework, and when I can get it, free time for me!!! Each week I put one whole day aside for housework, you know the boring stuff. I also allocate the day after an assignment is due to do something special for me. There are of course other things that pop up, but the key is to be flexible. Sometimes it’s just a case of day swapping. Like if my girlfriends want to catch up on a study day, but I have a free day tomorrow, I swap them around. Below is picture of a typical day studying at home.

Notice the snacks?! I can’t get by without them :)

At 2pm, I am back in the car picking up kids from school, we get home anytime between 4pm – 6pm depending on which after school activity it is that day, sometimes I think my kids have more of a social life than I do!  Once home we start the homework/bring in the washing/dinner/bath/bed routine, which keeps me busy until 7:30pm. This is probably the busiest time in our household, everyone home together trying to get a million things done.  When Luke [my hubby] is home this time of night is much easier for me.

Once the kids are in bed, and I have had some time hanging out with Luke, if he is home, I catch up on the day’s events via the News or Facebook. At this stage I am usually pretty tired. I find that, for me, this is NOT a great time for me to attempt to study or do readings, having said that, my nights are also really busy. Mondays and Wednesdays I try to go for a run when I can. Thursdays I play netball for the USQ Firebirds in the Springfield Lakes comp., and Fridays I volunteer at Shiloh Rangers [like scouts] where I run the high school girls group.  However, every night, whether I go out or not I aim to print tomorrow’s lectures, make the school lunches for the next day, plan tomorrow night’s dinner and check my calendar for any upcoming assignments or bookings I have to make sure I am still on track with everything.  Here is a picture of the calendar in my kitchen. In a place where I can always see it. For some reason it fills up very fast!!!

This all makes me sound VERY organised, but really, when you add in the odd shift at work, a sick child and weekend get together. Life becomes VERY busy indeed. I feel that as long as I keep grounded and take each day at a time, trying to stick to my schedule, I can get it all done and done well. I’d like to finish by giving you some practical tips of ways you can organise yourself better to get the most out of your day.

  1. Get a calendar and use it. No use getting one, and it just looking pretty on the wall!
  2. Plan ahead of time, look at doing a couple of things the day before, like put the washing on at night ready to hang out in the morning, or make school lunches the night before, or planning tomorrow’s dinner.
  3. Get your kids [if you have some!] into a routine, and then you won’t be wasting your time reminding them what they need to be doing. They will feel a sense of accomplishment when they do it all.
  4. Allocate days to study, shop, do housework etc.
  5. Make sure you know that family comes first. If you support them, they will support you [especially when that assignment is due and you have been ignoring them for the last 24hours!]
  6. Don’t talk about getting organised, DO IT!!! You’ll find you have more free time than it looks on paper, and you’ll LOVE IT!

I hope this gives you some motivation to re-organise your busy schedule to make sure you are excelling in ALL areas of your life, whether that be studies, family, work or whatever it is that makes you, you!

If I can do it, you can. Take Care.

New Beginnings

“Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go and then you got the feeling that you wanted to stay?” (Jimmy Durante).

After having accomplished a Double Degree in Arts (Honours) and Law, having myself admitted to the Supreme Court of Queensland and High Court of Australia as a solicitor, and then practising for several years – guess what? I got the feeling – you know, that I wanted to go. Stronger than the feeling that I wanted to stay, it won out!

The Double Trouble

And here I am, USQ, Bachelor of Science (Psychology) student, 12 years older than when I first started on my tertiary path, two more children (*pigeon pair twins – the double trouble) in addition to my oldest daughter who has followed this journey with my very patient wife (no photos Dad! I find a compromise).

Twins draw Mum and Older Sister

So, with a few more wrinkles, especially around the eyes, and a motivation stronger than ever over this exciting new chapter in the Lindsay Tome of Tertiary Treasures, I hesitated for about a second. I realised that I wanted to leave the old profession and start anew, transition careers, reinvent myself, and I remembered 40 is the new 20 and I might live til I’m 120 so there is plenty of time ahead. To be honest, I can see myself studying at 60, 70, 80 etcetera…Never too late to start and what a place to start! USQ, external (my cup of tea with family of three – oh yeah, and the missus – oops!), online, and on campus programmes and courses across three campuses – Toowoomba, Fraser Coast, and Springfield.

External mode suits me down to the ground with family and work commitments. The academic social forums keep me active and connected, and regularly involved in exciting discussions and debates with my peers. The supportive and friendly nature of staff and students has made this journey so much easier for me, reassuring me every step of the way that I am a part of a real tertiary family who cares about their students irrespective of course, study mode, state or continent.

Daughter Lily Cuddling Dad After Hard Night’s Study

And the bonus! Because I already have a couple degrees tucked into my belt, I am able to transfer to the Graduate Diploma of Psychological Studies first semester next year – once I complete my 3 introductory prerequisites this 2nd semester and 3rd semester of 2012 – or stay in the Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and receive credit for prior study. Either way, I’m heading strong and fast to my next vocation as a psychologist. What a world, what a country, what a university!

So if you’re thinking about it, don’t think too long, dangling toes in the deep end is fine for a while, but diving in, doing the laps, and winning your own sprint or marathon  (whatever you fancy – plenty of courses and study modes to suit sprinters and long distance runners if you’ll excuse the metaphors) – well there is nothing more exhilarating.

I hope to see you at the finish line, but you’ll need to enrol first!

Cheers

Lindsay