What is your long-term goal?

I have one exam and one assignment to go. That is it. In one week, I will have finished my four year degree.

I was asked recently, ‘what is your long-term goal?’. For once in my life, I was actually speechless.

My ‘long-term’ (at least it had seemed long term) goal had consisted of working hard at uni, achieving the best GPA possible, finishing my degree and then passionately teaching maths and/ or art to high school kids somewhere.

However, when I was asked the question recently, I realised that the once seemingly massive task of completing my degree was almost complete. I had focused so much energy into doing well in exams, assignments, pracs and internships that somewhere along the way, I forgot that this was all leading somewhere.

I began thinking back to the reasons I began the degree in the first place. There are many reasons, but a few pivotal moments stand out.

When I was in middle primary school, I was truly over-excited about learning. I would come home, quickly open my homework sheet, complete it, parade around with it in front of my parents and then set about creating a ‘homework’ sheet for my younger sister to complete. I loved teaching her new things. Though I had waited a few years after high school to begin formal study, I think that becoming a teacher was predetermined.

This passion for teaching and sharing what I knew continued throughout my life. It was then extended through travel, where I realised my passion for teaching overseas as well as helping those who are less fortunate.

The passion still exists. The degree has almost been attained. So, where do I see myself in 2, 5, 10, 20 years? What will be in store for the Rickard’s, long-term?

I think the answer here is teaching internationally and participating in long-term volunteer/ charity projects within the country. Ideally, of course.

How has USQ assisted with this? I have attained (almost) an internationally recognised degree from a university which is highly regarded throughout the world for its Education program. It is because of USQ’s connections with partner-schools around the world that I was given the opportunity to teach in Thailand, as one of my pracs. I have been given great guidance from lecturers, have met a wonderful bunch of like-minded friends and have found my inner-confidence.

The journey has been challenging. This is felt most during exam block, the current time of this semester. However, I think it is important to be reminded that this is a road which is leading somewhere – to a realisation of your hopes and dreams, the achievement of a goal in which you have chosen.

For me, it is with an excited heart that I reveal the new chapter in which I am about to begin, thanks to my journey here…

I have secured a mathematics teaching position in Bangkok, Thailand!

Thank you for sharing the latter part of my journey with me through my blogs. All the best.

Eclectic Electives: Why my degree resembles an ice cream…

When applying to enter the undergraduate science program at USQ almost three years  ago, my former self had little clue that she would be experiencing much more than psychological theory and statistical jargon… She would be putting her fingers in all the pies, stealing the knowledge of many other faculties, and forming a degree that featured an assortment of different flavours and academic sprinklings – it would be like the making of one very creative, epic, delicious ice cream.

But I suppose I should really take a step back and start my story from the beginning…

When I was in grade eleven I stumbled across an amazing thing – they called it ‘Head Start’. What teenager wouldn’t want to drop a subject at school and instead attend a weekly, three-hour Uni class in which you mainly listened to music and discussed the Beatles and Rolling Stones? Whilst pretending to be a witty, laid-back, astoundingly cool Uni student of course…  I heard about Head Start at school and from friends and was excited at the idea, but the huge selection of courses to choose from posed a problem for the 16-year-old Georgena who had no idea what she wanted to do after high school. However, despite being the exceptionally indecisive person I was (and still am), I eventually chose ‘An Introduction to Popular Music’. The class – worth over $500 – was fully paid for by USQ, and I was told it guaranteed me a place there after school if I wanted it, and could potentially contribute to my future degree. I loved every minute of the course and thus began the creation of custom-made USQ journey.

Over the next year I decided a degree in Psychology was the way to go, and I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psych.

Decision made,” I thought to myself “bring on the predetermined classes and structured coursework!” This was not the case however. University threw me a curve ball; only sixteen of my twenty-four subjects were set – the remainder were (you guessed it) up to my less-than-experienced self to decide upon. Instead of a pre-made sundae I was given only the basics – a fifty cent cone which I then had to doll-up myself. You can imagine my dismay upon discovering the hundreds of subjects open to me yet again. And so, instead of a cleverly researched approach, I adopted a pretty happy-go-lucky/crazy woman one… “Introduction to Education? Why not, some of my friends are taking it…” “Journalism? Sure, throw that one in there” “English Literature? Didn’t mind it at school, sign me up!” I didn’t know what I was interested in at the time so I thought why not try a bit of everything; no need to choose between caramel topping and crushed nuts when you’re given the option of both.

I muddled along during first year, completing my set subjects as well as a good few not-so-set ones. I didn’t feel particularly attached to the semester one education course or to the journalism course I undertook in summer semester that year. But, third time’s the charm as I came across a winner in English Literature (thank goodness!) – My choice of subjects finally began looking a little less eclectic, a little less random (after over a third of my degree was already completed…). I decided to take on four literature courses; the four which are considered a minor within an arts degree (the last of which I am completing currently, in the final semester of my science degree) – and I haven’t regretted it since.

I consider literature a breath of fresh air when I get too bogged down in the midst of all that psychology work, and I’m thankful now that I was given so many electives to play around with, and that I experimented until I found the perfect combo. So here’s the final description of my rocky-to-start-with ice cream:

  1. A novice with no background in ice cream buys a flake before even considering the ice cream to be had (i.e. my music elective)
  2. Several years later (the flake maybe slightly melted and forgotten by this point), a much more enlightened being purchases the ‘base’; a very large cone and a generous serve of vanilla ice cream (i.e. enrolling in a science degree with the major of psychology)
  3. A bunch of crazy children arrive and drench the ice cream in mismatched toppings and sprinkles (i.e. the education, journalism, and first literature electives)
  4. Luckily, a seasoned taste-tester arrives and, appreciating the small amount of caramel sauce found, adds more and gets the balance near perfect (i.e. the following three literature courses)
  5. A final passer-by realises that the ice cream is being lost amidst all these new flavours and adds a final scoop, perfecting the recipe (i.e. the third-year psychology elective I chose in the summer semester of my second year)

I think the moral to this somewhat in-depth analogy is that, at the end of the day, your degree should be unique to you, and you shouldn’t be afraid of customising it where possible. Learning is a lot about choices and decision-making (as my former self quickly discovered) – and ice cream tastes a lot better when you make it yourself!!

The Beginning of the End

Here it is. The beginning of the end. After 3 and a half years, 28 courses, 56 assignments (roughly) as well as several exams and quizzes, I am now staring into the face of my final semester at USQ.

For many, this semester will be their first. It will be marked with new and exciting experiences; the starting point in working to achieve their goals and dreams. For me though, this semester will be characterised through a series of ‘lasts’. The last uni textbook I buy, the last courses I complete, the last assignment I submit, the last prac I participate in – my university life is drawing to a close.

While I am excited about the doors that will unlock and open in the completion of an Education degree, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. I have loved my uni life from the very first lecture. I have changed, I have grown and I have discovered who I am as well as what my passions are. I have met some wonderful and inspiring people, many of whom have become part of my ‘uni family’, and have had some amazing experiences.

I have done things that four years ago I would never have dreamt that I would do. This is very true of an experience that I have had recently. I remember back to my first ‘O Week’, when I attended all of the information sessions that I could (in a desperate bid to ease my nerves). One of these was a lecture on professional placements (pracs; going out to schools to teach). Sometime through this, two fourth year students made their way to the front of the lecture theatre and discussed their recent prac, in Thailand. I remember thinking two things. My first thought centred on the public speaking aspect, I wondered if I would ever truly be comfortable speaking in front of such a large group. Secondly, I thought about actually teaching kids in another country. What a seemingly impossible task!

Less than three years later, I was boarding a plane with two other USQ students (who I had met previously but really didn’t know). We were off to teach in Thailand! The three week experience was unbelievable. I taught maths to high school children in Chiang Mai, observed and participated in many cultural traditions, rode elephants, played with tigers (yes – real life tigers) and was able to share these amazing experiences with two other USQ students who I now regard as family.  Since then, I have given presentations about this prac to large groups of students – just as the two students I envied had done! Through these reflections of the past 3 and a half years, I can see how much I have grown as a person as well as a teacher.

My first lectures of my final semester have just started. So, it is with my last textbook, pen and notepad in hand that I leave nostalgia behind (for now) and refocus on my goal – finish the degree. However, like a good Hollywood movie, I will leave you now with a small reflective montage of my uni life over the past few years. Enjoy