G

GRADUATION

On Monday 15 December, a day that I had been waiting for, for a long time finally arrived—my graduation day.

After five years of hard work, personal and professional sacrifices, finding and losing love and other ups-and-downs, I finally got there. My graduation day wasn’t as overwhelming or emotional as I thought it would be, which isn’t a bad or a good thing, I’m just not sure what to make of it. My parents and brother came up for the big day, like always they love and support me unconditionally.

My day started at 8.15am when I had to be at uni to register and pick up my academic dress (robe, faculty ribbon attached to the robe and mortarboard). The robe was nice and loose, but the mortarboard was the big issue—it took five minutes to find the right size, they were either too big or too small, but I eventually got there.

I had about 45 minutes to kill after registering and before I had to be in the Hall where the ceremony was being held. In that time, my parents made sure to get plenty of photos. I eventually made my way into the hall where happily some of my other journalism classmates were sitting with me in the same row. The ceremony kicked off with a request for everyone to turn off their phones or put them on silent—about 20 phones went off during the ceremony, which annoyed me to no end.  Most of them were there for their own childrens’ graduation and other parents and family members want to enjoy it too, the decent thing to do if you don’t want to turn your phone off is put it on silent.

As with any ceremony like this, there were formalities such as presentations and speeches. It took about ten rows of fellow graduates to go through before it was my turn. There were three ushers—one to tick my name of the list, one to tick my name off another list and adjust my academic wear and another to tell me when to go on stage. I finally got my degrees, which I had long been waiting for in a blue binder with my academic transcript from the Vice Chancellor, who asked me what my plans were and whether I was working or going on to postgrad or if I had a job. I told him that I was working to keep out of trouble and keep my parents proud.

After collecting my degrees and transcript, which I struggled getting into my hands, I walked down the wrong staircase and back to my seat. The girl sitting next to me, Alyce had her own phone with her and was telling me about the Sydney siege, which began at the same time as the ceremony started.

After the ceremony ended, I walked out with the other graduates to find people standing outside clapping, that’s when it hit me and I shed a tear for the biggest and most life-changing chapter of my life coming to an end right there and then.

After the ceremony, I had professional photographs taken with my family and my degrees framed. I then went out to my lunch and spent the rest of the day with my family.

I provide a lot of advice through the Uni Alphabet, my only advice for your graduation ceremony—enjoy it. It is the celebration of years of hard work and you will never get the day back.

Celebrate and congratulations!

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GAP YEAR

I can’t write about my university life and experiences without writing about what lead me to university.

I decided in year 11 in 2007 that I didn’t want to go to university straight out of school. University was always on the cards for me, but after 12 years of studying, plus year 12 the next year, I wanted to take a break from the classroom and the books. In October 2007, I got my first job as a service cashier (or “check-out chick”) at Woolworths Kooringal, which was within walking distance of my high school. I would work there casually after school, on weekends and during school holidays. I loved working there, especially during my final two years of high school as it gave me something else to focus on, and the money that came with it was, of course, a bonus.

After finishing high school in late 2008, I asked my bosses about going from working casually to working full-time. My bosses were very supportive, with the store manager, Sandra suggesting that I go to the Woolworths Career Night. The Career Night provided information for those who wanted to become supervisors and managers and also about retail traineeships, my boss suggested that I apply for a place in the Certificate II in Retail. I found out in January 2009 that I was successful in getting a place in the Certificate II group. In the time between finishing school and starting my traineeship, I worked at Woolworths casually.

The traineeship involved going to all-day classes once every couple of months and filling out books to complete modules in the time between classes. My first class was on February 3rd 2009 at the Gurwood Street Woolworths, there were about nine other people in the group, most of whom were from Woolworths stores in nearby towns.  I learnt a lot that day and it was a good one, what I didn’t expect what to meet the man who would be my first boyfriend. Unfortunately the relationship didn’t work out.

I filled out the first book and completed the first module with high marks, however a few months after starting the traineeship, I became extremely unhappy with my job. I wasn’t unhappy because of my work environment or my colleagues—they were great to me and I was treated well, but the traineeship and the job was no longer for me. But I pushed on. On May 30th 2009, I went to work not feeling 100%, I was feeling dizzy and light-headed, I told my supervisor that I wasn’t feeling well and needed to sit down, so he got someone to cover for me and I made my way to the bathrooms at the back of the store. I didn’t make it to the bathroom, fainting in the middle of the store, in front of customers as well as a friend and colleague, Natalie.  

I was taken to the hospital, there was nothing wrong with me, but the emergency physician told me that I working too much and told me to consider reducing my hours, however I did find out two years later that the blood pressure medication I was on at the time, Tenormin, slows the heart down and that would have caused my fainting, the physician who prescribed it to me and the pharmacist who filled the prescription neglected to tell me this. After I was allowed to leave the hospital, my mother called my bosses and told them I would be taking the week off. 

During this week, whilst resting, I started writing again, it was the first time I had written anything in months. I was going to have a short story published overseas for the first time, in Perspectives, a Canadian fiction magazine, in July of that year and I thought I would write and submit more stories to the magazine. I wrote one story that was published in the January 2010 edition of Perspectives. During this week, I gained back my love of writing and it was then I decided that I would go to uni and I applied to study the Bachelor of Creative Arts, the Bachelor of Journalism and the double degree that I am doing now, the Bachelor of Creative Arts-Bachelor of Journalism.

As part of the admissions process, not only did I have to give my HSC results and documents, I also had to complete two portfolios of written work, both for the creative arts and journalism degrees as well as undertake an admissions interview with creative arts and journalism lecturers.  The creative arts portfolio required 10-12 pages of my own writing work which comprised of short stories that had both been published and unpublished as well as book reviews.

The journalism portfolio required that I answered two questions:  why I wanted to be a journalist and the skills I could bring to the profession and to explain what I thought were the main problems facing journalism today. I recall my answer to the first question was that I believed in making a difference and I felt that journalism was resourceful when natural disasters struck and I also wanted to experience events, both locally and globally first hand. My answer to the second question was that at times, the persistence that journalists have to possess to obtain a story can sometimes hinder them and that there could be other ways in obtaining a story. Of course, three years later, my views have changed, I haven’t done a complete 180, but they have changed with studying the profession and what it takes to be a journalist.  I spent three months from June until September 2009 completing both portfolios as they were due on November 6th 2009, I also submitted a couple of pieces of published writing in my journalism portfolio.

I had both my creative arts and journalism interviews on December 1st2009. My journalism interview was in the morning, they were two other people there, a man and a woman. I never learnt the woman’s name, but I did learn the man’s name, Andrew, because he did get into the course and I introduced myself during O-Week, he now works at my local newspaper, The Daily Advertiser.  I never saw the woman again. I completely broke down during my journalism interview as I was cocky and underprepared, one of the three lecturers walked with me and tried to calm me down, I later learnt that his name was David Blackall and one of the other lecturers, who I later learnt was Dr Siobhan McHugh, gave me a hug afterwards.  I’m hoping that I got into the course for my portfolio not my breakdown, the grades that I’ve received over the years certainly speak for themselves, but I do wonder from time to time. 

My creative arts interview was that afternoon and went a lot better than the journalism interview. I was interviewed by Dr Catherine Fargher, who was the scriptwriting lecturer, she told me that she liked my work. Ironically she also said that my book reviews had journalistic tendencies and asked me if I applied for the Bachelor of Journalism, I said that I had and also that I bombed my interview. After I returned from my interviews, I continued working full-time at Woolworths, I received my offer to study at UOW on January 16th 2010. And the rest they say is history. 

In my gap year, I experienced my first relationship and my first relationship break-up, what working full-time is actually like, I had some health problems and re-discovered my love for writing and in turn found my calling. Most of all, I discovered what would make me happy and made it happen. I highly recommend a gap year to future uni students.

This column originally appeared on Tertangala and can be found here. 

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