I was 16 when I moved out of home, and while I loved school when I was younger, something about high school just didn't work for me. I've always been the kind of person who works better under their own steam than under direction. While I tried to keep going to classes, eventually I gave up.
When I decided I wanted to go back to study, I was 28. It wasn’t that I was bored – during the time most of my peers were completing high school and going to uni, I travelled throughout Europe, met lots of interesting people and worked. But I knew I could achieve more with my life, and was keen to get started on achieving my long-term goal of becoming an environmental scientist.
To achieve this goal, I completed years 10, 11 and 12 of high school at TAFE and enrolled in a Tertiary Preparation Program (TPP). Because I hadn't studied in ten years, this program was an essential stop on my path to uni. It allowed me to get back into the habit of studying, redevelop long-forgotten academic skills and learn new, helpful study skills, such as referencing, reporting and essay writing.
I am a much more efficient task master than I was before I started studying at uni and I enjoy training my brain to mirror the analytical, objective thought patterns particular to scientific enquiry. I never expected I would be such a perfectionist, but then I didn't really understand how hard you have to work for top marks, and how much time it takes. Now, I spend hours agonising over the wording of my assignments and do hours of extra study at exam time. The beauty of self-directed learning is that if you don't do well, you only have yourself to blame.
I won’t pretend it was easy, but after a lot of hard work and making sacrifices in my personal life, I have been able to achieve straight 7s at university. This has helped me feel more confident in myself and my abilities as an academic, and has led to a greater sense of self-worth. Seeing all those 7s lined up in a neat little row is what I work towards, and it’s nice to know all that hard work paid off.
As well as studying, I was the president of the USQ Environment Society and volunteer at a number of local NGOs (non-government organisation), including Landcare, Lock the Gate Alliance and Sea Shepherd. I also received the Condamine Alliance Natural Resource Management Bursary, which included an eight-week placement and was offered a position on the board of the newly-formed Darling Downs Environmental Council. I’m really excited about these opportunities and being able to make some positive changes in the region.
If you want to build your own confidence, career skills and self-belief, these are my tips:
To build upon these tips and further develop your self-confidence and self belief, listen to Sonia McDonald share her experiences and advice on harnessing self-belief to achieve professional and study success. You might also be interested in reading Cathy's advice for upgrading your mental resilience.