Kate: 4 steps to a balanced life as a studying Murri mother
Kate is a Murri student studying a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours).
There’s a lot of pressure being a Murri student. Indigenous students make up just 1.5% of the university student population*, so I feel pressure to do well, not just for myself but also for my community. I am acutely aware of the responsibilities I have toward my mob and doing well at university is one of them. Indigenous uni students are often older, which means many of us have families to care for while studying and we frequently choose degrees that allow us to go back into our communities and create positive changes.
University can be a challenging place. There is so much to read, but textbooks and supplementary material are only the tip of the iceberg. Mastering referencing, meeting new people, engaging in class debates, keeping a study schedule while maintaining decent grades and managing a social life has proven difficult to cope with.
Oh, and once you throw a few jarjums (kids) into the mix … BAM! You’re juggling a million responsibilities, while bouncing around like a maniacal clown. By the end of my first semester, my mind was noisier than a three-year-old denied a cookie.
Things needed to change. Either I made my crazy clown skills available for hire at weddings, parties and any other event, or I would have to knuckle down and find a way to manage my commitments, children and a whopping dose of maternal guilt. Tempting as over-sized shoes are, I chose the latter option.
So, what’s my game plan? How do I manage university, parenting and my own cultural responsibilities?
I’ve become a deadly planner and streamlined my life with these 4 steps:
1. Set yourself some ground rules early on.
At the start of each semester I create a study schedule, which includes weekly readings, assessment and study time. Let your loved ones know when you are in ‘study lockdown’ and make sure the kids know when it’s ok to interrupt your study (such as when nana visits) and when it’s not ok (midnight runs to the 7/11 for a Slurpee).
2. Get the family involved.
Those super-tricky assignments and the most difficult classes are not just an occasion to get outside your comfort zone and expand your mind. University provides a great opportunity to model good study habits and time management skills for your children. And yes, it’s ok to teach them that pizza night is a part of academic greatness.
3. Build a community for yourself at uni.
Get to know your lecturers, build rapport with your Student Relationship Officer (SRO) and meet your classmates. I have built a great network of support by tapping into my university community and sharing my experiences with other Murri students.
4. Make time for life.
Don’t let study and grades become your only priority; you are much more than a student. Get out and play with your jarjums, spend time with friends and family.
And that’s it really… simple!
If you’re after more tips on how to plan and balance your workload, contact The Learning Centre or The College for Indigenous Studies, Education and Research (CISER). CISER staff are also great if you just want to chat to someone if you find the pressure of having so many responsibilities is building up, or you can also get in touch with USQ’s Student Services staff.
*’University enrolment growth remains stable: latest data’, Media Release, 7 September 2016, Universities Australia.