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Students in Focus

Finding a University to call home

Hollie Speer always dreamed of going to university.

She was the first in her family to attend university, but her initial attempt at student life didn’t go exactly to plan.

Hollie moved from Goulburn to Sydney to study at Macquarie University in Sydney but struggled with the change in environment and being away from home and her family.

“I was only there for maybe three weeks. But in total, I lived in Sydney for around three months,” she says.

She certainly tried her best to settle and adjust to a different lifestyle, spending three months ‘giving it a go’, but decided to move back home and take a gap year instead, to save money.

Hollie’s move to Sydney took her completely out of her comfort zone.  At her Goulburn high school, her classes and year group were relatively small, the complete opposite to her University experience. She found the Macquarie University campus and classes, which were full of people, overwhelming.

“I am easily overwhelmed when it comes to big city environments. A lot of people really thrive in that position, but I am not that kind of person,” adds Hollie.  

“When I first arrived in Sydney, I couldn’t relate to a lot of the students that I met. They were very certain of themselves and knew exactly what they wanted to do. I just wasn’t at that stage yet, so I instantly felt disconnected.”

Still determined to attend university, Hollie enrolled at the University of Canberra. This meant that she would be closer to her family and adjusting to university life would be somewhat easier.

And Hollie’s move to Canberra has been a success.

She says that Canberra is a good mix of the city and country lifestyles. It is much more suited to who she is and has had a positive impact on her studies and wellbeing.

Hollie is now happier in her environments – home and university – and is doing well in her studies. She has successfully completed her undergraduate Bachelor of Science and is almost finished with her Honours in Human Nutrition, with plans to do a PhD in Physiology.

Hollie was thrilled to be accepted into Honours. She proudly adds that she has written a paper that has been accepted for publication and her research project is coming to an end.

As part of her studies, Hollie had the opportunity to complete an internship at the Canberra Hospital, which allowed her to meet a lot of professionals. She remains in touch with them.

Her undergraduate degree also included research meetings, which gave her the chance to meet the people who have since become her mentors.

Hollie aspires to follow an academic career path that involves collaborating with other researchers and academics. She sees this as her way of giving back to the University.

Even as she dedicates a lot of time to her studies, Hollie works three casual jobs. Her employers have been flexible and supportive when it comes to her studies, which allows her a healthy work-life balance.

Hollie tries to get home to Goulburn as much as possible –  at least once a month – and on an occasional day off, she has been known to drive all that way just to have lunch with her mum and sister.

Hollie’s choice to attend university was entirely her own and one she aspired to from a very young age. Her parents never pressured her to pursue a university degree, and she respects them for allowing her to follow her own dreams and aspirations.

Hollie’s university life may have started with a slight bump in the road, but she has certainly taken full control of her journey to achieve her study goals at UC – and her future is brighter because of it.

Words and photo by: FAD Project Hub team - Jayden Seddon, Shiyuan Wang, Yinghao Lu and Xiaoyu Liang

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