Completing the final semester of university can be an incredibly busy time for any graduating student. Add to that the stress of becoming a first-time mum, and it seems like a lot to manage.
Not for University of Canberra Masters student Tingting Zhang, who managed to do both … literally at the same time.
Tingting joined UC as part of the Hangzhou Program – a partnership between the two universities that allows students to complete part of their studies at the partner institution.
She undertook a Master of Educational Leadership and Management. In her final semester, she learned she was pregnant – and credits Australia for her luck in conceiving.
“Australia brought me good luck,” Tingting says.
“Once I started attending virtual studies at UC, my husband and I were finally able to get pregnant – and shortly before finishing my degree I gave birth to our daughter, Nona.”
Many of Tingting’s teachers offered her support and encouraged her to take some time off from her studies to have her baby – but she had other ideas in mind.
Tingting had grown close with the other students in her cohort and didn’t want to fall behind her classmates.
“I wanted to stay on the same timeline as my classmates and graduate with them,” she says.
“All the professors and my classmates showed a lot of concern and care for me during my pregnancy.”
Early one morning in June, Tingting woke up in labour. She had two priorities before leaving for the hospital – the first: to wash her hair, and the second: to pack her laptop so she could still participate in her upcoming tutorial and group presentation.
Despite encouragement from her husband to contact her course convenor to ask for an exemption, Tingting was determined to continue.
“I didn’t want to miss any classes – as I was in the hospital, in labour, I attended my class via Zoom,” she says.
“My classmates were sending caring and encouraging messages, which actually helped me through.”
At 8pm that night, Nona arrived.
Tingting’s work didn’t end there. In the week after giving birth, she remained in hospital and learned how to care for her newborn.
Just one day after having her baby, she presented her group assignment.
“My husband set my laptop up on the bed, and I presented from there, holding my sleeping baby next to me. Being in hospital, I was able to spend part of my day studying while spending time with Nona,” she says.
Evidently, it takes a highly motivated individual to do what Tingting did. Her motivation?
“I want to set an example for my daughter,” she says.
“I hope she will be strong and brave in the future. I want her to be tenacious when facing difficulties, and I want her to always bear in mind that learning is the ladder of life growth.”
And, although Tingting’s 2020 classes were online due to COVID-19 – meaning she never stepped foot on campus - she does hope to visit Canberra one day.
“Australia is the next destination I want to go to,” Tingting says.
“I want to see the scenery at UC and the kangaroos that my teacher showed us during our classes. I also want to meet my teachers in person and thank them for everything they’ve done to help me.”
Words by Elly Mackay and Katarina Slavich. Photos supplied.
Tingting is from the University of Canberra’s graduating class of 2020 – the first year that graduations will be held virtually.
It's been a challenging year unlike any other – and our graduates have risen to meet it with spirit, heart and courage.
Many of our world-ready graduates are already pushing boundaries and blazing trails in their chosen industries. Many others have one foot in the industry, and one in academia, as they further their postgraduate learning.
We are proud of you, and we cannot wait to see what you will do next.