The University of Canberra welcomed commencing students to Semester One’s O-Week today, as many new starters jump headfirst into tertiary study straight from high school graduation.
Among them is Jess Poulton, originally from the United Kingdom, ready to tackle a Bachelor of Secondary Education/Bachelor of Arts in 2021 after cancelling her plans to take a gap year.
“I wanted to travel around Europe and make my way back to England to spend some time with my family over there,” she says.
“Obviously then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened – but I’m feeling really good about starting my degree. I’m really excited but pretty nervous.”
Jess moved to Australia with her family as she was beginning high school, and has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember.
With a particular passion for English and Sociology, she hopes to eventually be teaching across Years 11 and 12.
She says choosing UC for her degree was a “no-brainer,” after attending an open day and information session on campus.
“The campus really appealed to me because of the size and facilities, so I never really looked at other universities,” she says.
“I also love that studying here is not just about a set of subjects – there’s a focus on the philosophy about and behind how people learn, and that really interests me and will make me a better teacher.”
Jess is looking forward starting her studies at UC, joining her partner and a large number of friends who already study at the University.
In place of her missed Europe trip, Jess says she will make the most of her university breaks and travel the east coast of Australia instead.
Another commencing student, Caitlin Visser, did opt to take a gap year during 2020, although a slightly unconventional one that saw her studying anyway.
Caitlin moved to Australia from South Africa four years ago and spent 2020 taking part in an internship with her church and studying a Certificate IV in Ministry and Theology.
While the travel aspect of her internship was turned on its head due to COVID-19, Caitlin said she wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“If it wasn’t for COVID-19, we would have gone to New Zealand for a conference, to Sydney for a Hillsong event, a Church in Adelaide and we would have gone to South Africa for a ministry trip,” she said.
“I am certain the internship was the best year for me, even though I couldn’t travel I learnt so many practical tips to go through life – and now, university.”
She is set to commence a Bachelor of Visual Communications at UC this semester, after getting some practice this year while working on the church’s website.
The push for her choice of degree came from her passion and drive to be creative – especially given a lack of students meant that she couldn’t take an art class during her college year.
“My mum and I came to Open Day in 2019 and looked through Workshop 7 and I thought it was amazing. They have a space where they can be creative and free in what they are doing.”
With a passion for learning, Caitlin is looking ahead with a goal to complete postgraduate honours and then own her own business.
The pair will both be attending events across O-Week, ready to kick-start their university experience.
“I will definitely be coming in to find all of my classes, so I don’t end up lost in my first week,” Jess laughed.
“I have taken the week off work. I saw there might be a paint and sip class, so I’ll be there,” says Caitlin.
There is a range of activities happening across O-Week, including a picnic movie night, backyard cricket competition and trivia.
Registration for all events is essential, and more information can be found online.
Words by Danielle Meddemmen, photos by Rohan Thomson and Madeleine Wood