Your timeline is different from others, and that’s okay. That’s the message from University of Canberra Bachelor of Politics and International Relations graduate, Latu Violet, who wants other young people to know — it’s the advice she wishes she received in her early years of study.
Now with a bachelor’s degree and six years of professional and life experience, Latu has a better understanding of the world and her place in it; she’s confident, skilled and knowledgeable, and she’s ready to take the next step in her journey. But Latu didn’t always feel this way.
Like many other school leavers, Latu worked hard throughout high school to get great marks and a solid ATAR. At 18, she started her first degree, a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Wollongong.
“I saw all my peers going to uni and thought that’s what I should do. The course was fine, but I wasn’t finding it very fulfilling. I decided to swap to media production, but I didn’t really enjoy that either,” Latu says.
At this point, Latu and her family moved from Wollongong to Canberra, and she transferred to UC, where she dabbled in creative writing, public relations and sociology units.
At 23, after a few false starts, Latu decided to take a break.
Nothing felt right. I just thought, maybe a degree is not for me.
Latu instead found a role in the public service and started working full time in policy, which she found enjoyable and stimulating.
It was from this professional experience that Latu’s interest in politics blossomed; she discovered new interests, and truly got to know herself. She worked on projects and witnessed her work having a tangible impact.
“I got to experience working with the community and seeing my contributions playi out — that was something that I really enjoyed,” Latu says.
“Through working in the Commonwealth Ombudsman, I also started getting more into politics. I started really enjoying my work, and then I wanted to learn more.”
At 27 she started a Bachelor of Politics and International Relations at UC, and finally felt as if her studies and interests were aligned.
“There's a lot of pressure when you're 18, 19 years old to get into uni, then to graduate ASAP and get a job,” Latu says.
“If I were to tell my 19-year-old self, ‘you're in uni now, but you don't actually graduate until 29’— I would probably consider that a fail, right? But now, I think it was the better option, because I’ve lived my life a little more and I’m more aware of who I am and what I want to do.”
Like many mature age students, initially Latu felt self-conscious of the age difference between herself and many of her peers when she started classes. Luckily, it wasn’t long until she found her feet and realised there were students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences in her classes.
“I remember going to one of my first classes and I was nervous; I didn't want people to know that I was 27,” Latu says.
“But there were a couple of people in my class who were my age and a bit older, and they were working as well. Speaking with them was very comforting and validating; there were people that already had a degree but were now pursuing a different path. For a few people, it was their first degree; they had never considered studying before, but were now in a position where they felt confident to do so.
No one cared that I was 27, or that I had made several attempts at university before. They cared about what I was bringing to class, my attitude and what I could contribute in that space.
Reflecting on her journey, Latu remembers how difficult the early years of young adulthood were; when finishing high school and being overwhelmed with information on future careers and pathways, it can be hard to know what path to take.
From 18 to 23, Latu pursued the creative arts, but it wasn’t until her mid-twenties that she discovered an interest and penchant for politics.
“I started with all of those creative topics, but I think now that creativity is more of a hobby for me rather than a career,” Latu says.
“I thought there was one way to do things and when it didn't work out, I felt like a failure. But returning to study at 27 was far more fruitful, enjoyable and rewarding, after taking the time to carve out my own path.”
Yesterday, Latu attended her graduation ceremony and walked across the stage to receive her testamur, despite the challenges and uncertainty that she faced early on, Latu wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My story is about always trying and not comparing your timeline to others. It's a story about leaning into your own individual journey and embracing diversity.”
Words by Kelly White, photos by Richard Poulton.
This September, the University of Canberra celebrates the amazing milestone of 100,000 alumni.
Our warmest congratulations go out to this year’s graduating class, and to all the amazing alumni who have become part of the UC community.
Many of you have already made such an impact in your fields and in your communities; many more will go on to do so.
We wish you the best and look forward to your amazing future journeys.