My uni experience – the people I couldn’t do without

I’m almost at the end of my undergrad degree – all coursework and exams are finished, now it’s just a matter of time until results are released and I get to graduate.  When I decided to do this as a mature age student, 4 years ago, I had no idea what I was in for.

I look back on how I thought and felt over the years, particularly the earlier years, and in hindsight, I can see that I was arrogant.  Yes, I expected to learn new concepts, but I didn’t expect to change as a person.  I thought at the age of 27 I was a very well developed person.  I had a career, a house, and a husband.  But I didn’t have confidence in myself, and I didn’t have direction.

Since studying, I have so much conviction in what I think and do, and a clear purpose in life.  Not just when it comes to psychology, but even things like health and fitness, and continuing to try new things and grow.  I’ve come to accept that I experience a certain level of fear and uncertainty, but that when I push through, I can do incredible things.  Like public speaking, train and develop large rooms of semi-strangers, and go out of my comfort zone to do new activities like boxing and capoeira.

I still have moments of self-doubt, but the more examples I have of overcoming these, the easier it gets.  So as I’m approaching the end, I feel a sense of joy and excitement.  I’m happy in the knowledge that I made it.  I survived, and not only that, I exceeded all of my expectations.

To be honest, I never imagined I would have the opportunity to go to uni, let alone do so well. I’ve lived out of home since I was about 18-19 and learned the hard way that you can’t count on people to help you in life, not even family. It’s really up to you to succeed.  Despite this cynical mentality (and the barriers I’ve put up as a result), I’ve had support from multiple people and honestly couldn’t have achieved this without them.

First up, my best friend Ness, who somehow manages to know my most secret and strongest wishes, never once stopped asking me why I wouldn’t consider studying psychology. She had faith in me when I needed it most.

Secondly, and to my ongoing surprise, I’ve had a series of amazingly supportive managers. Because of them, I’ve not only managed to keep working productively, but I’ve grown, developed in the role and had some incredible opportunities over the years. And because of them, I am always truly happy to work there, even though it hasn’t always been related to my degree.

Along the way, I kept myself separate of the other uni students.  I just didn’t feel like I had much in common with them, being an adult and having all the responsibilities that come along with that.  But to my surprise, I found some genuinely lovely people who had the same drive to succeed as I do.  I also encountered some inspirational and motivating lecturers and tutors, who kept my interest alive.

And finally, I can’t put into words the amount of support I’ve received from my husband…but I’ll try. He has been there for me every single step of the way. Early mornings, late nights, deadlines, cancelling social events, cramming for exams, tears over grades, outrage over perceived unfairness, he’s been there for it all and hasn’t complained once. I went from providing a full time income to 40-60% of my salary, and he did not mind in the slightest. Partway through my 2nd year I floated the idea of applying for honours (so… not returning to full-time work anytime soon) and he’s backed me 100%. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I do know that that’s what love is – being completely and utterly invested in the success of another person.  Along with him, comes his family. More people to talk to and share this journey with.

So yeah, I used to think I had to do everything by myself but somehow, somewhere, I found some incredible people to help me.


Final reflection on the International Summer Session at Chonnam National University – South Korea

The time in Gwangju, studying with Chonnam National University students and the other international summer students was probably the best experience of my life.
For many of the others in the group, it was the first time away from family and friends, first taste of freedom and independence.  Although I’ve had independence, lived alone, spent time away from family and friends, it was still the longest time that I’ve been separated from everyone I know.  So for me, it was an opportunity to find out who I truly am, away from the comfort of familiarity, and away from roles that define me.
I know for certain now that above all, I need my independence and a sense of control.  I sought these out at every opportunity, and regular walks alone and 6am gym workouts kept me grounded.

I also know that I am drawn to funny kind hearted people.  I’m not interested in the loud, attention seeking people, who are like shiny baubles, drawing crowds of people to their side.  I look for the ones who spread joy and happiness without even realising it.  The ones who are such a pleasure to be around, and they don’t even realise it or flaunt it.  People who attract others naturally, with no pretence.  Above all, I value genuine human connections.  I treasure moments when I can get to know what someone is truly like, what their hopes and dreams are and what they believe in.
I know that I have strong morals and values, that can’t be swayed by other people.  Someone once asked me why I was studying so hard, I told them that I have high standards when it comes to my own work and I’m a bit of a perfectionist.  They immediately responded with, “yeah me too, but not while I’m here in Korea”.  Regardless of where I am, I have the same expectations of myself.
I also witnessed many guys jokingly calling the Korean girls ugly or dumb.  It was all in jest, but eventually I cracked.  Australian humour is all about self-deprecation and giving each other crap, but cheap shots at women who already have low self-esteem is just despicable.  When I told them exactly what I thought of them, the Koreans applauded me.  I hope they can do the same in future.
I now know for sure that despite being an introvert, I need people more than I think I do.  After spending 4 weeks surrounded by 120+ students, it’s strange not to have someone to talk to every second of every day.
This experience of being in a foreign country, surrounded by strangers, not knowing the local language, was exhilarating and eye-opening.  I think I stayed true to myself, but also found out things about myself and others that I want to explore.  Regardless of how adult/complete I think I am, there’s always more to learn and discover.

Mud Festival

Yesterday the CNU ISS group went to the Boryeong mud festival.  It was about 2 hours away by bus, and it was basically a massive festival by the beach.  There was a giant stage, with a huge outdoor dance party/crowd/thing, and a mud theme park with muddy rides.

The mud was a dark grey colour, and quite runny.  There were little stands full of it that you could just dip your hands in and then sort of scoop/fling at each other.  I don’t have any of the photos because I decided to keep my phone clean and safe, but it was a really fun day.

After we were completely coated in mud, we hopped into a swimming pool that had water fountains spraying everywhere, and had a bit of a water fight.  Afterwards, we swam in the beach, watched some random fighter jet plane show, watched a music show by some people from Peru, wandered around, ate ice cream and then came back to the university.

At night we went to a bar/club.  And what happens at the club, stays in the club…