By Jessica Jellett
A mixture of enthusiasm, anxiousness and anticipation were a few of the feelings I had as a young school leaver about to jump into this big wave of university life. I always knew I wanted to learn more skills and move in to a professional field – which is why my mind was set on a university education (and if you know me, then you’d know it was going to be in a creative field).
I made my decision to study a Bachelor Degree of Marketing and Communications straight out of high school. I became used to following a school routine after all those years and felt I needed to continue this momentum, otherwise I might get complacent after a year long break, enjoy earning a casual wage, and never look back.
Starting uni is a new adventure that affects everyone differently. I’m the first person in my family to attend university, so I didn’t really know what to expect (other than ideas from American movies talking about ‘college’ – which we all know on day #1 aren’t relatable at all!).
For me it wasn’t your typical story of a ‘rural student moving to the big city to study and start fresh’. While this might have been the story for some of my friends, flying the coop didn’t find its way into my story.
I chose a mixed-mode of study (on campus and externally at home) to help me juggle studying, work and my personal life. In hindsight, this was actually a huge advantage. I had less financial responsibility, more flexibility (and could keep enjoying my Mum’s Sunday dinners instead of compromising with instant noodles to keep up with bills/rent in the city). If I wanted to go out one weekend I never had to think twice if I had enough money to spend. Plus, it was a fun bonus to be able to stay at a mate’s place who lived in the city.
It was always interesting swapping stories with others in my tutorials who were constantly complaining about ‘money’ or their housemates being a pain in the backside. I was lucky – all I needed to worry about was my study.
I do however, remember one time in my early years of uni when I was met with a moment of sheer panic! I had a pretty big day on campus going to classes and racking up time in the library. I wasn’t familiar with the bus schedules yet and I really needed to get home. I knew which bus stop I needed to wait at, then from here all I knew was to look for a bus going to Mount Barker. Soon I jumped on one… but it wasn’t heading directly up the freeway as I first thought it had! Sheer panic set in as the bus I was on starting deviating through the Adelaide Hills’ backroads, making stops in the towns along the way. I had no idea where I was going or if/when I’d make it back to Mt Barker.
Soon I managed to pull myself together and realised there were two buses that travelled to Mount Barker. One directly on the freeway and the other: everywhere else! That was the one I’d boarded. Whoops!! It was honestly a nightmare until I realised I would eventually get home okay – and another reason I was grateful to be able to avoid public transport during my home study times!
It’s been a crazy, and often daunting experience so far. But mostly – incredibly rewarding. So for school leavers thinking about uni, here’s my advice:
- If you’re about to start your new adventure at university – be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone. This is a time you’ll learn to stand on your own two feet, and although you will have supportive figures around you, you are responsible for all of the decisions you make. Your tutors and lecturers won’t chase you up for work or force you to attend classes (like in high school). It’s your obligation to manage your learning by attending lectures, tutorials and submit assignments up in time. I was fortunate that I could focus on these changes to my life – without having to make a move to the city, or spend endless hours in the car each week.
- Find support people and mentors. When you take on the uni challenge, you don’t always get to stick with pals our own age, with the same life experience – so you’ll need to find other people to connect with. These might be within the uni structure or in your personal life who are also studying tertiary education. Connect with them! You’ll meet a lot of different people from different backgrounds, experiences, lifestyles and ages. You will go through many different lecturers and tutors throughout the years, but there will always be some that you look up to more than others – take opportunities to pick their brains.
- Get to know the campus and your new uni systems: One of the best decisions I made was attending O-week. This helped me calm some of my anxieties about starting uni. I was able to meet new people who studied the same degree (or similar) as me, explore the campus and make sure I was making the right decision. And of course, make yourself acquainted with public transport, or if you’re driving, avoid the busy Adelaide roads during peak traffic periods.
Fast-forward to right now (June 2019), and I’m absolutely stoked. I’ve picked up a fantastic public relations job where I can apply the skills gained from my degree and am paid well for it. And the best part – it’s in my hometown. None of this would’ve been possible if I was living in Adelaide. Because I was living and studying from Murray Bridge, I managed to find some local connections to an up-and-coming PR firm right here in the Murraylands, where I did a brief internship before they offered me a job! I still can’t believe my luck! But this is the perfect example of what can happen when you decide to go to uni and continue living in the community you know and love.
Each day in my new role I am learning and growing with my workmates. I have been given opportunities to work on major projects and network with local business owners and industry professionals. My entire university experience has played a part in shaping me to be who I am today – and I’m forever grateful that I was able to do most of it, from right here, in the Murraylands, with the support of my family and friends around me.
If this sounds like the kind of uni experience you want, then I’d seriously consider enrolling through the Murray River Study Hub. If this new uni framework was available when I was starting out at uni, it would’ve been the perfect fit for me!
About the author:
Jessica Jellett is a communications consultant working for one of South Australia’s leading regional PR firms, Commshake Media + Engagement. Jess landed the job after working up the confidence to approach the director for some work experience while she was still at uni. Here, her talents were quickly realised, and her commitment to both study and work at the same time demonstrated an exceptional level of capability, time-management and conscientiousness. Jess now helps deliver social media marketing campaigns, writes media and online copy for clients and supports a range of other communications, PR and digital marketing activity.