About two years into her double degree, Murray Bridge woman (and ex Unity College student) Stacey Kempe failed her first ever uni exam and had almost decided to quit university and go travelling.
But thanks to some advice from a few career mentors and supportive university counsellors, she persisted – and after five years of studying, she’s now reaping the benefits of her hard work with a Masters of Occupational Therapy (OT) and Bachelor of Health Science.
Now, at only 27 years of age, Stacey is an A-Grade netball player, junior coach, community volunteer, home owner, pet owner, Pilates instructor and on top of that, is driving an exciting career in her dream career of Occupational Therapy, thanks to her two university degrees.
Originally, Stacey had planned to be a teacher, chasing her passion of working with and helping children live happy, healthy lives. But halfway through Year 12, she was fortunate to have a chat with someone from Flinders uni about her career interests, and it was then that she changed her mind (and her uni preferences).
Stacey is now an accomplished OT, living and working back in her home town of Murray Bridge for Novita and supporting people of all ages to develop, recover, improve and maintain the skills they need for daily living and working. And of course, she loves it.
“I didn’t think I had much chance of getting into OT after school. The ATAR score was really high, so I added in the Health Science second preference just in case,” Stacey says.
But she worked exceptionally hard in Year 12 and got the scores she needed. So then came the big questions – like how to survive financially while studying in Adelaide and could she afford to move out of home?
Stacey said Centrelink was one of her biggest challenges of uni, and for most of her five-year study period, didn’t get any financial support. Because of this, she had to balance casual work with uni and the daily travel to Adelaide, while she stayed living at home with her parents.
“Something like the [Murray River] Study Hub would’ve been amazing for me!” she says.
“It would’ve saved me so much time and travel, even if I could’ve studied for one to two days from there, or dialled in to some teleconferences from the local campus, it would’ve made a huge difference to my life during uni.”
Once Stacey finished her degree, she started applying for jobs, and after a few knock-backs, was offered a contract with SA Health at the Hampstead Rehabilitation Clinic. Here she had an incredible supervisor who gave her great opportunities, allowing her to use her new skills to help people progressively regain their physical independence.
But it wasn’t long before the distance from her family, friends, and the Murray River lifestyle called her back to the region – and after three years of living and working in Adelaide, she was relieved to be back living and working as an OT in Murray Bridge.
As Stacey describes, in OT there’s no ‘typical’ day of work, but every day is incredibly rewarding. One day she can be helping people with new disabilities re-learn how to cut up their dinner, and the next working with parents to create a play-based plan which helps their children build physical strength or coordination.
It’s working with kids, though, that she’s extra passionate about.
“Just seeing the small changes in kids are the biggest reward from this work, and I’m so grateful I landed here. When you hear feedback from families about their children being able to do things for the first time, it’s quite incredible.”
Stacey admits that going through uni was hard, but 100% worthwhile.
“I used to get pretty frustrated that my friends were earning money when I was a struggling uni student. But now, I’m so glad I stuck it out, because I’m earning a really good wage, getting ongoing career development opportunities and working in a job I love where I feel I’m making a genuine difference to peoples’ lives – all while I build a future with my partner here in Murray Bridge.”
If you’re keen to find out more about studying a degree in allied health, check out some of the courses here (or if you can’t find what you’re looking for, just get in touch with one of our student advisors who can help set you up in the right degree through the Murray River Study Hub, or fill out an expression of interest form and we’ll get in touch).