Back in 2010, sick in Yass hospital with glandular fever, Amanda Strickland received a recommendation which helped her to make a start on her higher education.
“The nurse that was treating me introduced me to the Yass District Education Foundation. I applied and it all went from there,” Amanda recalls.
There were many challenges as Amanda moved from the family property at Kalaru, a small town between Tathra and Bega, to Yass so she could use public transport for the hour-long travel to Canberra.
“I had friends in Yass and living expenses were much more affordable so that was a bonus”, said Amanda.
“However, due to my age at just 17, and not having lived out of home before, it was hard to get a rental so I lived in a caravan park until I could get approval for my own place.
“I even sometimes went from friends’ places couch-hopping.”
The challenges mounted as Amanda had recurrent illness, a toxic relationship and trying to find work around her study.
“I needed to be in a town like Yass while I studied,” explains Amanda.
“It helped me financially and the town community is so supportive.”
“I am genuinely happy with where I am now. Back then I didn’t think I could pull through my study with illnesses, expenses and irregular living arrangements.”
“I almost caved and moved back to my parents’ home, a three-hour drive away, but I am glad I stuck through it.”
“I most definitely made mistakes while I was trying to find my feet, but I learnt from them too.”
Amanda began her studies with a combined two-year qualification from the Canberra Institute of Technology doing an Advanced Diploma of Interior Design and Diploma of Architectural Drafting. With recognition of prior learning, it was only another year at the University of Canberra to gain her Bachelor of Interior Architecture.
Using her grant to buy a laptop enabled Amanda to study at home instead of spending all her time in public libraries.
After graduating Amanda was offered a job at the National Zoo and Aquarium where she volunteered through her student years. Before long, she had a job offer in the design field, working alongside builders and their clients in providing the best internal finishes for their new home.
“It is a rewarding job. The hours are flexible and the clients I meet share such an excitement for their new building adventure ahead,” says Amanda.
“I love being that person who can guide them in the right direction and share what I have learnt with them.”
Since 2014, Amanda has continued in the design job and working at the zoo, enjoying the balance between an office and the outdoors. Purchasing a place in Canberra with her fiancée in January 2016 has also given Amanda a strong interest in the real estate market.
Amanda is keen to encourage anyone thinking of taking a leap into higher education to contact their local education foundation.
“It’s life-changing – someone may be having the same rough start that I had and needs a little extra support to help keep them going.”
“Higher education is more than learning contents of a module – you learn discipline by turning up regularly and plugging into the training, expanding your skills through research and learning how to go above and beyond to educate yourself and finding the content that you need,” explains Amanda.
“The challenge is worth it.”
The Yass District Education Foundation is a proud member of the Country Education Foundation of Australia.