Hey there! I’m Brody from Cowra, NSW, and have recently graduated from the Australian National University with a science degree.
I am well aware of the power of scholarships, in particular the impact of the CEF. My sister received a scholarship from the CEF to study at the University of Sydney, and I was fortunate to receive a Tuckwell Scholarship to the ANU to support my own studies.
Very early on in my university journey, I was acutely aware of the unique position being on a scholarship had put me in. While I was able to volunteer for causes I was passionate about, join student clubs and societies, undertake internships and travel the world. Time and time again I would meet other regional students with vastly different experiences to my own.
They’d be working more than 25 hours a week across two jobs and couldn’t afford to take the time off to take up the transformational opportunities available at university. The thought of it made me uncomfortable – the only difference between these students and myself was a scholarship. And yet because of it, we’d been presented with vastly different opportunities and experiences at university.
I decided to do something about it in my third year of university. I kickstarted a scholarship fund – donating my scholarship that year as the initial amount. I then connected with other regional students across campus, reached out to university staff, and began fundraising money.
Fast forward a year, we’ve raised over $25,000 and have been officially endorsed by ANU as their recipient for their ANU Giving Day in September this year. It means we’ll have a team of 50 ANU staff and the backing of the ANU Chancellery to increase awareness and support for regional students at the university and beyond.
But ours is just a small scholarship – we provide one or two a year at $5000 per annum. ‘What difference does such a small financial contribution make?’, you ask.
That’s a fantastic question. To answer that, let me share with you the story of our scholarship’s inaugural recipient, Matt Sheppard.
Matt is from Bonny Hills on the NSW North Coast – a tiny town of less than 3000 people. He’s doing Medical Science at ANU with the hope of becoming a rural doctor.
The challenge for many regional students when they move away from home and to a big city is settling in and finding work … Fast. The scholarship we gave Matt meant that he could spend his first semester of university playing a sport, meeting new people, getting into a good study routine, and adjusting to the new environment without being in a mad rush to find work.
A scholarship gives regional students that ‘kickstart’ to make the most of their university experience – especially in the early days. Once they’ve found their feet on campus, these students then go on to give a lot back to their communities.
Matt for example, volunteers on our phone call appeal, raising money for the very scholarship we started last year. He’s also teamed up with a bunch of other regional students to run a ‘regional students in leadership’ conference later this year. He’s in his college’s soccer team, and has even joined a band – not to mention the part-time job he has at the a bar across the road from uni.
Scholarships aren’t just altruistic – they’re a smart investment in our communities. Regional students are strongly committed to giving back, and work hard to take up and create as many opportunities as they can at university.
And as a recent graduate, I’m glad that I’ve helped a few regional students have a richer university experience than they would have had otherwise. Who knows how those experiences will change them, and how they will ‘give back’ in the future?