Growing up in Far West NSW, 19-year-old university student Connor Rogers has personally experienced many issues of disadvantage related to access, location and the wider difficulties facing rural and remote areas in education.
These setbacks were made even more challenging for Connor by living with Asperger’s Syndrome.
“Living with Asperger’s makes life a little more difficult,” he said.
“Growing up, I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I became really anxious about it closer to the end of Year 12 in high school.”
Connor’s further interests lay in studying computer sciences. He was accepted to study a Bachelor of Information Technology at Flinders University, Adelaide last year.
His capacity was also recognised with the 2018 Audi Foundation-Country Education Foundation of Australia (CEF) Scholarship to assist him in his first year.
The social and life skills demanded as part of on-campus university life were problematic for Connor initially.
“I find it difficult to be able to go up and talk to people and get my point across. It makes it especially difficult when I need to talk to teachers, lecturers and topic coordinators,” he said.
“Moving from Broken Hill to Adelaide was massive. Going from a small country town to a massive open city with a much larger population was a really daunting move for me. Prior to moving, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t fit in, that I wouldn’t find anyone to talk to or make friends with and that I’d do really poorly with my studies.”
“Thankfully, there are a variety of disability services on campus that have made life a lot more easier for myself, such as providing a disability access plan and a supervisor for the first semester to help me with any issues that I might face for the first six months of my studies at Flinders University.”
Connor proved himself academically able and was awarded high distinctions and distinctions in his first year.
Research shows first-year students on the autism spectrum are more vulnerable to dropping out than others.
Connor has only positive reports when reflecting on his university journey into second year.
“It’s amazing to think that I managed to get into a degree that I really, really enjoy and have the opportunity to progress,” he said.
For the second year running, Connor has been recognised as a recipient of the Audi Foundation-CEF Scholarship and receives $2,500 to further his STEM-related studies in 2019.
Once he’s completed his degree, Connor hopes to return to Broken Hill and put all he is learning to action for a better future in his hometown.
“Information technology would reduce isolation and widens opportunities for country living,” he said. “Broken Hill is greatly disadvantaged by distance and a severe lack of facilities and opportunities for young people in this sector.”
“The Audi Foundation-CEF Scholarship helps relieve pressure off both myself and my parents when it comes to paying off my student fees, textbook costs, and most importantly, accommodation costs. Staying on campus is very costly. Having the opportunity to receive the Audi Foundation-CEF Scholarship for second time really helps with keeping me on campus and keeping my grades up.”
The 2019 Audi Foundation-CEF Scholarship was awarded to four students studying STEM-related subjects, with each receiving $2,500 to further their studies. Students supported by their local Country Education Foundation are eligible.