After facing hardship in his early years, first-year engineering student Jacob McMullen has found his feet, thanks to dogged determination, motivation from like-minded peers and an Audi Foundation-Country Education Foundation of Australian scholarship.
Acceptance into his first preference course, at his first preference university, was something of a bittersweet celebration for Jacob.
The 18-year-old excelled and was always recognised as a gifted and talented student throughout his time at Orange High School in Central West NSW. But tensions at home and the seemingly exorbitant costs of further education always put in question whether Jacob would ever realise his dreams of being a mechanical engineer.
Jacob’s mum was particularly anxious about the realities of further education in the city, especially as no help was available from home.
“[Mum] didn’t go to university and was always stressed about how I was going to pay for a university education…it was hard to explain why it’s worth it and why it’s so expensive,” he said.
Life on campus at the University of NSW has been a “tricky” transition in the last three months. Accommodation is over $500 per week, and first trimester textbooks are up to $200 each.
“It’s all really expensive. Other students have their parents paying but my parents can’t just pay…I am managing, but only just,” Jacob said.
While it’s complicated, Jacob said pushing himself to take the challenge to study a Bachelor of Engineering is already paying off.
“Living on campus has really, really helped me settle in. I’ve had to grow up a lot,” he said.
“Coming to university and talking to like-minded people has really reinforced that I can do what I want.”
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Jacob hopes to study a master’s degree, with ambition to work on sustainable, electric transport and renewable energy as a professional engineer.
“I believe that through engineering, I can change the world. By improving the products and services that we use every day, I can make a noticeable difference in our society, ultimately leaving my mark and leaving a better world for the next generation,” he said.
Jacob is one of four recipients of the 2019 Audi Foundation-Country Education Foundation of Australia (CEF) scholarship and receives $2,500 to further this STEM-related studies. Without the support from CEF, Jacob said he simply wouldn’t be studying.
“My parents split up when I was in late primary school and it’s always been an issue for me. It really defined me. Now I’m at university, I feel like the pressure is off a little,” he said.
“Just the fact that people back home [CEF Orange & Districts] care about me is really pushing me.”
“Where you go to school and where you grow up doesn’t have to fully define you. If you work hard enough, you can follow your dreams.”
Fellow 2019 Audio Foundation Scholarship winners: