Giving back to his community: Nathan’s scholarship story
Published 28 Oct, 2021 · 5-minute read
Receiving a UQ scholarship gave Nathan Sagigi, a Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology student and a Daurareb and Wakaid man from Murray Island and Badu Island in the Torres Strait, the support he needed to move to Brisbane and follow his dream of giving back to the community.
Nathan is on a circular journey – one he hopes will lead back home to Thursday Island, where he can help improve the lives of his family and friends.
“I saw in my community that there was a lot of chronic disease and within my family and friends as well,” he says.
“That’s where I found the passion to help people who had chronic disease and help prevent people from getting chronic disease.”
His Bachelor of Clinical Exercise Physiology can help him achieve this dream, and Nathan’s UQ scholarship is what made studying the program possible in the first place.
Nathan received a Geoffrey Huey Sattler Indigenous Scholarship, which is awarded to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who experience financial hardship. Learn more.
Nathan’s path to UQ
Nathan attended primary school on Thursday Island before moving to a boarding school in Cairns – an experience that started preparing him for the even greater transition to Brisbane.
“I made a lot of lifelong friends, many of whom are still my friends in Brisbane now,” he says.
“It helped me form good friendships and become independent.”
Those same friends are the rocks Nathan leaned on when he felt overwhelmed by moving to Brisbane and beginning his studies.
“I was very nervous when I first came down,” he says.
“Meeting new people and a new place – a bigger place, a bigger city – was a very nerve-racking experience for me, but it helped knowing that a few of my friends were also coming to UQ and were going to be at the college with me.”
“It was really an eye opener coming into a university context and the difference between that and high school. Overcoming those nerves was very much about spending a lot of time with my friends, and that made the process a lot easier because I had them there to support me and make me feel comfortable.”
What led Nathan to exercise physiology?
Like many people, Nathan didn’t have a simple path to discovering his passion. Several factors steered him towards studying clinical exercise physiology, though it wasn’t his original plan.
“I wasn’t 100% sure of what I wanted to do when I was in high school – I sort of chopped and changed a bit,” says Nathan.
“I decided to do physiotherapy because I had a lot of experience with injuries from playing a lot of sport.”
As an active fitness fan with a mother who works in healthcare, physiotherapy seemed like an appropriate track for Nathan, though he soon realised it wasn’t quite the right fit for him.
“Halfway through that course, I didn’t see myself going down that career path,” he says.
“I’ve always been into my fitness and the gym setting, playing a lot of sport – I wanted to share my passion and my enjoyment of exercise with other people and share all the health benefits involved with exercise.”
Clinical exercise physiology is giving Nathan the opportunity to put that passion into practice. He wants to evolve his fascination with the human body and would love to work with clients in an exercise setting.
But his professional ambitions are deeply rooted in his personal life and hopes as well.
“In my family, we’ve had a lot of chronic disease and unfortunately lost family members to it. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll be able to help my relatives and friends improve their quality of life and lengthen their lives as well.”
Nathan’s greater goal is to play a part in reducing health inequality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“I’d also like to help close the gap in health between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people,” he says.
“That’s something I’m really passionate about.”
How has Nathan’s scholarship changed his life?
Getting his scholarship was a fantastic event and a sigh of relief for Nathan.
“I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders, just because it meant I was able to better afford coming down to Brisbane,” he says.
“Coming down to a big city from a small community is not an easy thing – just a lot of new things I had to take into consideration like paying bills.”
His family was delighted as well.
“When I told mum, she was pretty excited and happy for me – and relieved as well that I was going to get that extra assistance,” he says.
“The scholarship has helped my family because otherwise they might have had to give me some financial assistance to come down here and commence my studies and follow my passions.”
Nathan’s UQ scholarship means a lot to him because it gives him the freedom to fully invest his time and energy into his university experience and assignments.
“It would be a lot harder having to find work and manage work on top of my studies as well,” he says.
“It’s definitely eased the financial stress of moving to Brisbane to begin my tertiary studies.”
“I’m able to concentrate on my studies a bit more and put that extra effort into getting the results I want.”
The great thing for Nathan and those around him is that he gets to focus his extra energy into approaching each day with a positive attitude.
“Being able to experience a new day and the fact that I may learn something new or meet a new person is what gets me out of bed in the morning,” he says.
“And that I may be able to help somebody or make somebody smile.”
Nathan’s advice for other students
Nathan wouldn’t hesitate to encourage someone to apply for a UQ scholarship if they were considering it. He believes that easing the financial strain is well worth the time it takes to complete an application – especially if it helps you get a step closer to your dreams.
He also hopes that his story might be an example to students who are on the fence about giving university a go.
“The impact I want to have on the world is to empower others in my circumstances, just to help them realise they’re able to do what I’m doing as well – come to university to study.”