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Kev Carmody House residents sit chatting with Cairngorm House in the background

UQ scholarships: the rural perspective

UQ people
Published 5 Oct, 2023  ·  5-minute read

As a smalltown boy from Southwest Queensland, I am all too familiar with the challenges rural students face when making the transition to university. UQ scholarships ease the financial strain of that transition and empower you to make the most of your time at UQ.

This article touches on a couple of the challenges I faced when making the initial transition from my rural town to university and how, over ten years later, the support of UQ scholarships enabled me to finally attain my degree.

Smalltown boy in the big city

I grew up on Kamilaroi Country, in a rural farming town called St. George. The pretty little river town – population 3000 – is where I spent the first 17 years of my life. It is also the place I underwent all of my schooling.

At St. George State High, we were fortunate to have teachers who encouraged us to work hard and apply for university. I was accepted into UQ at the end of 2010 and moved to Brisbane to start out on this exciting adventure. However, life in Brisbane was harder than I imagined. I was supporting myself in a job that required a daily 2-hour round train trip, living from pay cheque to pay cheque while trying to find my feet in the city.

As it turns out, my 17-year-old self never even made it to UQ. It all seemed too difficult. I undertook a hairdressing apprenticeship instead.

After a decade-long career as a hair colourist, I decided I would no longer be defined by obstacles I faced when I first moved to the city. I resigned, found a casual part-time job, and took the leap to pursue the degree I’d always dreamed of.

Leaving Brisbane during my studies

I was studying during the height of the pandemic when sudden lockdowns were a common occurrence. It was at this time that my West End flat was scheduled for demolition. I was studying full time and working part time at a gelateria to cover the cost of living. Real estate was a nightmare. Getting to and from inspections during this time, not to mention packing up and moving all alone without a car, seemed almost impossible. And so, in July 2021, I left Brisbane and returned to Kamilaroi Country.

Fortunately, for the first 6 months I was home, I was able to continue my studies remotely thanks to UQ’s flexible delivery model. However, as restrictions began to ease in Brisbane, the flexible delivery model was ending and all of my classes were to be delivered in-person from the beginning of 2022.

I didn’t have much in the way of savings after the move; the idea of moving back to Brisbane, finding a place to live, and setting myself up again all before semester started felt impossible.

UQ offers flexible delivery for select courses and programs post-pandemic. Where possible, students are encouraged to learn on campus and experience student life in person. This is one of the many reasons why financial and practical support is provided to students coming from rural or remote areas, who experience challenges when moving to study. Read on to find out more.

How UQ scholarships brought me back

It was at this point that I decided to search the UQ scholarships website. I was fortunate to receive a small scholarship payment in my first semester at UQ, which helped to cover the cost of some textbooks. I hoped that there might be a scholarship that could help me get back to the city to finish my degree. I applied for every scholarship that I was eligible for and anxiously waited to see whether I was successful.

To my surprise, I was awarded the Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scholarship (funded by Heather Zwicker and generous staff members of the HASS faculty). I was also awarded the Peter Hoj and Mandy Thomas Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Scholarship, which covers the cost of a room at Kev Carmody House on UQ’s St. Lucia campus. It was official – I was moving back to Brisbane!

Students sit on lounges on the rooftop pool deck of UQ's Kev Carmody House

The rooftop pool at UQ St Lucia’s Kev Carmody House is a great space for residents to study or unwind with friends.

Kev Carmody House

Kev Carmody House has been an amazing place to live, and being so close to campus has really helped me to get the most out of my time at UQ.

The facilities are out of this world. It has felt like quite the luxury on hot summer days to study by the pool on the rooftop, to prepare my meals in the large industrial kitchen, or to kick back and watch documentaries in the cinema.

My room is on the fifteenth floor, which means I wake up every morning to the view of mountains in the distance. They remind me of how far I’ve come and how much further I can now go, thanks to the life-changing support of Peter, Mandy, Heather, and all the generous donors who made this possible for me.

My advice to rural school leavers

To any rurally based students who are considering coming to UQ, I have the following advice:

Head to the UQ scholarships website, check out the kinds of support available to you and apply for every single scholarship you are eligible for. Don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help, and don’t tell yourself that you don’t deserve it.

As rural students, we face countless barriers when making the transition from school to university, such as finding a place to live in a new city, finding a job, mastering public transport, finding friends, and so much more. UQ scholarships are there to ease the financial strain and make the transition a little bit easier.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the generous support from the donors and UQ scholarships. I feel fortunate to have been able to put so much time and energy into my studies—time and energy that would otherwise have been spent working overtime to cover the cost of living.

At the end of this year, I will be the first in my family to graduate from university. Now, I truly feel like anything is possible. The end of my time at UQ brings with it the end of my time at Kev Carmody House. This means that, with a bit of luck, there could just be a scholarship room ready and waiting for you for the first semester of 2024. What are you waiting for? Go for it!

Find out more about scholarships available to students moving from rural and regional areas to study at UQ.

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