Lessons I’ve learnt as a rural student at uni

May 23, 2016
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When I moved to Sydney over three years ago for a Media/Law degree, I thought uni would be gr9 (that’s one better than gr8, FYI). I knew it would be a challenge, but at least my peers would be in the same boat figuring out the big, bad world of university together.

The reality was much different. While we were all figuring out law school together, my situation seemed a lot harder. I didn’t have any industry connections, I was the first in my immediate family to attend university and I hadn’t been to a Sydney school, let alone an elite one. I worked a number of part-time jobs to afford rent and all the fun things that go hand in hand with moving out of home.

But I survived. Not only did I survive, I thrived. Here’s how a rural upbringing can actually be an advantage at uni.

Personal experience is invaluable

Explaining how issues play out in rural areas, like access to high-speed internet or inequity in the criminal justice system, has meant I’ve been able to add a depth of commentary and insight that you often won’t find in a textbook.

Being able to connect the course material to personal experience strengthened my understanding and made me a valuable contributor to class discussions. As most classes had a class participation component, I was able to contribute a fresh perspective that my classmates may not have known about.

Who knows, small town politics and your little hometown may just help your marks.

Remember the big picture

Semester can become intense at times when assignments, exams, readings and tutorial preparations build up. It’s easy to forget about the things that are bigger and more important than that one essay you’re stressing over.

When you remember the difficulties our farmers are facing or the impact of CSG mining, uni work doesn’t seem that big or bad. The same goes for remembering that people back home are proud of you and think that you’re so much more than your degree (#realtalk).

I’ve found that having a home and a life outside of the big smoke gives me a place to escape, but also reminds me of the important stuff. Like mum’s cooking and your old, cosy bed and just how annoying doing laundry really is.

Your hometown could kick-start your career

I’ve often worried that my background could negatively impact my job prospects. I lack industry contacts, I spend more time at work than I spend on readings and there are lots of people with way better marks than me.

But a rural upbringing could be a secret weapon. Diverse experience strengthens your resume and gives you something unique to discuss in an interview, like the distance from your hometown to the closest Westfield.

Ultimately, an employer wants to hire an applicant who is adventurous, well-rounded and driven. Moving to the city from a small town is a huge step that requires a lot of strength and bravery, which are personality traits that can often make you the perfect candidate.

To wrap up this pep talk, adjusting to uni as a rural student can be harder than finding something to like about Tony Abbott. But it’s not impossible.

So go out and show those city-slickers who’s boss.

Brittney Rigby

Brittney is a Media/Law student at UNSW who dreams of owning a very cute dog and finishing her (never-ending) degree. You can find her at Bunnings for the sausage sizzle on most weekends. She is not ashamed of this.

Image: Akio Takemoto, Flickr Creative Commons license

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