THE SCHOOL LEAVER
RELIEVED TO have final exams and unhappy school days behind her, an 18-year-old Megan Pearce packed her bags for Europe – leaving her home town of Albury, NSW, and the weight of expectation behind her.
Eschewing the idea of further study, Megan roamed the globe for two years, undecided on her next move. “I hated high school and never wanted to go to uni,“says the 25-year-old, who is now studying at La Trobe University’s Albury-Wodonga campus.
“Back then I felt a lot of pressure. The general mindset was that to succeed in life, you had to go to uni. I felt then, and I still do, that there are many paths to being successful. You can go to TAFE, you can get an apprenticeship; we can’t all be doctors and lawyers.”
Her change of heart about university came after a short stint working as an electrical apprentice. She finally decided to tackle a Bachelor of Arts (BA) when she saw an ad for La Trobe in the local paper.
No-one was more surprised than Megan when she found herself falling in love with study. “I found a passion for learning. In a BA, you learn a broad range of skills to increase your employability,” she explains. “I learned about art history, Australian history, English literature, philosophy, psychology and sociology, and it opened up a realm that I never knew was there – as well as a new way of looking at the world.”
Megan has now taken on a Master of Social Work, with a multitude of career options revealing themselves as she edges closer to the finish line.
Her involvement in local youth organisations during her education has seen her leadership skills flourish. An offer to join the board of local foodrescue operation Albury Wodonga Regional FoodShare has, in turn, given her clarity about the future.
“Through my involvement in community organisations, I learned a whole range of new skills, such as conflict resolution, project management and how to listen,” she says. “In the end, I’ll be an accredited social worker and I can work in mental health, a hospital or a welfare agency. The possibilities are endless.”
Megan says her ties to the community were the main reason why she decided to study in her home town: “There are just so many opportunities to be involved and to make a difference here. This is a place that has given me so much and it’s good to be able to give back.
“And it’s good to know your ATAR [Australian Tertiary Admission Rank] does not define you. There is always a pathway to get where you want to go.”