Student Voice — The Next Chapter: Ruby Walsh
Ruby Walsh is a University of Wollongong Australia (UOW) graduate, now working in Wagga Wagga in a community engagement role in the charity sector. Going to university for Ruby meant leaving the strong and loving support network in her small regional community to a new, and initially overwhelming, on-campus environment.
Through the financial support of UOW’s In2Uni scholarship, Ruby was able to overcome the economic challenges that came with moving out of home for the first time and beginning university studies.
Ruby hopes to continue working in regional Australia in order to give back and change the perception of growing up in a regional area as a disadvantage rather than recognising the strengths it can arm individuals with.
I grew up in a small regional town in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. We had just one shop, a general store, and my primary school only had around 30 kids. Travelling to and from high school took me one and a half hours a day.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have grown up in a small town such as this, especially in such a loving and supportive family. It gave me a strong sense of community and identity.
I didn’t always think attending university would be a feasible option for me, due to where I was located. However, I remember in Year 10, the University of Wollongong (UOW) In2Uni team came to my school and made me think about my future from a different perspective. This program, which took us through the different opportunities at university, gave me the confidence and ability to pursue higher education.
I knew that higher education could give me a qualification that would enable me to positively impact those in less-fortunate positions and help those in need. This was one of my main drivers for committing to university.
Even though I was lucky enough to have visited the UOW campus during high school on a few occasions, it was still incredibly overwhelming in the early stages. I had moved out of home, leaving a small and supportive community, going to living on campus in a large new city. Plus, I had to work part time during my studies to support myself financially.
As I had moved from a small town, I initially didn’t have many friends at university. I found living on campus was a great way to meet new people and expand my networks which ended up being a really enjoyable experience for me.
I was very fortunate to receive the In2Uni scholarship during my first year of study. This helped me pay for the different expenses associated with moving out of home for the first time and beginning university studies.
I also undertook a number of volunteering opportunities during my studies, such as becoming an In2Uni mentor and volunteering with AIME and the Cancer Council. This experience not only gave me the chance to give back to the community, but also helped me develop a number of transferable skills.
Becoming an In2Uni mentor was an extremely enjoyable part of my time at university, as I had first experience in the impact this program can have. As an In2Uni mentor, I was given the opportunity to work in a low socioeconomic primary school one day a week, which was very rewarding.
I now work in the charity sector, in a community engagement role. It was always a goal of mine to give back to the community and work in an organisation that is dedicated to helping others. Completing my bachelor degree, and the experiences I had whilst studying at university, definitely helped prepare me for the workforce and gave me the necessary skills needed to gain a position like the one I currently hold.
I think more needs to be done around the cost of living for university students. For students who move from regional areas, on-campus accommodation is a really good option, as this is a great way to meet new people and establish yourself in a new community. However, this is becoming increasingly expensive, and would be financially unviable for some. That said, the cost of relocating for regional students can be huge; therefore, I also think regional students could be better supported through the transition to higher education, and more scholarships made available for these students.
I hope that the experiences I have had will encourage other students, who are in similar situations as myself. I would strongly recommend anyone who lives regionally, and is considering higher education, to pursue their goals. It can be overwhelming and daunting at times; however, there are amazing support networks available at university and people in similar positions as yourself which helps with the transition and adjusting to your new environment.
As I studied a Bachelor of Public Health, working in a sector that was dedicated to helping others or having a positive social impact was always a goal of mine. I hope to continuously grow professionally and help those who are less fortunate or are socially disadvantaged. I want to continue to work in regional Australia and rural communities in the hope that one day growing up in a regional area will not be considered a disadvantage and that there will be equal opportunities in both regional and metro areas.
Read more inspiring stories of student success here.