There is always light at the end of the tunnel
“Just before I started my course though, I had to fly back home because my brother passed away very suddenly and I had to spend time at home for a few months. I thought I won’t be able to go back to Australia, to do my MA. To top this, my student visa was about to expire and I haven’t applied for a renewal yet. I had to spend the money from the scholarship for my trip to Vietnam and to support my family. Given the situation, everyone was convinced that I won’t make it back to Australia. I had to do something about that. It was my dream! The first person I contacted about this was Rosemary. I explained what happened and told her that, despite of it all, I still want to continue my studies. Five minutes later, she put me in touch with eight different people from Swinburne who could help me with the scholarship situation. She was checking in every day on me to see if I’m OK, making sure that I won’t forget that ‘there is always a light at the end of the tunnel’. It was! It really was! I went back to Australia to study for my degree even though I had to borrow money, to work really hard—I had two jobs during that time plus other freelance jobs, not to mention my volunteering at KOTO. I was incredibly busy every single day, but it was worth it.
“It’s not just about the education they offer because, at the end of the day, any university can provide students with education. But at Swinburne, I felt so connected to the people. For example, the barista on campus always asked if I want an extra-large coffee—for the same amount of money I would have paid for a small one, of course—so that I can stay awake longer for my studying. It was very funny. He always asked ‘do you want more chocolate?’ YES! ‘Do you want more milk?’ YES! ‘Do you want more coffee?’ YES! Ah, every day, it was the same thing. More coffee!”
A Very Special Degree
“I loved the flow of the subjects designed for students who did not have experience in business. This helped to build a foundation of knowledge from the beginning, leading onto discovery of business opportunity, pitching ideas and building the skills to make a business viable. For example, the first core subject I studied was “Opportunity Discovery” where you test an idea and do all the hypotheses, prototype, team up and test the market. This is followed up in the next semester by applying that project to the subject of “Opportunities Evaluation”: continue working on that business idea, but evaluating it in a real business environment.
“One of the highlights of this course are the various subjects available, beyond just business. As I love working for the social impact sector, I love areas like Grant Making and Philanthropy which I was able to study. In these studies, we were given real funding from a trustee for us to develop a grant program. Throughout the studies, we were able to work on designing the website, with a set of essay questions on application, sourcing the database of the grantee, assessing all aspects of applications and giving the funds with follow up evaluations and reports. It was a fascinating experience to be able to sit in the shoes of a grantor where I learnt exactly what people look for and how they assess applications and distribute funds. This became highly relevant for me later on when I had to apply for grants and awards for the not-for-profit organisation I worked for.
“In other subjects, we also got to work with real businesses which gave us their briefs and invited us to come up and solve some of their business challenges using innovation and creativity. One of these was Bupa Australia: we helped them to develop a program for their new products that support diabetes patients. By the end of that subject, my group won a cash prize, which was lovely, but I also gained great knowledge about diabetes even though our project was purely focused on business and technology. During my studies at Swinburne, I also teamed up with a group to participate in the Swinburne Venture Cup in which we pitched ideas to real investors and lecturers, which was a great experience.”
Memories to last a lifetime
Great People and Life-long Connections
“Another joy from my time at Swinburne was my classmates; they are all successful mid-career and mature people, who have years of experience in doing business or working for different corporations/businesses and they shared their great knowledge base. I learned a lot from them and the different experience in different industries they came from. Most of them are local Australians, so they gave me a sharply defined context of corporations in Australia and how they operate. They were amazing and I made good friends. Besides studying, we hung out together a lot and I still keep in touch with many of them. It is wonderful to follow the progress of my amazing peers who completed their studies and now create an impact in their own communities.
“It was lovely that my ex-teacher Rosemary, from Box Hill Institute, had moved to Swinburne, which enabled me to catch up with her frequently on campus, and she continues to support me a lot with advice and mentorship. Though she did not teach me during my Swinburne journey, she was my source of support and inspiration.”
“As a consequence of sheer grit, determination and a lucky meeting with a student at the social enterprise, Huong now holds a Masters degree, and having watched since she came to Australia, I am enormously proud of her education journey.” [Rosemary Fisher, Sessional lecturer and Course Director at Swinburne University, Australia]