To Gap Year or Not to Gap Year

If you had asked me at the end of Year 12 what it was I hoped to achieve from taking a Gap Year, I, like many students in my position would have shared with you my vision to take a break from study and gain a job in order to support myself at university.  Little did I know I would gain so much more from one single year, out there in the ‘real world’!  As the Year 12 QTAC offers edge closer, I would like to share with you the top three life lessons I gained from taking a Gap Year!

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  1. Gaining a job often isn’t as easy as it sounds

It is so easy to want a job.  At the beginning of my Gap Year, I did not have a job.  Many kids at school had one, so I thought, ‘surely it can’t be that hard to land one myself’!  I was an extremely studious student with the grades to match, participated in many extra-curricular activities and was a proud leader of my school…who wouldn’t want to hire me!  At the beginning of my Gap Year, I was among many unemployed people.  This was magnified by the 2013 Bundaberg flood, the largest in the town’s history since January 1890.  One of the main shopping centres, Hinkler Central, was flooded, forcing many people into the job market around town.  I very quickly learnt not only how to improve my resume in order to make myself look more appealing on paper, but also that it was very much a case of the old saying ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’.  Although all of my wonderful results and extra-curricular activities looked good on paper, it wasn’t until I put myself out there and started following up employers (yes, lots of them don’t send out a rejection letter…they just keep you hanging) and being more proactive in my hunt for employment that I started to receive any response and subsequently land myself a job.

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  1. Maintaining friendships becomes more difficult

Until you leave school, you are unaware of how fortunate you are to be able to see your closest friends every day of the school week!  Life outside of school can become very lonely.  Everyone begins to go their separate ways – working, travelling, moving out of home, going to university and just generally starting a life away from school.  There will be some friends who you lose touch with as the common thread that you had with them, school, is no longer a part of either of your lives.  Your friendship group will reduce, however those friendships that do last are extremely precious and many will last a lifetime.  You may only catch up once a year due to various commitments, but if it feels like your last catch up was only yesterday, you know you are a part of a true friendship.

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  1. A Gap Year gives you headspace

During Year 12, I was so caught up in all of my academic pursuits and extra-curricular activities within the school that when I left school, I felt extremely lost as to who I really was.  My Gap Year provided me with the headspace I required in order to truly find out who I was, what my real pursuits for the rest of my life were and where I wanted to take my life.  It was no longer a case of ‘oh yeah…that sounds pretty good – I could give that a go’ type of attitude, but rather ‘This is reality.  What do I want to do with it and how can I make a difference?’ This led me to make some life changing decisions, such as changing my degree, my university, my college…basically uprooting all of my plans that I thought I wanted, to suit what the more mature and developed, real-world aware Alice wanted to do with herself.  Obviously not everyone can expect to go through such a large life epiphany in their Gap Year, but personally, it was the best decision I possibly could have made for that point in my life.

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Of course, the life lessons I have outlined in this blog are certainly not all-inclusive and will be different for everyone. The point I am trying to make here is that if you are considering a Gap Year, it could very well be the best decision you ever make.  Everyone needs and gets different things out of the year, but I believe it can truly change who we are as people and our outlooks on the rest of our lives.  Please feel free to share your Gap Year experiences in the comments below!

P.S.  As this is my last blog for the year, I would just like to send a great big thank you to everyone who has supported me in this endeavour throughout the year.  I hope you have found my blogs informative and interesting and wish you all the best for what lies ahead.

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Discovering the Culture of Toowoomba

When considering university choices, location can play a significant role for many prospective students. It can be hard to make a decision if you have never been to the city yourself, let alone know where it is! When I told some of my friends I was moving to Toowoomba, many asked, ‘how many hours north of here is that?’ No, no, about 6 hours south guys, but anyway! Today, I am here to highlight to you the very best features of the beautiful Garden City that is Toowoomba.

  1. Eateries

Pic 1If you are looking for great food, you have come to the right town! Toowoomba has many quality cafes and restaurants which provide top quality food and beverages. Some of my personal favourites include the Park House Café, the Engine Room Café, Picnic Point, Raw Energy, Angelo’s House Restaurant and Qi’Lin, just to name a few. Each of these places has its unique features, making for an extra special dining experience. The Park House Café offers specially flavoured hot beverages, such as their Cherry Ripe Hot Chocolate. The Engine Room Café’s new owners create delicious items like panna cotta for the tastebuds to enjoy. Picnic Point has very high quality meals and sweet treats, topped with a glorious view over the Toowoomba range. Raw Energy is the place to go for all of your delicious healthy and clean eating options. Angelo’s House Restaurant brings top quality Italian food to the table in a wonderful homely style that cannot be found elsewhere. And Qi’Lin provides top quality Chinese food in a welcoming, Chinese-decorated surrounding and have this week been crowned the best Chinese restaurant in Queensland for the fourth year running.

  1. Markets

Pic 2Toowoomba is a hive of activity on the weekends, with a market occurring every weekend, showcasing the best fresh produce and homemade crafts that Toowoomba has to offer! The PCYC Markets are held every Sunday at the Toowoomba PCYC on James Street. The Margaret Street Markets are held on the first Sunday of each month down the Gelatissimo block end of Margaret Street. There are also the Global Care Markets, held on the second Saturday of each month at Citilife Church.  We also have the Queens Park Markets, held on the third Sunday of the month in the lovely Queens Park. Recently, we were also treated to The Handmade Expo visit at the Clive Berghofer centre across from USQ, which will be returning this year on Sunday November 30th, just in time to purchase something special for Christmas!

  1. Shopping

If you are looking for fabulous shopping options, Toowoomba has you covered! We have many smaller shopping centres around town, including the Kmart Plaza, The Ridge Shopping Centre, Westridge Shopping Centre and the Uni Plaza, near the university, all offering at least one major supermarket each as well as many specialty stores. The town’s largest shopping provider is Grand Central Shopping Centre, or as we all call it on college, Grandy. Grandy is currently undergoing renovations, as they are extending the centre to add more shops, including a David Jones, due to be completed by 2017. Currently, Grand Central has over 200 stores, including the only Myer store in the region, the Body Shop, Target, Coles, Birch Carrol & Coyle Cinema, over 50 fashion stores and 140 specialty stores! Whatever you are after to fulfil your retail desires, Toowoomba has the store for you (unless it is Forever New, but we are hopeful that the Grand Central extension will fulfil that dream for us all)!

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  1. Entertainment

Pic 4We are very lucky in Toowoomba to have many local and world-renowned acts visit to perform for our audiences. The best venues for viewing these acts include the USQ Artsworx Theatre and the Empire Theatre. The USQ Artsworx Theatre, provides an intimate entertainment experience, usually at a very reasonable price (perfect for those uni budgets!). The Empire Theatre is the main theatre in town, which includes a balcony viewing level, and old-world décor, creating an ambience that is hard to find elsewhere. This is a top quality theatre for top quality performances. Whenever the Empire is involved, a good time is bound to be had!

  1. Gardens

Pic 5Toowoomba is not called the Garden City for nothing! Here in Toowoomba, we have a plethora of beautiful gardens for you to enjoy.  From the relaxing Japanese Gardens, right next to USQ with its many quacky inhabitants always keen for a feed, to the Spring Bluff Railway Station on the other side of town, which is maintained to this day after it was first tended in 1914 when Queensland Railways launched a garden competition. There are also the main features of the well-known Toowoomba Carnival of flowers, Queens Park and Laurel Bank which are beautiful at any given time of the year, however particularly in spring when they are bought to life with various overhead patterns and images according to the theme of the carnival. It makes for a truly spectacular display! Also throughout this festival of spring, many proud Toowoomba gardeners dress their gardens and permit the public to view their hard work through the Chronicle’s annual garden competition.

If you haven’t any plans for your school holidays this September, don’t just take my word for it! Come for a visit to Toowoomba to see the Garden City at its best during the annual Carnival of Flowers! For more information about the events occurring throughout the carnival, please visit the following link! http://www.tcof.com.au/

It’s all in the preparation- My three tips for balancing Prac and Uni

Practical experiences are a very necessary and exciting part of many university degrees.  Unfortunately this is often the busiest time of the semester. For many of us, whilst on prac our uni subjects continue, content continues to be distributed and assignment due dates loom closer. As I prepare for my next practical experience (woo hoo!), I would like to share with you my top three tips for balancing university studies and practical experience.

  1. Prepare your assessment

Prior to practical experience, prepare to complete as much of your assessment as possible.  Get everything you can to a point that you would be happy to submit.  Prac is an absolutely wonderful experience, one you want to be able to embrace and not be worried about the assignment due the next day which you haven’t started yet and have three lessons to plan for the following day as well!  It is much easier to edit drafted assignments than trying to research, draft and edit an assignment when you are exhausted after spending a week at work.

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  1. Prepare a study plan

Prepare a study schedule to follow during prac. As I found on my first practical experience, completely disregarding all uni work during prac will only come back to bite you later. Prioritise your work. Every little bit that you do during prac is something that you don’t have to worry about later. Write your schedule and stick to it! Everyone has different study patterns and you need to find what works for you.

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  1. Prepare to communicate

Practical experiences are your first glimpse into the big wide world of work that you will be entering into in a few short years. Ensure you contact your practical site as soon as you know where you have been placed to clear up any queries you may have and find out their expectations of you. Once you arrive, be honest and open to your supervisors. They know you are a university student and also have study to complete whilst on prac. They are not mind readers and hence need to be told if you are struggling or have assessment due. They too went to university at some point and know what you are going through! They are there to help you through your practical experience…help them to help you!

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Be true to yourself.  Your practical experience is a very busy, yet exciting time. With sufficient preparation, you will be able to both stay on top of your university studies and enjoy your precious taste of the workforce! Good luck! J

Uni of best fit

Every prospective university student faces many decisions. For some students, these decisions are very easy, like a perfect line of linear plots waiting to be connected with a sweep of the pen. They have dreamt of their university, career and college ever since they commenced high school. For many students however, these decisions are much like a scattered quartic function without a simple answer and require a great deal of investigation in order to find the best fit. One of the first decisions to consider is which university will be the correct choice for YOU! Many students feel pressured to attend certain universities due to peer pressure or location. Through careful consideration of individual needs during your time at university, a far more enjoyable experience will result.

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During year 12, like so many others, I applied to attend Brisbane universities, similar to my friends, without much thought for my needs during my future experience. During my Gap Year, I had time to consider my options with a more open mind and realised that Brisbane may not be the city for me. I also learnt that although many of my friends were no longer in the same town as me, I had kept in contact with many of them and had made new friendships in my new phase of life. Among other decisions, this urged me to reconsider which university was truly the best option for me. Like so many prospective students, I looked at locations…how far each university was from home, the different facilities, the differences between the Education degrees, living options and more! I also took the time to revisit each of the prime opportunities offered throughout year to investigate my university options. I visited the Bundaberg careers fair, the Brisbane Tertiary Studies Expo (TSXPO), took time off work to visit the three universities on my short list and heard experiences from friends who had begun their university experience. Using these resources, I was able to eliminate universities from my list and make the decision to go to a different university, a different town…USQ Toowoomba.

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Choosing a university of best fit is a difficult and important decision. Through this process you will learn about yourself, such as proving that you can make informed, adult decisions without being swayed by others’ opinions, expectations or decisions around you. Having made your decision, you will reap many benefits! You will be free to reinvent yourself and spread your wings by developing new friendships…after all whoever heard of someone with too many friends? You totally own that decision now and that is awesome!

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Of course, like a mathematical line of best fit, no university is by any means perfect. They are always adapting and evolving with the times, but through thorough investigation of all of your options, you will be able to make an informed decision of the best possible university for YOU at whatever stage of life you are at! Above all, stay true to yourself and choose the university that suits your needs best. It can make the world of difference to your future university experience.

New kid on the block

Hi there!  My name is Alice Galea, originating from Bundaberg with a passion for crafts and baking and am currently studying my second year of my Bachelor of Education, Secondary.  Since completing high school in 2012, I have undertaken a Gap Year, during which I changed my mind from going to the big smoke of Brisbane to the smaller, much more personable environment offered by the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba.  Since then, many good times were had throughout my first year.

After moving from my home of 18 years in Bundaberg and knowing absolutely no one other than my sister on college, let alone in Toowoomba, I was required to overcome my shy nature, epic homesickness and remain true to myself as a person, in order to make new friends and survive my first year of uni.  I also withstood the new challenges which presented themselves when I studied some third semester subjects back at home!

Some of my favourite events from my first year included a bush dance in o-week, which has thus far been a highlight for my second year.  As well as the fun that was had, the added bonus of this event was its assistance to help to adjust to the cold Toowoomba weather for a few hours (for a cold frog, this was great…but then winter came…)!  The red frogs’ café crawl soon after was also a highlight in order to get to know a some more college faces, as well as few of the fabulous coffee shops around town, of which the Park House is still a favourite (after all…who can resist their cherry ripe hot chocolates…that’s right people…CHERRY RIPE!!!!!!)!  For any first years who are reading this, hopefully they will hold one soon and it is DEFINITELY worth going! 😀

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Back on college, the social events of Semi-Formal and Formal were definitely the highlights for me for the year.  Seeing the creativity of outfits and the preparation which went into everyone looking their best for each of the nights was lovely to see. 🙂

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Thus far, 2015 has been off to a good start on Concannon.  I look forward to keeping you up to date with all of the goings on here and hope that my blogs are insightful.  Catch you next time!

I want to go home!

I sat in my train seat, teary-eyed, intently watching the small Tilt Train TV screen as each stop passed, waiting for Bundaberg.  For weeks, all I had wanted was to go home…to see my parents, friends, sleep in my own bed, see and experience everything that I missed so dearly throughout my first term at university.  This was me a year ago.  My first month on college was so exciting…I had moved out of home for the first time, giving me a sense of freedom I had never experienced and I had begun the degree of my dreams!  It was all going so well until the excitement wore off and I began to realise the lack of friends, family and quirks taken for granted from home such as not being able to go to town without seeing someone I knew, which resulted in a severe case of homesickness.

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Homesickness is a completely normal experience and just another hard part of growing up!  I know it may not seem like it now, but making the most of being away from home will result in some essential lifelong benefits!  These include developing a sense of self, coping skills and becoming grateful for many things in your life you may have previously taken for granted.  How may you achieve such great results?  I am pleased you asked!  There are many ways in which you can get through this experience, of which I would like to offer my top 5.

  1. Join a group

…Club, team, society or association that interests you.  This provides you with the opportunity to meet prospective like-minded friends.  These people can assist your new town to feel more like home, easing the burden of your homesickness.  If you have moved to be near your university, you will not have to look far to find such opportunities.  Within O-week each year, USQ holds a Market Day which, apart from the opportunity to grab lots of free stuff up for grabs, gives new and continuing students, the opportunity to visit all of the University’s student club stalls and join those of interest. This year, I took this opportunity to join the USQ Charity Committee where I have already met lots of lovely people at our AGM, who I will work with throughout the year, creating events both within the University and wider community, raising money for charities! If you missed Market Day, no worries!  The clubs are always happy to have new members.  For more information on all of the student clubs at USQ, visit the following website: https://www.usq.edu.au/current-students/life/clubs. If nothing quite interests you, contact Phoenix Central and start your own club!  They would love to hear from you!  There are bound to be other students at the University who will want to join your awesome new club!

  1. Do something you enjoy!

This could be anything…from something as simple as going for a serene walk in the Japanese Gardens, closest to Concannon; watching your favourite TV show, playing a sport, cook something outrageous, photographing, attending local markets or enjoying the many shopping opportunities that Toowoomba has to offer.  If you enjoy what you are doing, you will develop a far more positive attitude towards your new town and experience!

 

 

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  1. Remember why you are here

You have made a life changing decision to move away from your home to attend the university of your choice and degree of your dreams!  You are here to be the best nurse, teacher, mathematician…whatever your dream job is.  Be proud of it!  Make the most of this wonderful experience you have embarked on.  You never know what may be around the corner.  Hang in there!  Your journey has only just begun!

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  1. Talk to someone

All of us have adults in our lives who have moved away from home and experienced everything that you are experiencing at this moment.  It is hard.  They want to help you get through this!  I had been feeling homesick for a couple of days and had been doing a very expert job of hiding it from the world.  I was fine to everyone, until Mum called me and asked me how I was…that was it…cue the waterworks!  But it was ok.  My parents then knew how I was feeling and were able to help.

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  1. Seek advice

If all else fails, seek advice from others to find strategies that work for you.  USQ College students have the support of both our Resident Advisors who live with us, as well as our College Community Advisor (Provisional Psychologist), Mel.  At USQ, Student Services also offers a range of services to assist USQ students through this experience, including their free counselling service.  For more information on the services available at Student Services, visit their website: https://www.usq.edu.au/current-students/services.

 

You can do this!  Homesickness is a normal human experience.  Don’t think you are alone.  All of us go through this at some stage.  Find strategies that suit you and your personality to make each day more bearable, and eventually overcome your homesickness.  You can do it!