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For some students, discovering their passion happened at a very young age, while others are still trying to figure out what they want to do. Two University of Wollongong (UOW) students share their unique experiences of discovering their purpose and chasing their passions.
Having moved to Australia at the age of 17, Erfan had to learn English and study for the HSC, while working a part-time job to support himself.
For Erfan though, nothing would get in the way of his passion for engineering. “From the age of 6, my father used to take me to the construction sites he managed. I started to find it more fulfilling than anything else I had experienced. This passion, or rather obsession, for designing and creating structures continued to influence my way of thinking as a teenager and beyond.”
For fifth year student Alana, the path wasn’t that clear. “When I left high school, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to go to university.”
As a Year 12 student, knowing where you want to start is often enough. Making tracks and seeing where the journey takes you can be the wisest decision at that point.
“I applied for Early Admission to UOW back in 2015 and got into a Bachelor of Arts. After my first semester I was able to successfully apply to add the Bachelor of Communications and Media to my degree, making it a double,” says Alana.
An arts degree is a great choice for students with a wide set of interests. It’s a door opener, whether that be to additional degrees (as in Alana’s case) or to a number of different career paths.
When Erfan received an offer to UOW, he says “It felt great! I was excited for all the opportunities and unknowns that were ahead of me.”
University was going to give him the opportunity to see where engineering could take him and the positive impact he could have.
Of course, moving abroad to chase his passions wasn’t easy for Erfan. Just 17, he had to leave his friends and family behind, travelling to Australia with very little English but a lot of courage.
“I remember days when I wanted to make friends and interact with people, but I couldn’t, I simply wasn’t confident enough to communicate in English. It was almost as if I was born a bird who wanted to fly but had no wings. Learning English gave me my wings to fly.”
Erfan’s passion pushed him into the unknown. “I took the opportunity and chose to become a civil engineer… I had no experience in taking care of myself in a new country, nothing could terrify me more. Yet, I chose to rise up to the challenge. I made the rather hard decision of ‘just doing it’!”
It’s clear that Erfan’s engineering degree has had a profound impact on him, both academically and personally. “My engineering course has taught me many skills, the most important of which is problem solving. The ability to objectively look at challenges, break them down into smaller and more manageable pieces, and solve them step-by-step. This has not only enabled me to excel in my studies, but also helped me overcome the many obstacles I have faced in my personal life.”
He says, “Being a capable engineer is not about being phenomenally smart… it is about effort, communication, patience, teamwork, and many other skills, which are the key requirements for an engineering project to succeed”.
Confident that she made the right decision, Alana loves what she’s studying, “My double degree offers a broad range of career options. I have been able to do many amazing and interesting subjects, from marketing and graphic design, to international relations.”
She’s also become a UOWx Digital Media Ambassador, a role which she says “has been such an amazing experience… I’ve been able to attend events such as Discovery Day and Well-Being Week, as well as having fun doing Instagram and Snapchat takeovers and writing content.”
All UOW degrees encourage students to discover their purpose and see what contribution they can make with the knowledge and skills they gain through their studies.
When it comes to her career, Alana feels certain that she wants to have a positive impact and give back. “When I graduate, I hope to do design and marketing for an NGO or charity so I can work in my area of interest and skill, while also giving back to the community.”
“We live in a world where marketing and social media are extremely important and influential, and I would like to use these tools for good,” she says.
Erfan’s passion, together with his studies, have made him committed to making a positive contribution.
“From humanitarian purposes like building shelters for war-driven refugees alongside the UN, to ensuring the environmental sustainability of our construction projects and their effects on the wider community, there are many ways through which I can impact the communities in which I live and for which I care,” he says.
“As a civil engineer, I embrace my responsibility and commitment to create safe and sustainable structures. This is the impact I can have.”
Knowing how difficult it can be to not have a clear idea of what you want to do, Alana offers some advice to year 12 students in a similar situation to her 17-year-old self. “When you finish high school, it can feel as though there is a lot of pressure to decide who you want to be and where you want to go, but the fact is, many of us don’t know. If you know your career path clearly, that’s great! But if you don’t, that’s okay too. You’re allowed to change your mind, explore different options and grow in your own way.”
At UOW, we see such a diverse set of young and talented students walk through the doors. Even if they don’t know it yet, there’s a place for them here and a career for them out there.
With flexible degree options, student clubs and societies, great accommodation options offering an instant community, as well as close proximity to beaches, national parks and city life, UOW covers all bases for a balanced student life.
Over the past six years, Erfan has continued to challenge himself by taking on leadership roles within a number of projects and organisations.
“From founding Wollongong University Dramatic Society (WUDS) on my very first day at university, to facilitating ELEVATE youth leadership conferences for Year 11 students from across NSW. I have always made an effort to share my vision with those around me.”
Alana concludes by saying, “I am now in my fifth and final year of university and I can genuinely say there are many aspects I am going to miss, especially time on the beautiful campus.”
Thanks to Alana Cairns, Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies – Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Marketing and International Relations) student and Erfan Karami, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) student.