When Maria Granapoulous finished high school in the 1970s, university wasn’t an option.
“I finished high school and was in the top ten per cent of students in New South Wales, but given my background, my mother refused to allow me to go to university or higher education,” says Maria, who is studying a Bachelor of International Studies at UOW Liverpool.
“Women were meant to be married and have a family, and that’s what I did – I got married and had four children.”
After years of raising her now-grown children, in 2015 Maria resigned from her office job and travelled Europe for almost two years before finding a world-class university on her doorstep in Liverpool.
“I first came across UOW Liverpool coming home from the train station. I saw the sign and thought, ‘I wonder if this could be an opportunity,’” she says.
Soon after, Maria enrolled into a UOW College university preparation program at UOW Liverpool before beginning a Bachelor of International Studies.
"I found that to be kind of perfect for me because I've always been interested in global politics and what's happening around the world. I've learnt a lot of things that I wasn't aware of previously through what I studied and it has given me a direction of where I'd like to end up once I'm finished,” she says.
Maria says while she doesn’t “have the luxury” of job opportunities that may be offered to her younger classmates, she would like to work overseas with internally displaced people.
“To work in the Middle East, in Africa, in other areas of the world, and working with and advocating for the children who are the future of this world - that's what has given me the opportunity to do,” she explains.
Maria has a passion for advocacy and volunteering. A regular volunteer for the SES, Maria also helps provide food for the homeless and hampers for families, as well as helping with tours for elderly members of her local church.
“I was also part of the UOWx program and had the opportunity to work with the Liverpool Hospital cancer ward to create programs for patients,” she says.
“The patients become involved with certain arts and crafts groups, we organise games night for the patients and things, to alleviate the stress and the pressure of what they were experiencing as cancer patients.”
In 2022, Maria received the Order of Liverpool Award for her contributions to the local community.
“[UOW Liverpool Student Support Officer] Tina Edney suggested I apply, and I’m so glad I did. I was successful and I was very grateful because that $5000 enabled me to buy a new laptop," she says.
"It's a very good opportunity for a lot of the students in the Liverpool area. And I know that there are some other students who are also struggling. But if it wasn’t for the support from Tina, I don't think I would have been aware of that scholarship.”
Maria says the support she has received from academic and professional staff at UOW Liverpool has been amazing, and she would recommend anyone thinking about pursing higher education to “go out there and do it.”
“Not only does university open doors for employment, but the atmosphere, the learning process and interacting with other people is a unique atmosphere. You are learning while socialising,” she says.
"Some people in the later ages might hesitate because they think ‘it would be silly for me to go out and study now at university’ but it isn't.It's never too late to learn. Go for it. Do not hesitate whatsoever.”