Student life in south-east Queensland: What’s to love about uni?

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For those feeling nervous about entering university or worrying about the years of work ahead, these Queensland graduates have some advice: it will be OK.

As prospective students weigh up their options for 2024, we asked alumni from five universities in Brisbane and the state’s south-east what they loved about the study choices they made.

Ally Anderson, Dinesh Palipana, Famin Ahmed, Zivago Baron and Maddy Stubbs.

For some, it was campus culture or extracurricular activities. For others, it was the lifelong friendships made.

Their advice for students planning to start a course next year is to push through the nervousness: be open-minded, enjoy the journey and seize the opportunities along the way.

What Famin loved about UQ

The daughter of Bangladeshi migrants, Famin Ahmed has a passion for helping others.

She studied a double bachelor of arts and bachelor of laws degree at the University of Queensland and graduated with honours in 2019.

UQ graduate Famin Ahmed works for MinterEllison and has a side hustle making hats for charity.

“I very much enjoyed the critical thinking that came from my studies,” she said.

“The people I got to meet were a highlight. Most of the friends I made are still in my life now.”

Ahmed was involved in extracurricular activities as president of the UQ Refugee Tutoring Club, and as a committee member in the economics society. One year, she participated in an international moot competition in India.

“I had access to so many opportunities that it moulded me to be the leader that I am today.”

Where she is now: Ahmed is working as a pro bono lawyer at MinterEllison. On the side she sews and sells reversible hats to raise money for Women’s Legal Service Queensland.

Her advice: Ask for help when you need it. “The mistake I made was I didn’t open up to people and I didn’t seek things like extensions because I felt it would be a detriment to my reputation. At the end of the day, we’re human.”

What Maddy loved about Bond

Maddy Stubbs went to high school in NSW, but knew she wanted to choose a university that would get her out of her comfort zone.

She moved to the Gold Coast to live on campus at Bond University while studying a bachelor of business, specialising in marketing and entrepreneurship.

Bond University graduate Maddy Stubbs loved the culture of campus life on the Gold Coast.

“I always knew I wanted the living-on-campus experience, and the campuses in Sydney really lacked the culture and experience I wanted,” she said.

“Bond Uni had that Ivy League feel and sold itself on hands-on, tangible outcomes.

“I loved the academics, the co-curricular culture and the social culture.”

Where she is now: Stubbs was named as Mumbrella’s Best New PR Talent of the Year in 2022. This year she was the FIFA Women’s World Cup external communications manager at Optus Sport.

Her advice: “You don’t have to be the smartest, you just have to have the right mix of enthusiasm, open-mindedness and vulnerability. With that, you can really open yourself up to opportunities and connections.”

What Dinesh loved about Griffith

Dinesh Palipana’s first degree was in law at QUT. But after being inspired by a doctor treating his anxiety and depression, he decided to change careers.

He headed to Griffith to study medicine, and loved the tight-knit group of people he met there.

Dinesh Palipana was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland.

“I really loved [medical school] from day one,” he said.

“It just felt like home and I had finally found where I was supposed to be.

“I didn’t really make the most of the undergraduate degree in experiencing university life so going to medical school gave me a second chance to do that.”

Where he is now: Palipana was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland and the second medical school graduate with quadriplegia in Australia. He now works at Gold Coast University Hospital in the emergency department.

His advice: “The magic trick in life is to find what you’re passionate about.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, but if it gives you energy and if you find that, you just have to be brave enough to pursue it.”

What Zivago loved about USQ

Zivago Baron didn’t initially know what to study at university, but followed his talents in music and arts towards a creative arts degree at the University of Queensland.

After a year, he decided it wasn’t what he wanted to do.

Zivago Baron (right) with his twin brother Zivanko, another USQ graduate.

“I found a uni closer to me, which was USQ, that had local community and smaller classes and that had a degree that appealed to me. From the get-go, I just loved it.

“USQ was a smaller university and I found I could engage a lot better with smaller classes.”

Where he is now: After graduating with a bachelor of sport and exercise science (honours) in 2021, Baron is working as an exercise physiologist at Combined Wellness Solutions in Ipswich.

His advice: “You don’t have to choose a degree or lock it straight away. The world is your oyster.

“If you don’t love the degree, at the end of the day, you’re not going to love your work, so find something that you love to do.”

What Ally loved about QUT

Ally Anderson is a talented Australian rules player, but she always knew she had to prepare for life after being a full-time athlete.

Switching her degree twice before she settled into a bachelor in paramedic science at the Queensland University of Technology, Anderson has no regrets.

Ally Anderson (left) with Emily Bates after winning the AFLW best and fairest medal in 2022.Credit: AFL Photos / Getty Images

“I’m someone who loves studying and learning, and I liked being around like-minded people,” she said.

“I particularly liked collaborative work and assignments even though it’s probably something people hate the most.”

Where she is now: Anderson has played eight seasons with the Brisbane Lions, and is the first player in the history of the AFL Women’s competition to have played 75 games. She also works part-time as a teacher’s aide.

Her advice: “Get work done early. In my early years, I definitely left things to the last minute.

“The last year, I made sure I finished things early. It made life so much easier, and I got better grades.”

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Love it or leave it: You don’t need to have completed HSC advanced maths to study engineering at university. There are ways. Studying what you like at school is the best way to study what you want later.

Give it a break: Comedian Lizzy Hoo says a commerce degree can wait. In her gap year she mastered snowboarding, living off obscenely small amounts of cash and bailing friends out of jail. Valuable life skills, she argues.

Face time: Being allowed to attend lectures and tutorials online may be convenient, but is it time to bring back punitive measures so students attend university IRL?

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