When Christchurch’s Nicola Barry moved to Melbourne in 2010 with her partner, she never would have guessed that she would begin a complete career change while studying abroad with New Zealand’s premier distance learning specialist, Open Polytechnic.
Following her high school studies, Nicola completed a diploma in Travel and Tourism which lead her to working in the travel industry for several years. However, when she and her partner decided to make the move to Melbourne and then to an isolated mining town called Whyalla, she felt she needed a change. “Part of me regretted not studying for a degree when I was younger. Over time, I thought more and more about the possibility of furthering my education and changing career paths.” Following a life-long interest in community development, Nicola decided to pursue a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Social Sciences in the hopes of working towards a career in local government.
Studying from overseas
Nicola’s decision to study with Open Polytechnic came about after she tried enrolling with Australian providers but experienced difficulty as she was not an Australian citizen, resulting in increased study costs, limited flexibility, and little financial support. “I came across the Open Polytechnic which suited my lifestyle and meant that I could study flexible hours with the option of being able to work and study at my own pace,” says Nicola. Through Open Polytechnic, Nicola was also able to qualify for a student loan which helped make her studies more feasible by contributing to her course fees.“The process of getting a student loan was very easy and straight forward. I was able to apply to New Zealand’s student loan system through StudyLink and the Open Polytechnic helped walk me through the enrolment process,” says Nicola.
When Nicola found herself in need of additional support, she looked to her Open Polytechnic lecturers to clarify a concept or find out if she was on the right track with an assignment. “I always found my lecturers supportive, helpful and prompt in their responses. I definitely felt as though they wanted the best for their students.” In addition, Nicola looked to the online forums to help her communicate with other students and tutors. “Reading through the forum threads helped me learn and feel connected to other students. It was always comforting to know that other students usually had similar queries or concerns,” says Nicola.
Once Nicola began succeeding in her studies with Open Polytechnic, she was pleasantly surprised to experience a boost in self-esteem. “I never thought I was capable of studying at degree level. I received average marks when I was at high school, so studying at this level and succeeding with each assignment encouraged me to keep on working hard,” says Nicola.
When giving advice to prospective students, Nicola suggests taking it slowly and not doubting your abilities. “To anyone who was thinking about undertaking study, I would urge them to forget about any concerns, doubts or perceived barriers that they have towards study. I would tell them to research all their options, make the conscious decision to step out of their comfort zone, enrol and never look back.” In May 2016, Nicola attended Open Polytechnic’s graduation ceremony in Christchurch where she was selected due to her academic success to be the graduate speaker. “It was an amazing way to celebrate my achievement of completing a degree. It is something that I will always remember and be extremely proud of.”