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A day of firsts

6 Oct

Well, it’s been a time of firsts for me lately, and last Friday was a particularly ‘adventurous’ day.

My day started out well, it was actually a beautiful day, the first after the most terrifying electric storms had hit Melbourne in the the previous couple of days. I usually love storms but I have never heard anything like it….it was quite funny actually, there I was calming Little B down (as with most dogs, she hates storms), patting and speaking quietly to her, as we sat on the porch watching the lightening (I always have had romantic notions of storm watching from a porch and here was my chance) when all of a sudden there was a giant crack, and lightening struck the house at the bottom of our garden!! I could have won a sprint race with the speed at which I raced inside cursing all sorts of unmentionables. Myself and Little B spent the rest of the afternoon in bed 😉

Anyways, now it was so beautiful that I decided to take Little B out for a long walk at the local creek just near our home. Enjoying ourselves and the weather, it was amazing to see what the storms had done to the level and ferocity of the water: what was usually a placid slow meandering stream was now a torrential (mini) river.

Anyways, just near the end of our walk I spotted a small duckling swimming in a slightly calmer bend of the stream, and of course, my first reaction was ‘oh how cute!!’. But then I noticed that she (for the purposes of the story, the duckling will be a she…I don’t know why) was on her own, no family in sight, not a good sign for such a young thing 😦 She had obviously been separated from them in the extreme weather.

Now, though I am a qualified wildlife rescuer by virtue of taking a course, I had never actually completed a rescue on my own before but the thought of just leaving the little duckling to her own devices, when the odds really are not that great at all, just didn’t sit well with me. My first thought was, if I could locate her family first, then I could try and somehow maneuver them together, but I quickly saw that she was in fact hemmed into a part of the stream that was bordered at two ends by rapids caused by the new influx of water. So, I thought the best thing I could do would be first locate the family, then capture the duckling and return her to her family (the myth that ducklings that have come into contact with humans will not be taken back my their parents is actually false), and if her family could not be located, I would take her to the wildlife sanctuary where I volunteer where they are actually currently are raising another duckling (the only survivor of a hit and run on a local highway 😦 )

I didn’t want to leave her but I was completely unprepared for a rescue and, as much as love her, I didn’t think Little B would be too much help being that she is a natural born hunter (it is the only thing we disagree on 😉 ). So I took her home and made a plan. The first thing I was going to need was a net so I did a quick internet search and found that we actually have an anglers store in a neighbouring suburb which would be perfect. I got all the other things I would need from around the house: a lined box with air-holes, some bread (for coaxing purposes) and my wellie (see gum) boots then headed off the anglers store, my first first of the day.

Having never fished a day in my life since making my own fishing rod as a youngster on a caravaning holiday and surprising myself and those around me when I actually caught one ( I was horrified!),needless to say, I am no fishing expert but they were very helpful in the store though the look on the guy’s face was priceless when I mentioned that I was going to use the net for duckling rescue and not prawn catching (prawn nets are the best for rescue of ducklings and such like as the net is very fine, meaning that no harm can come to legs and wings during the process).

Then the creek. Firstly, I walked up and down the area for some time searching for the duckling’s family but unfortunately, it was to no avail 😦 However, I was glad to see that the duckling was still safe and sound so I spent some time quietly throwing her bits of bread trying to gain a little trust and set everything up ready for when I caught her so that she would be settled quickly and the least amount of distress caused.

For my first attempt at the rescue I tried to net her from the banks, but I knew this was going to be a long shot, so the next step was to get into the water, my second first of the day (wading in the local ‘fresh’ water creek), and hope it wasn’t TOO deep. Well, at first it wasn’t…just up to my thighs, far too deep for my wellies to be of much use except for protecting me against whatever lay at the bottom the of the incredibly muddy water (which made them well worth it, I thought!) but manageable, however, as I followed her (trying to be as quiet and unthreatening as possible and keeping the net down low so as not to frighten her too much), the water got deeper and deeper (and colder and colder, my gasps were uncomfortably reminiscent of the scene from Titanic when Kate Winslet first enters the water on her way to rescue Leo)  but I had come this far so I kept on until I had a great opportunity and she was within my reach…..and then I sank…and that, friends, was my third first of the day….SWIMMING in the local creek! I swear the duckling was laughing at me, in fact she didn’t even swim away, she just got onto a mid-stream rock, gave herself a cleansing shake and sat down to watch me splutter away.

However, I was determined to keep this duckling safe and so this same process went on for over two hours (one of the main things they teach you about rescue is patience!!) until I was truly exhausted. At the point when I could barely wade through the water, I had to give up! I had tried my best to do the right thing and had only come close to rescuing the duckling about 3 times. In my mind, if she could happily escape me with such poise, hopefully she would be alright on her own, at least until the flood waters died down and her family was able to get to her.

I was just getting out of the water when an older gentleman across on the other bank (many people had passed by during my rescue attempt but not a one had offered to help) called out to me. At first my thought was that he was offering to help, however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was angry at me and yelling his head off!! Fearing a misunderstanding, I let him know that I was not fishing and the reason for my net…however that just made him more mad and let me know in no uncertain terms I was wrong to be doing what I was. I even let him know that I was a trained rescuer, however that didn’t seem to help, he seemed under the impression that I was trying to steal wildlife for my own personal gain, though what that gain was seemed to be a little unclear…..

So there I was standing by the creek, soaked to the bone in muddy storm water (more on that later), holding a prawn catching net, wellie boots brimming and many many twigs in my hair, having failed at my rescue attempt AND getting yelled at.

I am sorry to say that at that point I lost my temper a little and had a bit of a yell back…something along the lines of “I am trying to save a life not catch dinner”…..and as a person who avoids conflict like the plague, it was a very uncomfortable moment. Once I had calmed down, I explained the statistics of the survival of a duckling out on her own and that seemed to quieten him up and he huffed his way off. And, of course, that was the point when the skies opened and it literally poured down. In my single-mindedness, I had not noticed the skies gradually darkening!

That was a bad moment for me. I felt truly defeated, misunderstood, and all those bad things and I just stood there in the rain crying. I felt every time in my life when I tried to do the right thing but been completely misunderstood by those around come crashing down around me. Totally melodramatic, I know, but I have to admit to feeling very low at that point.

Of course, a couple of hours later, after an extremely hot shower, and some hot soup, I felt better. I had tried to do the right thing, and though it hadn’t worked out, and though people around me couldn’t understand or agree with with what I tried to do, I knew that I couldn’t have just ignored the duckling on her own and had taken the course of action that I felt most appropriate at the time.

In my contemplation, I realised it’s much like my decision to go back to university at this stage of my life. People may not understand why I’ve made this decision and may even be fairly vocal in their opposition (that is not to say that I don’t have support, I also have plenty of that too), but as long as I feel like I am doing the right thing  (and I don’t mean only for me but also for my nearest and dearest) then it IS the right thing.

Note: I have been very sick and laid up in bed for most of this week. Turns out that during the storms, raw sewage has been released into Melbourne’s creeks and rivers to “reduce pressure and prevent sewage backing up through household drains”. Lovely. Swimming in sewage turns out to be the fourth first I experienced last Friday. Thankfully, I have recovered and am feeling much better!

I still stand by my decision to try and rescue that duckling! Maybe I am just a little bit crazy………….. ;D

Fact No 11: In light of this post……Ducks’ feet have no nerves or blood vessels. This means ducks never feel the cold, even if they swim in icy cold water.

Open Day

31 Aug

I haven’t visited my blog in over a week…..suffering withdrawals :O

I took a bit of time after my last post to sort out my thoughts as I surprised even myself a little. But I have to say it was extremely refreshing and nice to be so completely honest. I think often we feel as though, even if we aren’t totally honest with those around us, we are at least honest with ourselves. And in most cases I’m sure this is true, but I definitely think we can all be very good at lying, or at least omitting the truth, from ourselves on occasion!

Anyways, enough of the introspectiveness for today and onto much lighter topics 😀

It was the Open Day at my ‘Holy Grail’ university on Sunday. There are many open days currently running at the moments at Universities all over Victoria as it’s coming to close crunch time for Year 12s with regards to finalising their course preferences. During these open days Universities will run course information talks and campus tours, you can meet the staff and the visit the student information desks, and there is usually some form of entertainment, plenty of food and all the university societies come out to show their wares.

For anyone considering further studies, it’s an extremely valuable tool, and I am embarrassed to say that years ago when I attended the Open Day for the University of Edinburgh, where I completed my first degree, I spent most of the day discovering the bars in the student union, having taken a day trip with friends from school!!! (probably why I ended up studying Mental Philosophy….well that and the fact that the department head looked like Bill Pullman, who I had quite the crush on at the time 😉 )

This time round, I was the proverbial sponge and went fully equipped with a notepad (where I had already made notes of the timings of the information talks I wished to hear and tours I wanted to go on), a pen and a thousand questions 😀

Now, as you know, my first choice of course is located at this University, but though the course looked great on paper (or on the website!), you can never really tell what a course might be like in terms of the facilities, the staff and the general gut feeling you get from actually visiting a faculty and hearing it from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

I am extremely happy to report that my visit only increased my desire ten-fold. 😀

The School of Life and Environmental Science is housed in an almost new building with state of the art facilities that seemed to emanate learning, but though that impressed me and filled me with confidence, it was the smaller things about the place that most appealed to me. There were many photos on the walls of the past/current students out in the field, looking weather-beaten but very happy, on research projects and such like. It was the camaraderie in these photos that really stood out, between not only the students ( of all ages 😉 ) but between the staff as well.  There were also lots of stories up about work the department is currently involved in, both in the conservation and the research arena. It all thrilled me, and I hadn’t even been to the course information talks yet.

Needless to say, these talks and the subsequent discussions with the lecturers and admissions staff were extremely informative and exciting. The Wildlife and Conservation Biology course just sounds just about perfect, as I was pretty sure it would, and the way the staff run their department is right up my alley. They have an open door policy in the department  and one of their main aims is for a tight knit learning community therefore they actively encourage students to be in constant communication with their lecturers which obviously would provide an extremely supportive environment. The University of Edinburgh was an amazing university to be at, but I wouldn’t say that the professors in the Philosophy department were just what you would call ‘approachable’!

When talking to the Course Coordinator about my return to study, he was very supportive and said that I certainly would not feel out of place as the course is full of people from all walks of life, and, for all you mature-age students out there, he told me that they currently have a 70 year old women who started the course at the beginning of the year! Talk about inspirational, I wouldn’t mind spending some time with that particular women in the future!!! 😀

So, all in all, it was a highly successful day and though it may be a battle to get there, it’s a battle worth fighting 😀

Fact No 8: Bats always turn left when exiting a cave

Holy Grail

22 Aug

Well, after a looooooooong moving weekend, we are finally into our new house!

Of course, at this stage, it’s boxes everywhere, every surface covered with stuff we didn’t even know that we had (and surely wouldn’t have moved if we had seen it at the old place!) and yet-to-be  constructed pieces of furniture awaiting construction lying all over the place. In a word, total pandemonium :\

Even though this was my 19th move, I had forgotten, yet again, how exhausting the whole thing is! For the first time ever we actually employed the services of a moving company, who were fabulous, and I really thought that would cut out some of the stress. But, as amazing and astonishingly quick as they were, I was wrong about the stress! How is it that whenever you move house, it feels like your belongings have grown, mated and had babies since you moved in?? The house we have moved to is bigger than our old place, yet it feels like all of our possessions are only just going to fit!

The one thing I did learn from past moves , and this would be my advice to anyone in the same position, was to fiercely protect the kettle through-out the move to ensure that some well-meaning soul did not accidentally pack it and therefore we were/are always able to have that restorative and frankly required cup of tea which makes everything seem manageable 😀

However, enough with the rant, we are in, and I am delighted to report that I think we are going to be very happy in this new home. Here’s hoping that this will be the last of the moving now for quite some time, for various reasons. We now have ducted heating (a central heating system for those outside of Australia) so no more frantic freezing dashes to the shower in the morning, a dishwasher (thank the lord) and a garden suitable for many, many veggies patches and hopefully even a couple of chickens, which fills me with joy as sustainable gardening has slowly become a real passion of mine over the past couple of years. A blooming passion you might say 😉

We also (almost) have a view of the Dandenong Ranges, one of my all-time favourite places in the entire world. If fact, on walking to the tram early this morning (it’s a much earlier start in the new house), the sun was just rising behind Mount Dandenong causing that beautiful pink halo effect. Such an amazing sight, it made me smile 😀

But, the most important thing about our new home is its place as the base for our new beginning, this next chapter of our lives. With Bob’s career in Industrial Design just beginning to take off and my  proposed new start at University in early 2012, it’s a very exciting time for us, and for me, this house seems to encapsulate that.

Furthermore, as well as being much closer to Bob’s work thus cutting out the daylight thievery of our local road tolls, just around the corner stands the University that houses my ideal course: Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) (as well as many other relevant and exciting courses) 😀

Now, I have placed 12 different applications, as is allowed through VTAC (as mentioned in a previous post) but my first four preferences are all at this particular University (all because if I don’t get into my first preference then it would still be great to study in the same department (School of Life and Environmental Science), thus allowing me to possibly switch courses further down the track into my first preference). But even if I don’t get into to any of these preferences and end up at a completely different University, then the hope would be that I would eventually be able to transfer anyways, thus ending up at the same place.

So, today, when I was standing looking at the Dandenong Ranges in the morning light, there in the forefront stood my Holy Grail 😀 It was a very inspiring vision and though I am not quite there yet (in fact not even at the beginning!), it filled me with excitement for my future and I felt happier and more content than I have in a very long while!!!

PS Next time, I am organising movers AND packers!! ;D

Fact No 6: Polar bears look white, but they actually have black skin!

Moving House!

16 Aug

This is a little off topic, but we’re moving house on Saturday. At age 30 this will be my 19th move which means, on average, that I have moved house every 1 1/2 years since I was born……crazy much?!

Originally we were going to move because of my hopeful return to university, as we currently live in a fairly expensive part of town, but we weren’t going to even consider it until we knew where I would be going, which probably won’t be until January. However we received our notice to vacate recently so the decision was made for us. To be honest, NB: Actually, just a side note here, I really dislike that expression, “To be honest….” because it kind of implies that most of the time you are less than 100% honest when you do not preface your sentences!!  So apologies for my use here ;D, I’ve loved the area where we’ve been living (the beach is just at the end of the road and we are pretty much right in the heart of the city). But our landlord is a difficult piece of work and I’ve never felt truly at home here primarily because when we picked up our keys a year ago from the agent and made our first trip to see it on our own, always a favourite time of mine, she was in the house painting!!! She lives by her own rules, she is a little (or a lot) mad, and I won’t miss that at all.

To a certain degree, I actually love moving house. (Which you can probably tell being that this is my 19th move!!) The excitement, the planning, the setting up and the design of your new home, and the fun of getting to know a new area. The bit I don’t like at all are the practicalities of moving. For example, sitting on hold for 20 mins waiting for your electricity company to tell you that even though you’ve been a customer for 4 years, there will still be a disconnection and reconnection fee :/ Anyways, at least we could split the calls between myself and Bob, meaning half as many people to get frustrated at 😀

The other part I hate, and why I am blogging right now (and so may I say is Bob, an even more recent convert to this blogging malarkey than me!), is that I HATE packing 😦 (Huzzah for procrastination) I don’t know why but the thought just makes me want to run away, shut my eyes pray for the packing fairy to magically appear and do it all for me. I know if we just get going it will all be over before we know it but oh the pain of getting going :O

As well as just the eternal dullness of pulling things off shelves, wrapping them up in old newspaper and making sure that you don’t overload the boxes, there’s just something a little soul destroying about slowly packing up your whole lives into a series of giant cardboard boxes. Something about seeing it packaged up like that maybe………I’m not sure, and I know, once I get going, I’ll get into the rhythm and it will all be done before I know it and then we’ll be at the new house unpacking, which is my favourite bit of moving, and starting a whole new chapter of our lives which is so exciting!

Anyways, I’ve successfully managed to put off the packing for another night, so it’s off to bed for me 😀

Fact 5: Killer whales are not whales at all, rather a species of dolphin!

Getting down and dirty :D

15 Aug

Mud, excrement, rain, kitchen prep, weeding……….none of those things sound particularly exciting or intriguing (well, not for most people :p) but these are all words that relate to my new extremely exciting adventures at a local wildlife sanctuary 😀

When looking for new ways to get some real life experience to help with my new chosen career, I did lots of research and found the courses I have previously written about but I was also exceptionally lucky to find myself having a conversation with an ex colleague of mine who, when I told her about my new plans, let me know that she was studying (also via distance learning) for a certificate in Captive Animals, part of which is 8 hours of volunteer work per week at a local animal shelter/sanctuary. She told me it had been very difficult to find such experience but that she had finally been successful at an out-of-town sanctuary where they don’t get many volunteers due to location. I asked if she could put in a good word for me, and lo and behold, it turned out that they were having a volunteer induction day on the 22nd July 😀

So, of course I registered and took a day off work ( I don’t think I mentioned before, but I am currently temping at the moment, recovering from my old job and filling in the time until I finally get to go back to university(hopefully!)) to attend.

This place is a dream for me, it’s set in the most beautiful location, they have over 350 animals on site (mostly Australian species such as dingoes, wallabies and koalas, just to name a few), and everyone there is wildlife/environment mad and so full of expertise and knowledge which I can just soak up like a sponge!
They have also breeding programs for all sorts of endangered species which I have a special interest in and of course, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.

You know when you ask yourself “why haven’t I been doing this all along??”Well, that was me!!

So now I go every second Saturday from 9-5, and get muddy & sweaty cleaning out enclosures, feeding and watering the animals, doing general maintenance and coming up with new ways to keep the animals active and enriched, I LOVE it 😀 There will also be opportunities to get involved with sexing and tagging new arrivals of which there are going to be many very soon as we are heading into spring and the capturing of any animals that may require medical attention (In fact, only last Saturday one of the male Potoroos had unfortunately scratched his eye and we spent about 1 ½ hours trying to catch him, but to no avail (the nifty bugger) so hopefully they had better luck yesterday 🙂

My best moment so far has been feeding the resident Barking Owl. The keeper let me know that she can sometimes fly to you for feeding if she feels like it, so I donned the falconry glove, took some meat and held me arm up high for her to see. And wouldn’t you know it, this beautiful bird decided that I looked ok and swooped down to land on my arm!! I have never been so in awe in all my life. This amazingly beautiful and powerful (you should have seen her talons!!) bird sat with me to enjoy her whole meal, those big bright eyes staring right into me. Most children’s animal stories feature a wise owl, and I can definitely see where the inspiration comes from 🙂 It was one of the best days of my whole life!

It’s really just such a great environment to be in, and not only do I feel like I’m taking a huge step forward and learning heaps, but I’m also doing a lot of good as the sanctuary is privately owned and receives no government funding, therefore they rely heavily on their volunteers.

Plus, it gave me a good excuse to buy that pair of gum boots (or wellies as I would call them) that I have hankered after forever (yes, I know I’m a little strange!). Bob took one look at them and said to me, with a slightly concerned expression,  “you’re not really planning to wear those ALL the time are you?” ;D

Fact 4: The Barking Owl is a nocturnal bird species native to mainland Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea. They are a medium-sized brown owl and have an extremely characteristic voice that sounds exactly like a barking dog noise! Here in Australia, Barking Owls are often said to be the source to the myths and legends surrounding the Bunyip.

And the long wait begins

10 Aug

Well, I’m now going crazy with the wait to find out whether I get a place at University or not………..but there are plenty of things to keep me occupied in the meantime 😀

Since deciding to change my direction completely and study Environmental Science, I thought I should start getting as much real-life experience as possible, as well as continuing with my online short course in vertebrate zoology. I have to acknowledge that it’s a truly competitive world out there, and if I want to be a success, I’m going to have to make sure that when I graduate (fingers crossed 🙂 ) I am armed with even more than a degree. I know this all may seem a little pre-emptive, considering I don’t even have a university place yet, but I figure any experience is good experience and if I don’t get the opportunity to start at the beginning of next year then it may help me get in mid-year or even when 2013 applications open.

So, even though it may not be about my study specifically I thought I’d spend a bit of time posting about the experiences I’ve had so far!

My first point of call was to visit the website of a local wildlife organisation of which I was already a member, to check out if they had any opportunities available. Turned out that they run various courses each month, mostly one day but sometimes two, at exceptionally reasonable prices (I’m talking round A$20!!) covering various themes and topics. I immediately signed up for one of their starter classes entitled “The Rescue & Transport of Injured Wildlife”. I couldn’t believe that such a valuable resource was available and made so easily accessible, why had I not done this before 😀 So I attended the course a couple of weekends ago. Bob actually came with me because he wanted to show his support in my new direction which I love him for, but I have to say, the look on his face when he found out (while taking our seats) that is was a day long course and not couple of hours as he’d assumed was priceless 😉

It was certainly a most informative day, though quite hard at times. In fact, I’ve seen enough images of injured and distressed animals to last me quite some time (and the things that people do to animals!!!!), but I think it was an extremely useful course to have attended, because while my end goal is not to run a wildlife shelter or similar, I will most certainly come across cases very like the ones discussed and I want to be fully prepared. Also, just from a basic wildlife handling perspective, I learned so much in just 8 hours. It’s always great to hear real-world advice from someone who has been in the field for so many years (I believe this particular wildlife instructor had been rescuing for 20 years!)

 It’s funny though, when you attend these things…there’s always one isn’t there? You know who I mean….The person who you want to turn to and ask why they even bothered coming because they apparently already seem to know everything!! 😡 (just in case this is not clear, I am trying for a frown here…in fact it actually looks like frog with a crazy hair-do 🙂 )

Well, we had one. Some individual in the back row, who not only could not keep quiet (consistent interruptions), but who kept trying to contradict the course facilitator with her own pearls of ‘wisdom’. Now I’m all for open discussion and lively debate, but this girl clearly felt that she was the only one in the room (and the only knowledgeable one at that including our instructor) and that she was there for a private one-on-one. In fact, the course ran over by almost an hour, pretty much solely because of this person. I just don’t understand why some people don’t ‘cotton on’ as the old expression goes, especially when the rest of the class is staring at you and clearly getting quite frustrated! The rest of us were there to actually listen and learn from someone who had knowledge based on a wealth of experience and tried & tested methods, not to prove a point!

 Later in the evening, Bob and I were discussing the individual and I came to the realisation that I’m probably going to have to get used to the ‘Hermiones’ of the classroom environment. It’s been so long since I last went to school and then University that I’d forgotten all about them!! But, also, at the same time, it got me thinking about how NOT to become one. As an extremely passionate individual with a little bit of life experience under her belt who wants to become a contributor during classes and tutorials this time around, how do I walk the line between fascinated and knowledgeable student and total know-it-all??

And, as always…any advice on this point would be welcome!

Anyways, that’s my food for thought today 😀

 Fact 3: The Japanese Macaque (Snow Monkey) is native to Japan and eats a large variety of foods, including plants, insects and fruits, so far so normal, however what is fascinating with these creatures is that they wash their food before eating it! Researchers discovered this when they left sweet potatoes on the beach for a group of these monkeys. One female took a potato and washed it off in the water before eating it, and the rest followed suit. The ocean water not only cleans the food, but the salt in it offers seasoning, too!!

For more information about the strange eating habits of animals go to: http://green.yahoo.com/blog/care2/285/10-animals-with-interesting-eating-habits.html

Making the Application :D

8 Aug

So, I have made the decision to return to study 😀

Since coming to this conclusion, I’ve been spending lots of time researching, finding out all my options, what courses are available and how to make my dream of studying again a reality.

I guess I should let you know at this point that I have only been in Melbourne for 8 years and I’m originally from Scotland, therefore all my previous study was done over there, and I have very little knowledge about how the Australian tertiary schooling system works. So, as you can imagine, that has my first point of call!

There are plenty of great universities here in my local Australian state of Victoria, so it was a case of finding out which ones had the best courses, most suited to what I want to do.  Here in Victoria, most applications for all tertiary courses need to be done through a central admission centre (VTAC) and they allow up to 12 applications per year. The way it works is that they go through your preferences directly with the universities on your behalf until one of them acccepted (hopefully!).

I have found 9 suitable under-graduate degrees (from various universities) ranging from Environmental Science (Wildlife & Conservation Biology) to straight Science. My last three preferences are TAFE (Technical and Further Education institutions) courses which are shorter courses that will provide an entry into further university study should I fail to get accepted into any of my 9 under-grad preferences this time around. I don’t like to think of not getting in this time around, not when I am so anxious to get going, but I believe I must cover all my bases, as I have defintely learned in the past few years that nothing should ever be taken for granted!

As I’m sure many of you are aware, it’s a little more complicated applying as a mature-aged student than applying as a school leaver. Here in Australia, school leavers receive one score when they graduate (the ATAR) which is their key to university study. For me, what counts is an undergraduate degree that I completed almost 10 years ago (in a completely different field) and to be honest, the first time round, I wasn’t the best of students, preferring the many Edinburgh student bars on offer as opposed to the to the student library! Luckily, as a mature-aged applicant, there were other options available to me in lieu of having the ATAR as well as having prior tertiary qualifications.

I could submit a personal information sheet, which is pretty much like a personal essay where you can state your reasons for returning to study, committment etc. This part was easy, as brimming over with excitement as I am at the moment. It also is a chance to talk about what you have done to show your passion for your chosen area of study but more on this later 😀

The other option is to sit the local STATs (Special Tertiary Admissions Tests), a series of tests designed to assess a range of competencies considered important for success in tertiary study, covering writing, numeracy and analytic skills. Luckily, when I had flirted with the idea of studying last year, I had actually sat these tests, and I have to say that I was pretty happy when I found out that my results are valid for use for up to 5 years after sitting, so no more scary entrance exams for me this year 😉

So, courses found and requirements discovered,  I then went to VTAC, and when all applications opened on the 1st August, I lodged all my 12 choices through their Special Entry Access Scheme (this scheme covers applying as a mature-aged student) 😀 😀 😀

I am SO excited, nervous, scared and a whole number of other adjectives but I have to now call in all my skills in the art of patience (of which I do not have many) as I am in for a long wait. Not including early admissions, the first round offers don’t come out until Jan 16th!!!

5 months feels like an age at this point, but I just have to buckle down and get on with it. And there are plenty of related things I can be doing with my time between now and then….but that’s for a different post ;D

Fact No 2: Echidnas and Platypus are the only living mammals that lay eggs instead of live young! (Both species found here in Australia.)

And just because……Echidna babies are called puggles!


For more information, please see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echidnas and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus

NB: I feel I must apologise for this detail laden post, but I felt that if anyone is reading who may be considering starting on the same journey, these descriptions could help in some small way!

Reaching a decision

4 Aug

Hello! Thanks for sticking with me on this journey 🙂

So, I was at the point where I was getting my happy ending……..well, unfortunately, things could not be further from the truth! For various reasons and out of loyalty to some in question, I will not go into detail here about taking on that prized job, but I can tell you this. After four months, I was becoming a shadow of my former self, thoroughly exhausted and battling real depression  😦 
 Now, I was a big believer in trying to stay in a new job for at least one year, to give yourself a chance to settle in and to have a true understanding of what your role is about. I was determined to stick it out. But when Bob and my immediate family told me that I must leave this job, I was shocked (my parents in particular always having been of the ‘give it a chance’ school of thought) but I knew that they were on the mark. It wasn’t right, and until the day I die, I am going to revise my ‘stay for a year’ theory to ‘if it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t’. Simple as that. So, I handed in my resignation, and had four weeks to come up with a new plan! At this stage, I knew what I had to do, I just had to figure out a way to make it happen. And I’m sure you all know which path I chose….. Yup, you got it, I was right all along with my thoughts of study 😀 During the ‘black period’ (as I will now refer to it) I was still getting intense fulfilment from my online course, and it was opening up all sorts of hunger for knowledge. It wasn’t enough, and when I was finally able to see clearly I saw that, hard as it may be, for me to be truly content in my life I would need to do this. And not further down the track, I would have to do it as soon as possible, otherwise I would be spending my whole time waiting for my life to really begin….. Even Bob said to me that he always knew this was the right decision but that I had to get there on my own in the end, otherwise I wouldn’t have complete conviction (and I’m going to need it!) which I love him for. Some have said to me that perhaps I should just try to get another job in the publishing industry, that not all jobs will be as bad as that one. However, as true a statement as this may be, I feel like I’ve been given a second (or if we’re really be picky, a third) chance to make the right decision.

And so, at 30, I have decided to go back to university full time (over-exaggeration alert 🙂 Part-time would have been financially easier but I would have been about 100 before I graduated…). This is not the easy choice, but it’s the right one. I have had so many discussions with my nearest and dearest. Obviously Bob and I have talked through the prospect at length, because although he felt it was the right decision for me it was going to affect him and our relationship in ways that we haven’t had to deal with before. My M and P were a little shocked at first, even though I’d been talking about it for so long, I don’t think that they ever thought I would actually do it. They had the obvious concerns, financial, babies, me choosing the difficult path when all they want it for me to have a good easy life. But once they really saw that although this is not the easy path, it’s the one that is going to make me happiest and fulfil me the most, they have been nothing but supportive, and I guess I would have been worried about them had they not at least brought up a few concerns 🙂 Friends pretty much fall into either one of two categories: “Why the hell would you go back to University????” and “I wish it were me”!!

 So, I have found my “purpose”, but the point is that although I have found it, that’s not the ending, that’s just the beginning. What I would like to do now is to document the process that I have to go through over the next few years on my road to making this big life change. We will go through the change together, and I hope to learn from those who are going through the same thing and perhaps inspire those who would like to go through it 🙂 Also, and this is just for fun, I am going to include one new fact I have learned since each new post….just because I can 😉

Fact No 1: One amphibian has evolved a bizarre and gruesome defence mechanism to protect itself against predators. When attacked, the Spanish ribbed newt pushes out its ribs until they pierce through its body, exposing a row of bones that act like poisonous barbs. Now we know where writer Len Wein and Marvel art director John Romita, Sr got their inspiration for Wolverine 😉

I read about this when studying reptiles for my Vertebrate Zoology course but here’s a linked article:

 http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_8212000/8212623.stm

How do you start a journey? By taking the first step…

4 Aug

Ok, so I know it’s been a while since my first (and last post)! Not to worry, that just means that I have a lot more to fill you in on in regards to my quest for finding my “purpose”. It’s been a very busy few (alright, so more than a few) months!

When I last left you, I was disenchanted with my current career, was working in sales, and looking to make a change, at the ripe old age of 30 🙂

And look for this change I did.

I spent a lot of time thinking about where my passions truly lay, and realised there were 3 main contenders: wildlife, musical theatre and books. Now, musical theatre is a big part of my life, I try to perform in an amateur production at least once a year, and love working with a number of different amateur theatre companies in Melbourne. However, would I want to do this as a career? Not so much. Amateur shows last for about 4 months, including rehearsals and performances. It’s exciting, challenging and very fulfilling, but there can be some down-sides. The hours are late, there is a LOT of bitchiness, and the thought of doing the same show night after night for years on end, just doesn’t appeal. Also, and I’m being completely honest here, whilst I’m not without a bit of talent, the competitive nature and just sheer amount of people out there who are just way more talented than me, would see me perhaps, if I was VERY lucky, land the occasional  chorus part. This all translates to a lifetime of serving tea and coffee waiting for the next opportunity….Not much of positive life change (for me at least!)

Then I came to Wildlife. And not just wildlife….under this heading also falls nature, environment sustainability and natural science. I am the eternal  tom-boy, and would prefer a life, dressed in overalls and gum boots, saving the planet, to anything else. So right there should have been my answer. Well, unfortunately it was not as straight forward as that. I did a LOT of research and what it all boiled down to was that if I wanted to forge a career of substance in this industry, I would definitely need to study as my original degree was an MA Hons in Philosophy (yes, get the laughs out 😉 ) and therefore of NO use to me in the field. *Actually probably a side note here should be that at 17, when I was asked to choose my preferences for university, I had no idea how important that decision was in determining my future. (I’m pretty sure most people are the same).* My reasons for choosing philosophy, while valid in some ways, were not grounded in real-life direction, and whilst I had the best four years living it up at University, my degree has only really been of use in getting interviews (ie that I have a degree from a great university) and in the most basic of job requirements (ie time-management, autonomy, etc).  Now, the idea of going back to study actually really appealed to me, as I believe this time around it would be a whole different story, and as a mature-aged student, I would get a lot more out of studying a second time around. The other extremely appealing thing about taking this new direction was that it would be fulfilling my other desire, which is to truly make a difference in the world, rather than just make it more money, which is what I feel, at heart, that I’ve been doing for the past few years. However, as always with any such decision, there were the cons to consider, the most obvious being the financial side. My partner (who, for the purposes of this blog, shall be named Bob 🙂 ) was actually just finishing up his own studies and about to forge his career path (yes, for anyone doing the maths, there is an age difference 😉 ), so money wasn’t hugely plentiful, though after having lived on one and a half salaries for 3 years, we thought we could probably do it. Bob was extremely supportive and understanding, he being one of the lucky few that has always know what it is he wanted to do *another side note, Bob’s motivation , and love for his chosen career path, was one of the key reasons for my career re-evaluation. That kind of passion is highly motivating, and wonderful to be around*
But still, I worried about taking the time to study (I would be looking at 3 years minimum if I wanted to do it thoroughly, and at this stage, I don’t want to do anything half-heartedly). At 30, having family becomes a consideration, and although we are no-where near ready for that part of our lives, as a woman, it does weigh on the mind.

So, after much thought, my mind turned to books. I love books!! I read about 5 a week, 2 at a time and love discussing them at any available opportunity. Now at this stage, I should mention that for quite a few years, I actually worked in the publishing industry, in the sales & marketing fields for one particular company. For the most part, I had actually really enjoyed my time working with that company and only left in the end because, as fun as publishing was, the money was not, and when a relationship of mine broke up I needed to earn quite a bit more money in order to manage financially and I wasn’t going to get it by staying in publishing. However, now in a stable relationship and looking to make a change, publishing didn’t seem like a bad option. I could find work (hopefully), become more fulfilled, and we could FINALLY be that glorious of things, the couple who have double income but no kids yet (DINKYS!!!).
So I decided, that all in all, the best choice would be to try and find a job back in the publishing world, but in the mean-time do some study from home, allowing me to fulfil some of my new-found passion for learning, and my love for all things wild, and then perhaps, a few years down the track, once we were in a more solid position with family etc, then I could return to University to study full-time.
So I jumped on SEEK, applied for the limited amount of publishing jobs available, noting that, in the past couple of years, there had been no great rise in salaries in this particular industry. * Note:  I should also mention here that my foray out of publishing had been in the FMCG industry, where money is readily available should you work in the sales side of things, which I did. Returning to publishing, I had no desire to continue in sales, therefore, I was looking more into marketing roles where I had less experience. This meant that I would have to come in a little further down the ladder. (I know this is not strictly true but my confidence was not at an all-time high at this point and so I was probably under-selling myself)*

At the same time, I started looking into Distance Learning and enrolled in a suitable course in Vertebrate Zoology which was extremely exciting and motivating for me.
I was extremely lucky and succeeded in securing a position with a leading publishing house after only a couple of months of job hunting. I couldn’t believe my luck! I was back in publishing, not working in sales, me and Bob were DINKYS  and I was studying another true passion. This was obviously the right choice and things were all going to work out perfectly…………………………………..

Now, obviously this is not the end of the story….but I’ve already posted a novel and don’t want to bore (if I haven’t already :D) so it’s bye from me for now!!

If you are even remotely interested, tune in for the next instalment of: ” Finding my purpose, one women’s struggle to matter” (Catchy don’t you think ;D)