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Interview with UNE student Helen Minhinick

Helen Minhinick is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Theatre and Performance at UNE, which she does so part-time and online whilst living in Melbourne.

Helen recently spoke with us (virtually) about her journey to University, and her experiences (as a well-versed Melburnian) on her life in lockdown and how she’s merged her roles as a student and mother into a ‘Jill’ of all trades!

For many, we hope a part of Helen’s experiences resonate with you, because although the student journey varies from person to person, there are valuable things we can learn from our cohort – one being the simple fact that whatever you’re going through – you aren’t alone!

We’re excited to learn a little about you – can you tell us a bit about yourself!

I live in Melbourne with my husband, two boys aged 11 and 9, and a dog named Dave. I enjoy outside activities like bushwalking and bike riding. We are currently in lockdown and not allowed to go further than 5kms from our home, so I enjoy walking our streets and taking photos with my phone of all the plant life around the area. I have photos of the same plants in all 4 seasons now as we have been in and out of lockdown for 18 months.

What led you to study later in life?

It’s always bothered me that I didn’t go to University and instead left school early for a sales career. It impacted my self-esteem issues during my twenties, especially when I began to seek promotions within my industry. I did courses along the way but couldn’t commit to a degree. In 2019, I met a University lecturer and as we grew to become friends, she suggested that I look at doing an arts degree. She had done courses through UNE before and said I should start by calling the Future Students team at AskUNE. I was blown away by the helpfulness and information from the enquiry team. As I sat with them on the phone and discussed the Pathways Program it gave me the confidence to think, ‘I could do this’. I am forever grateful to them for taking the time to discuss the options with me.

Have you been enjoying the student experience so far?

I really enjoy the lectures and the tutorials. The passion the lecturers have for the subjects they are discussing shines through each recording, and it gets me excited to learn more. I love the tutorials because I get to interact with other students and have my thoughts challenged or opened to new ideas about the text.

What are your aspirations post-graduation?

When I first started this process, I was just happy being accepted into the world of tertiary education. The more I read, analyse, and write the more I want to explore my post-graduation options. I would love to work in the direction or production of theatre. However, I also like the idea of being a high school drama teacher so that I can be as inspiring to students as all the lecturers have been to me.

What does a “regular” day look like for you?

Melbourne has been in and out of lockdown for 18 months, and it has been hard work. I have two boys’ home who are schooling and a husband that is busy working from home too. The family daily routine starts with a dog walk to our favourite café. When we get home, I make everyone breakfast and the kids organise themselves for home learning.

When the kids are settled, I do my housework, look at my own schooling and try to get some work done. It sounds good in theory, but the reality is that I often have my computer open to UNE Moodle whilst I am moving from one child to the next trying to make sure they are doing their work or understanding the work they have been assigned to do. The good news is that I can now do Year 4 and Year 6 maths. Haha! After school we try and get out for a bike ride or walk and do other after school activities online. We watch a movie nearly every night, starting early so we can still go to bed at a decent time. My husband and youngest son are avid movie fans. So, we have started with the Marvel movies in the timeline, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and now doing the X-Men series. With the added atmosphere of lockdown, I am finding the ‘fighting scenes’ a bit much so when they go to bed, I watch a couple of episodes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills just to calm the brain down.

What has been one of the biggest challenges to balancing your studies from home whilst caring for children? 

I have an ADHD / ASD child and keeping him focussed on his work has been my priority as he starts high school next year. The biggest challenge is carving out some time to make sure I get my work done whilst home-schooling two kids and the mental load of housework. I am tired by the end of the day and so studying at night is not an option for me. I have found carving out time to do my study on the weekend has helped greatly, as have accepting the fact that I can only do the best I can do now, and that it will get better.

What has worked for you in staying on top of your commitments during the pandemic?

The weekend has always been family time for us, but we are spending every day together now, so the weekends have become my study days. It’s been a tough time for everyone, and I think I have managed to survive. I did, however, manage to buy some wigs and come up with different ‘substitute teachers’ that come in once a week to teach the kids. These ‘teachers’ are now doing videos to help my friends in NSW cope with their lockdown.

Thank you Helen for sharing your student experience with us! It is no lie that times have been challenging, however your honesty and compassion toward yourself is admirable.

You are never alone at UNE. 

The team at Advocacy and Welfare are your independent Advocates, they’re always available to help you through any study or personal issues.