Sarah Fallon will tell you it takes two-and-a-half years to change your life for good. No going back. Exactly that long ago, Sarah began a Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus. From the get go she was determined to pack in as much as she could, saying yes to every opportunity, and finishing six months ahead of the usual time it takes to complete the course.
“I always said I’d do that,” she says. “One of my friends said I was mad, that I didn’t need to do it and that I should take all the holidays off. But I was here for a purpose and it needed to be done with minimal interruption to my family life.”
Sarah has worked through each uni holiday for the past 18 months, taking back-to-back subjects to finish early. This month she completes her studies, majoring in strategic communication and sociology.
She says it’s been a crazy, fulfilling time, and she’s thankful she took the plunge into student life.
“I applied and was accepted to uni multiple times in the past, but I never went,” she says. “Life just got in the way, but it was always on my list of things to do.”
She says it took the death of a much-loved boss to know it was time for some big life changes.
The wife and mum had been a dental nurse for 15 years. “I fell into it really,” she says. “I found there was heaps to enjoy about it, but it wasn’t my dream job.
“I had a great mentor in my boss, who I’d worked for on and off for 10 years. He passed away and that was the catalyst. I knew it was the right time to move on.”
Sarah says juggling family life and study hasn’t been easy, but it’s had some unexpected positives.
“My son thinks going to uni is normal,” she says. “There have been many times when we’ve done our homework together. He thinks that’s just what people do – they learn their whole lives – but he is looking forward to having me back on the weekends, homework-free.”
Sarah credits friends and family for helping get her through the commitment. “I called in many favours and reciprocal childcare arrangements. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it took a village for me to finish my degree! I’ve got the help of a lot of people to thank,” she says.
Sarah feels now that she’s on the cusp of returning to the workforce, it will be all the extra efforts she’s made that will help her achieve her goals.
She has completed work placements with Central Goldfields Shire and the City of Greater Bendigo councils, plus been on the editorial team for UniNews, a two-page monthly showcase of campus stories in the Bendigo Advertiser.
This month she’ll help launch a new app she worked on with other students, called Social Media Fail, aimed at instilling a sense of social media etiquette in young job seekers. The future is looking bright because of it.
“I don’t want to pigeon hole myself into one thing, I want to be creative, and I want to write, but the course can lead to so many different things, that’s the beauty of it,” Sarah says.
For now though, it’s almost time for a little breather… and a celebratory glass-or-two of something special.
“In 2004, when I was a dental nurse, my dear boss bought me two beautiful bottles of Sandhurst Ridge Shiraz. The first one my husband and I drank when we got married. And the second one I’ve been holding onto. It’s waiting for me.”