Once Nina Bice stepped over that frightening threshold of day one at university, there was no looking back. Fast forward two years and she’s now halfway through a Bachelor of Human Services/Master of Social Work, with a fresh future in reach.
“I felt like a prep on my first day of uni,” Nina says. “It was the most daunting experience I’d had in my life. But I met like-minded people also doing Social Work and from that day I made instant friends. It just felt like I was meant to be there.”
As with many people who are motivated for a career helping others, Nina had survived major trauma in her own life, which propelled her into the field. Eight years ago, Nina’s 17-year-old daughter Tayla took her own life.
“Suicide was a very taboo subject back then,” she says. “The resources in regard to mental health were not easily accessible, even today, and still people don’t know how to ask for help. I hear so many stories about people trying to get help who haven’t. I want to be someone who makes that difference.
“I always had a passion – not necessarily for social work, because in all honesty I didn’t really understand what social work was – I just wanted to help people.”
Nina has had broad career experience, including working in sales and marketing and running her own cleaning business. She says deciding to change careers in her mid-40s was a big decision.
“I considered going to TAFE due to my age, because I didn’t necessarily want to study for four years before I could start a career, but I looked at what La Trobe offered and the double degree was definitely appealing,” she says.
“It was a really hard decision to make. I was so torn, because I’d be 50 when I graduated. But at the end of the day I thought, why not? That time will pass anyway.”
And according to Nina, it’s been time well spent in terms of personal development as well as working towards her goals.
“It’s been incredible,” she says. “What you gain as a person from what you’re learning is priceless. Every student in the Social Work course is there for a reason. Once you get to know people and they share their stories it makes you feel better about the bad things that happen in life, because you realise you can make it through. It’s changed me as a person and opened many doors.”
Nina says the qualification could lead to her working with people in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, the justice system, in family violence support or even crisis relief overseas. She says the opportunity to study overseas through La Trobe greatly interests her, with opportunities in places like Nepal and India.
In short, she says the challenges of essays, exams and assignments are well worth the rewards.
“If you’re thinking about going to uni, it clearly means you want to try,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to try. Do it. You have nothing to lose and nothing is unachievable. Even getting accepted into uni for me was amazing. I’m the only person in my family to do this. It was a massive opportunity and I feel blessed.”
HEADSPACE www.headspace.org.au Free and confidential online support from a qualified counsellor.
BEYONDBLUE www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support Information and referral for depression and anxiety. 1300 224 636