When Crystal Cox answers the phone to the Bendigo Campus Blog, she has a rare day to herself. Lockdown has lifted, her eight-year-old son is back at school and her four and one-year-old are both at childcare.
She has an hour between classes to chat, and then it’s back to the books. “It’s a day where I’ll be able to concentrate, which is so nice,” she says.
“It’s been very stressful, I’m not going to lie. I felt like we were just getting into a routine and then lockdown hit just as uni came back for second semester. It’s been stressful.”
Crystal credits her partner and family for helping her through. That, coupled with her remarkable dedication, and now, a university bursary, is seeing her thrive.
Crystal says despite Covid-19 interruptions, starting a Bachelor of Nursing/Bachelor of Midwifery this year was the best decision she could have made. “I’m on a high,” she says. “I’m learning so much and I’m so glad I’m doing it.”
Working with babies and mums has been a life-long goal for the already practicing nurse, but with her own three children to raise, it’s been a series of remarkable leaps and bounds to get there.
When Crystal finished secondary college nine years ago, she was pregnant with her first baby. She finished VCE to be a mum and work part time at Coles before studying the Diploma of Nursing at Bendigo TAFE from 2016 to 2017.
“The TAFE course just seemed more manageable for me at the time,” she says, and it led to a nursing position at the Bendigo Hospital, where she currently works in the orthopaedic and amputee rehabilitation ward.
While on maternity leave with her third baby last year, Crystal decided it was time to pursue further studies.
“I’d been watching this course for a while,” she says of the double degree at La Trobe. “In the end I just thought, I need to do it, I’ve always wanted to do it, so I applied, with an hour to go before the applications closed.
“I called La Trobe and was walked through the application process at the last minute, not expecting to get in at all. But I got a first round offer, which was a big surprise.”
Crystal says one of the things she loved about the course was the requirement to follow ten women throughout their pregnancy. Six months in, she’s been present at two births, one in May and the other in July.
“The first birth was my first experience of being on the other side and it was amazing,” she says. “People always say it’s amazing. You see it on TV or social media but you don’t know what it’s like until you’re there physically.
“The second one wasn’t as planned for the mum in the sense that she wanted no interventions and she ended up having a few interventions before having a Caesarean. So I ended up in theatre, supporting her and her partner. It was a big thing for them. I got a lot of learning out of that.”
Another highlight for Crystal this year was being awarded a Davey Family Bursary as part of the campus’ annual awards and prizes allocation.
She says she hadn’t considered looking at scholarships, until her mum encouraged her to do so. She searched the La Trobe scholarships webpages and found her 3556 postcode qualified her for a Davey Family Bursary, which supports students in Bendigo’s north western suburbs.
“I just told my story, and how the bursary would help me buy uniforms and books and help with costs throughout placement when I’m not working,” she says. “When I got the call to say I was successful I was so excited. Over the moon. It’s such a relief because you do struggle financially when you’re studying, especially with three kids.”
The funds will support Crystal to achieve a goal that will ultimately help many families in Bendigo.
“I’m passionate about advocating for women and letting them know what their options are in labour,” she says. “And having my own three kids has really put a fire in my belly.
“It will be such a life accomplishment. I get emotional just thinking about it,” Crystal says on the prospect of graduating.
“When you have kids so young everyone assumes you haven’t accomplished anything. I’m so proud of myself already, and this is another of my life’s goals. I’m so proud that I’m doing this and everyone around me is proud and that pushes me even more to keep going.
“The other thing is, my kids watch me, and they’re learning that things don’t always come easy, you’ve got to work hard for them… I can’t wait.”
The Davey Family Bursary was made possible through the work of the Bendigo Tertiary Education Anniversary Foundation.