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March 2012

One of the upsides of uni is that you know your syllabus schedule from the beginning; the due date of every assessment, how much they’re all worth, and exactly how long you have to stress about them. But that can also be a major downside.

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One of the best pieces of advice I've come across is always try for things. You never know what you can accomplish if you don't put your hat into the ring.

My name is Dominick, and I'm a PhD student in the School of Information Technologies. Seven months ago I submitted an application for a scholarship - almost on a whim. There wasn't much planning involved - my supervisor had suggested it as a good idea, and I thought, why not? The bulk of the application only took a week to write.

Fast forward. Just last week, I was named as one of 25 Fulbright Scholars from Australia for 2012. Fulbright is up there with Rhodes as one of the most prestigious international scholarship programs, awarding 6,000 scholarships a year for exchange to and from the United States. Thanks to the scholarship I'm about to embark on a new adventure to the University of California at Berkeley for eight months. I'll get to interact with some of the brightest and most motivated people in the world in the heartland of technology. I'll get to see and live in a new country, broadening my appreciation for the world and its diversity. It's a euphoric feeling.

Opportunities rarely fall into our laps (though it's certainly nice when they do). You have to work for them, and put your hand up. Write the applications, take advantage of the offers. Who knows - maybe you will be the next Fulbright Scholar.

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I graduated from Sydney Uni two years ago and it was all pretty standard. I posed for the cheesy purely-for-the-benefit-of-Facebook photos. I shook the hands of ridiculously overqualified academics. I walked out of the university grounds and bid farewell to student life, finally ready to take on the “real world”. And then, *poof*! Just like that, everything I’d ever learned, from my very first semester to that momentous occasion, evaporated from my brain.

Now normally, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Normally, you can get by with foggy recollections of your studies – even score a reasonable job with a respectable salary. For me, however, that’s not the case.

You see, I’ve returned to Uni this year to study Honours in Psychology (madness!). And not only do I have no recollection of what I learned in two units of statistics, but I can’t recall how to perform a single one of those important “uni student skills” that all uni students are supposed to have – like how to borrow textbooks from the library, and how to reference textbooks from the library, and how to read textbooks from the library, or whether people even use textbooks from the library anymore.

The only upside is that whatever I now lack in book smarts, I can more than make up for with my street smarts. All I have to do is figure out a way to incorporate my wealth of “real world” knowledge into uni life. So I’m wondering, would a thesis on the topic of “101 unique excuses to get out of work” count…?

Bring on semester 1!

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There is nothing worse than that rush through the tiny door into the Eastern Avenue Auditorium on the first day of semester. What seems like thousands of people aiming for the same seat, each saving an extra three for their late running friends. Why do they all sit on the ends of the rows, forcing us to play hopscotch to the seats in the centre of the theatre? They sit in their groups, but individually at the ready with paper pre-margined and dated already prepared to write the minutes of the lecture. It’s amazing how these people are so intimidating before you even know their names.

It’s the anxiety of knowing that this is university, every day for the next thirteen weeks. Just a battle to avoid sitting on the floor in a lecture theatre.

But what people forget is that students live up to their stereotypes. We sleep in, we are lazy and we don’t like things that are difficult. Anything that can be missed will be missed and so inevitably the number of people in the lecture will dramatically fall within the first week as we return to our natural nocturnal lifestyle entirely confined to our bedrooms. So, dear student, do not panic if you are compressed between an extra full pencil case and a pile of neatly ruled paper on Monday morning. You’ll probably get some room to put your feet up next week.

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