It’s never too late to start a degree

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


Sara Sharpe overcame personal obstacles to study and hopes to inspire older students, particularly mothers, to achieve their own goals.

“My best friend’s husband went back to university as a mature-aged student and was studying teaching at ACU, and he said he was really enjoying it because the campus was friendly and the staff were supportive.

I grew up in western Sydney, and neither of my parents went to university. With an HSC mark of 96.5, I started an arts degree, studying history and philosophy at Sydney University.

When my father became terminally ill I left university to help support and care for him. My father died in 2007, while I was pregnant with my son, but he had always wanted me to get a university degree, so I felt I was honouring his memory by returning to study and I wanted to set a good example for my son.

My friend’s husband’s experience at ACU inspired me to go back.

I enrolled full-time in a Bachelor of Teaching (Secondary)/Bachelor of Arts (Humanities) at ACU’s Strathfield Campus when my son was four. Finding time to study when he was at pre-school was very difficult and I did think about leaving, but I really enjoyed talking with other students about literature and I loved the enthusiasm and passion of my literature professor, Michael Griffith. Switching to part-time helped to manage those priorities.

It was when I went to my first teaching prac at De La Salle College in Revesby that I really felt I was born to be a teacher. Then came the scholarship opportunity that opened even more doors.

The Department of Education offers scholarships to student teachers to work in an area of need. It did mean returning to full-time studies when I was awarded one, but I just love it. Every time I return from a day at the university I feel more alive. My mind is buzzing with ideas and my heart has been warmed through conversation with my friends.

Now I’m studying honours in literature.

I don’t think I would have been able to experience this success without the support and encouragement of ACU staff. So many lecturers and tutors are willing to give their time to discuss issues and offer guidance.

Even though it is difficult to be a student and a mother it is worth the struggle. I feel very proud that I have set a good example for my children. I hope that I have inspired them to dream of achieving more than past generations of my family could. I also hope that I can inspire mature-aged students, particularly mothers, not only to dream of a university degree, but also to actually go out and achieve it.”

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