The incentive to pursue my dreams

25 October 2012

When students experience university for themselves, their confidence as potential applicants massively increases, as does their drive to succeed in the HSC.

The Smith Family's Learning for Life program assists young people facing financial disadvantage across Australia through scholarships, mentoring, and skills development. The University of Sydney has been a proud partner of The Smith Family in NSW since 2004, and over two days in September the partnership's 'Exploring University' camp helped make university more real, and a real option, for 37 high school students from across NSW.

Students travelled to the Camperdown campus from Greater Western Sydney, the Illawarra and the Central Coast. Orientation to the University began with a formal welcome University of Sydney Student Union president Astha Rajvanshi, followed by fourth year student ambassador Dom Wilcox, whose imaginative 'cake' metaphor provided the first of many moments of connection between students and their new environment. Over the next 48 hours the students tasted the ingredients that make up a successful university experience cake: study, socializing, and sport!

They got a feel for the difference between high school and university classes first-hand in the morning and afternoon 'elective' sessions with University faculties, and enjoyed the interactive learning accessible through the University's technological resources (including the Business Information System's logistics simulator, and Sydney Nursing School's high fidelity manikins). That evening the students attended a performance of 'The Merger', a one-man show about life in multicultural Australia, at the Seymour Centre.

Day two of the camp took place in Rozelle at the Sydney College of the Arts, where new ingredients were added to the university experience cake with classes in sculpture, drawing, and animation.

Overall, ten faculties and societies from three campuses of the University contributed to the camp's activities calendar, and this variety of scholarly and social 'ingredients' was instrumental in helping students, as one put it, "understand the reality of university."

Participating faculty members were very generous with their time, expertise, and experience, and this, along with spending time with current students and faculty at the University, was a huge incentive for the high school students facing their HSC exams. "Meeting and having conversations with current students at Sydney has [given me] more confidence in applying for my course," said one. Another felt that the experience had "give[n] me incentive to pursue my dreams, goals and complete the HSC. It encourages me to strive to finish Year 12."

You can see our photographs of The Smith Family 'Exploring University' camp here. You can also watch a video of the camp here.