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Overcoming distance

Graduate Sarah Ridley moved home to Broken Hill to take care of her sick grandmother, but that wasn't the end of her study journey.

Why did you decide to study online?

Before starting my online course, I was studying on campus at the Gold Coast. I had only completed one semester when I found out that my Nan, who I am very close with, was diagnosed with Small Cell Lung Cancer. 

My family and I decided to move back to Broken Hill to help look after her. I deferred my course, only to find out that I was unable to study via distance.  

Then I discovered that I could do a course completely online with Swinburne Online which meant I could stay with my Nan during her treatment. It was a perfect fit for me, and provided countless opportunities that were not offered in my previous course on campus. 

How did you find the experience of online study?

Studying online is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I found that I could connect more with the students and teachers, with small online class situations and one-on-one conversations with the eLAs. 

I have also met new friends from around Australia, each with their own stories and reasons for studying online. The students I had the pleasure of meeting were of all different ages and ethnicities, opening my eyes to a much larger world.

Would you encourage other regional Australians to consider online study? 

Definitely. The experience is unlike any other. It allows you to not only further your knowledge in your chosen field, but to gain confidence in yourself, knowing that with the right amount of motivation, you can achieve anything. 

Throughout my high schooling, it was always proposed that I move away for university, leaving the ones I loved behind. However, that life does not appeal to everyone. Rural communities are a great place to grow up and an even better place, in my opinion, to discover yourself and what you want to be in the future. Studying online does not hinder you by any means. I believe it prepares you extremely well for the future. 

What are you doing now that you have finished your degree?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Communication (Media Studies) in August. Around the same time, my Nan was cleared of Small Cell Lung Cancer, having both taken a three-year journey to get where we are today. 

I recently started my own business called Storyteller Creations. I create handcrafted gifts that are perfect for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, Christmas and baby showers. The great thing is that I can now implement the knowledge and skills I learned throughout my course directly to my own business.

What are your future goals? 

Since beginning my study journey, I have grown and found my feet in a big world that always had specific expectations. I didn’t listen to those expectations, and have instead created my own path towards a future I have always dreamed about. I am a self-published author of two novels, and have written another with the hopes of one day becoming a published author. I also hope to continue growing my gifts business.