For Narromine local Chantelle Walsh, moving from home to university was not a matter of if, but when.
With a 2019 Higher School Certificate under her belt, Ms Walsh knew she wanted to further her passion of education, history and Indigenous Australian culture.
She secured a spot in Charles Sturt University’s Bachelor of Arts program and began to think of what her life will be like living off the Bathurst campus.
“But in early 2020, it all came crashing down,” Chantelle said. “The ongoing drought had a dire effect on my family’s stock farm. We couldn’t afford moving me to university and then, COVID hit.”
Not enough feed and dying cattle meant Chantelle’s father “was always exhausted”.
“The struggle and stress of the situation was mentally taxing for him,” Chantelle explained.
The 20-year-old was left with no choice but to remain on the family farm, transition to an online mode of study and take up a casual job as a labourer.
“At first I wasn’t worried about studying online because everyone was sent home during COVID. But after 18 months, I started to miss the connections I would’ve made on campus.”
A typical week for Chantelle included “working two to three days a week at Enza Zaden and the rest was dedicated to studying.
“But I think having me home was a blessing in disguise,” Chantelle added. “Not only was I helping my family out at home, pretty soon it started to rain again and everything turned green.”
A hallmark of her personality, Chantelle dedicated herself into the many leadership roles available at Charles Sturt University.
“At Narromine High School, I was in the SRC as well as a Senior Mentor with the Girls Academy. I nominated myself for the university’s Online SRC and now, 12 months on, I am the vice-president, publications and social media officer, and the clubs liaison officer.”
The Social Club, a fresh asset to the university, hosts multiple online games for members.
“We host regular game nights where online, internal and international students from Australia and across the world join for an hour of fun,” Chantelle said.
Chantelle’s lockdown pen pal initiative has also been a huge success for The Social Club, with over 50 students paired all around the world.
“I thank technology for the relationships I have still managed to make throughout both the drought and the pandemic.”
With hopes of becoming a qualified high school teacher, Chantelle is determined to give back to the rural community she holds dearly.
“Narromine is a small community,” Chantelle said. “I probably know most people I walk past in the street. But I think it will always feel like home – cosy and comfortable.”
Chantelle may be able to make the move to Charles Sturt’s Bathurst campus early next year.
“No doubt, working and studying at the same time is difficult. But due to my recent course results, I feel like things are finally looking up!”
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