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Country Universities Centre: Living Remotely

Country Universities Centre: Living Remotely


James Schumann is one of the students who uses the Country Universities Centre to complete his Bachelor of Education (K-12) here at Charles Sturt. Here, he talks about living remotely, and how the CUC has helped him continue his studies without the worries of remote work impacting his study.

Written by James Schumann

Hi, I’m James Schumann. I’m a fourth-year student studying the Bachelor of Education (K-12) at Charles Sturt University in Port Macquarie.

I enrolled in Charles Sturt after a year in the Australian Defence Force, wherein I developed a passion for teaching, instructing, and curriculum programming.

I have been a full-time student since 2020 and will be finishing up this coming September. In my spare time, I love playing rugby league, exercising, and walking my dog Sam.

I live here in beautiful Port Macquarie and have been working for the NDIS as a disability support worker since starting my degree, with clients up in the Kempsey area.

I remember one afternoon about 18 months ago, I was taking a client for a coffee at Kempsey Central, when I noticed the unveiling ceremony for a new facility.

The vibrant signage on the newly constructed building caught my eye. It read ‘Country Universities Centre: Bringing Degrees Closer.’ So, after I knocked off that afternoon, I swung by the centre for a little peek at what was on offer.

James completing his registration at the CUC, possibly the most significant turning point in his academic career.
James completing his registration at the CUC, possibly the most significant turning point in his academic career.

Studying with CUC

As soon as I set foot in the front door, I was blown away by the setup. Private study rooms, lecture theatres with big TV’s, meeting rooms, dual-screen computers with big desks, and a fully equipped kitchen caught my eye, as did the walls, filled with photos, promotional posters for social events or professional learning opportunities, and motivational affirmations.

The centre had air conditioning, free tea and coffee, free high-speed internet, and comfortable furniture. I knew straight away that this centre would be of great utility to me henceforth. I was greeted by the friendly staff, who asked me all about my teaching degree, and took an interest in my study habits.

They offered me a free registration with the centre and provided me with a 24/7 swipe access card. Little did I know at that point just how valuable that card would prove to be.

2023 marks James' final year of his undergraduate degree at Charles Sturt..

2023 marks James’ final year of his undergraduate degree at Charles Sturt.

The challenges of living remotely

I work in the Kempsey area at least 3-4 days per week, so I spend a lot of time in remote areas during daylight hours. One of the primary challenges that this lifestyle entails is the amount of time spent driving up and down the Pacific Highway. An hour to work, an hour back home.

Usually, I’ll just flick on a footy podcast or get the tunes pumping… unless of course I am on my way to a compulsory attendance lecture or heading home to work on an assessment task with an impending deadline.

If this is the case, the drive is not fun or relaxing. It is a long journey of unending anxiety with my eyes fixed firmly on the clock, trying to get back to Port Macquarie in time.

Prior to my discovery of CUC, this challenge of remote work was negatively impacting my academic performance, heightening my stress, adding to my workload, and putting me offside with lecturers and peers in classes that I was showing up late to.

My overall enjoyment for both work and university were slowly diminishing.

Officially registering with CUC

When I registered with CUC, I realised that I no longer needed to ever be driving down the highway worrying about time. I could simply roll into the CUC of an afternoon, set myself up in a private office or on a comfy couch, grab a coffee from the recreation room, and attend my lectures or complete my assignments virtually.

I could stay there as late as I needed to, and trust me, there can be some late nights – ask any university student. Sometimes late nights into early mornings if I get distracted browsing the socials.

The 24/7 access to the facility has been invaluable and has not only helped me balance out my work and study schedules but has formed a fantastic source of networking.

James Schumann.
James Schumann.

Building connections at CUC

CUC offers stacks of weekly social meet ups and programs to help country students who may not have the same opportunities to connect with their peers as students in more bustling areas do.

The common room is complete with beanbags and couches and has facilitated many great discussions for me. Just recently, I was speaking to a student completing a Master’s in Education, which spiked my interest.

I was able to ask a heap of questions and even check out some work samples which provided formative influence upon my academic and professional career.

There’s just a real community vibe about the place.

Always a student to connect with or seek help from.

James loves playing rugby league on the weekends. Exercise and social outlets are invaluable tools for students looking to maintain a work/life/study balance.
James loves playing rugby league on the weekends. Exercise and social outlets are invaluable tools for students looking to maintain a work/life/study balance.

Placements vs living remote

The CUC facilities also helped me get through my teaching placements. I didn’t have to pull any all-nighters planning lessons or getting resources together.

Instead, I was able to turn in for an early night and get up early and drive to CUC, wherein I could plan lessons, print, photocopy, and laminate.

Adequate preparation was at the push of a button away, and I’m sure that some of the students that I taught up there during placement would thank the CUC for having a bowl of fresh mints next to the printer. I rolled into work every day with powerful fresh breath.

Where will I end up?

So, what next?

Well, I have ambitions to move to England for 2024, where I will teach in schools during the week while playing a bit of footy and travelling on weekends and in the holidays.

After that, who knows?

Maybe I’ll come back here and find a job teaching. Maybe I’ll stay over there. Time will tell.

But one thing that is for certain is that CUC really helped me through the rough patches of this degree. If it weren’t for my discovery that afternoon, things could have turned out drastically differently.

I hope that this can be your moment of enlightenment!

Oh, and if you’re in the shared kitchen, don’t take all the free chocolate wafer biscuits. I love those things.

Day 1 of James' first prac back in 2021.

Day 1 of James’ first prac back in 2021.

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