SATURDAY’S Newcastle Herald editorial on the University of Newcastle’s anniversary noted the diversity of students’ backgrounds and this is something Newcastle can be especially proud of.
I am in the last throes of my PhD at Newcastle after studying here, elsewhere in the country and for a small time in Europe. I am glad to be living and studying here, and am passionate about Newcastle.
The students I tutor for at the uni are always a great mix. From just out of high school, to the mature-age student returning to higher education, and the international students, there are many differences that make learning at Newcastle unique.
Unlike the established universities (such as the University of Sydney) and their exclusivity, it is fantastic that so many people in our classrooms are the first of their families to attend university.
They are proud of it, their parents and families are proud of it and the university is proud.
I have been to countless graduations over the past decade, and not a single one passes without some mention of this.
The opposite is, of course, true, too. My parents both studied the beginnings of degrees at Newcastle, and both eventually worked there.
They both have fantastic stories about the first few Autonomy Day celebrations, as well as student politics in the heated 1970s. I still have some of their political posters from then and marvel at the strong messages, in typical rash undergraduate style. One reads: ‘‘Make Sure [Malcolm] Fraser Loses, Resist Fascism”. It’s framed now as a historical piece.
Though times have changed, student unionism remains strong and still has a great presence on campus, and is a welcoming space for new undergraduates to get involved, meet people and get experience in politics.
Another of the unique things about our university is the commitment to Newcastle that is wanted from resident academics. Fly-in fly-out lecturers can be met with scepticism. We are a parochial and committed bunch.
The friends I went to uni with came from all sorts of places, and now in post-grad there are a lot more international friends, too.
The University of Newcastle is a great place to meet new people from all walks of life.
In my degree in communication my cohort came from Hunter High schools. Now as a post-grad I have colleagues from Kenya and Botswana, Iran and Malaysia.
Without fail, all comment on the flora. And the mosquitoes!
The campus is beautiful with its gum trees and wattle, and the native birds we see every day are as much part of the university as the students are.
It’s a unique and special place.
Bronwyn McDonald is a doctoral candidate in the Politics Discipline of the University of Newcastle