ISABEL Enks will never forget how overwhelmed she felt during her first law lecture.
The-then 18 year old had moved more than four hours from the 50-person village of Ulamambri to begin a combined communication and law degree at the University of Newcastle – and she hadn’t done the required reading.
“I thought ‘This is not what I want to do and not what I want to study – I can’t do this for another five years’,” she said. “I went up to my lecturer and said ‘I don’t like law, I’m going to drop it’.
“She laughed and said that was the first time anyone had said that to her after the very first class’.”
Fast forward five years and Ms Enks said it was hard to overstate how much her lecturer, Sher Campbell, had contributed to her time at the university, which culminated in her graduation on Friday.
“From my very first day she’s kept in touch, encouraged me and been an incredible role model,” Ms Enks said. “If it was not for her I would not be graduating today.”
Ms Enks, now 23, grew up interested in media and current affairs and with a passion to share human interest stories. When she received a higher ATAR than expected, she realised she could gain entry to a combined degree, which would also allow her to study law to help disadvantaged people and animals.
She used her startling introduction to university life as impetus to volunteer as a rural, remote and regional mentor, which involved speaking to secondary students in Port Macquarie and Dungog about what to expect on campus and how best to prepare.
“My advice is to have a go, but also know that there is help around. If you’re struggling, talk to your teachers.”
It took more than two years, but Ms Enks also fell in love with law.
She is a volunteer with the Animal Justice Party and will do practical work with the Animal Defenders Office as part of her upcoming Diploma of Legal Practice. During her studies, Ms Enks also found time to work with the Headspace Youth National Reference group and develop her music career.
“It’s all a bit overwhelming and emotional,” Ms Enks said. “Two years ago I was really struggling and did not think I would finish at all. I’m very proud of myself and where I’ve come from.”