Mother of four Eslanda Koch has always loved learning but never had the opportunity to go to university when she was younger. Now in her 50s, Eslanda is enrolled in a Bachelor of Social Work at James Cook University (JCU) and says it has changed her life.
“When I left school I went straight into factory work. I wanted to learn and I wanted to go to university but I never had the opportunity to do it until now. I thought I’d never go to university but now I have, it has changed the course of my life.”
It was also the chance to be someone her children could look up to as an interesting person who is doing great things.
“I want to take hold of my life. I want to go overseas and I don’t want to live my life through my children. I want to be an inspiration to my family. At my age I could live without a degree for the rest of my life but I didn’t want to. I wanted to choose to live life and why shouldn’t we?”
As a former client of social work services, Eslanda appreciates JCU’s commitment to teaching practical solutions with staff who have been in the field.
“The Bachelor of Social Work encompasses all those real-life issues that people have to tackle. JCU doesn’t gloss over them and the teachers come from real-world experience, which is wonderful because they don’t just talk from textbooks. I haven’t got a lot of time for somebody who just talks numbers and statistics but the lecturers at JCU have actually been practitioners in the field which is just marvellous.”
Studying Social Work has also allowed Eslanda to find out new things about herself, her culture and change her perspective on the world.
“I come from a Torres Strait background, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait flavour throughout the course has been life changing for me because I experienced some of those issues, such as assimilation, when I was a child.
“I have also dealt with disability services as a client and now I can see it from the perspective of the practitioner. It makes me really appreciate their situation because I now know what it takes to go through a degree – I can see both sides of the coin.”
Despite entering tertiary education for the first time as a mature-age student, Eslanda found the supportive environment at JCU helped her on her journey.
“The transition has been excellent with JCU. They have tremendous facilities, the teachers have been wonderful and I’m also with AccessAbility, the support services for students with disabilities or illnesses.”
For others considering entering university for the first time as a mature-age student, Eslanda is full of encouragement.
“It’s a life changing decision. It’s something which enriches your life and changes your perspective – it’s an opportunity you can’t afford to miss. If you have the chance to do it, take it. You’re the only person who can limit you.”