For JCU Dentistry student Kaylarni Close, being the first in her family to go to university has taken drive, determination and a willingness to get the job done.
The proud Aboriginal woman is already inspiring the next generation of students and is the first to admit the hard work has been worth it.
“Growing up, mum and dad kind of drilled into me that I would have to be the first one to go to uni. It’s been something that I always wanted to do,” she said.
“It was a very big achievement for me. All my family tells me how proud they are of me every day for being able to do this.”
Since being accepted into Dentistry, Kaylarni has raised the expectations of her three younger siblings and is working to help other Indigenous students.
As the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Representative with the Dentistry Students Association (JCUDSA), she’s been able to inspire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander High School students to follow their dreams of university education.
“There aren’t any differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students when you are at uni. Your background doesn't really mean anything as long as you put your head down and do the work, you can do as well as anyone else,” Kaylarni said.
Even with her strong determination, the Dental Surgery student admits that at times the course can be daunting, but she's developed strategies to help herself thrive.
“My biggest advice is just to do it in your own time, you don't need to rush into it straight away. If you need to wait for a year or two, or five, or ten. As long as you have that goal set, then you can do anything”.
Kaylarni took part in JCU’s Indigenous Health Careers Access Program (IHCAP), which provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with an alternate pathway into health degrees.
As part of the program the first year of a degree is spread over two years. This allows students to complete a combination of pre-requisite subjects and subjects from the first year of their chosen course, before moving on to second-year subjects.
“Initially I didn’t have all the prerequisites for Dentistry. Through the IHCAP program I was able to do those as bridging subjects so I could flow into the course for second year.”
She said one of the biggest challenges she’s faced as a student has been achieving a balance between study and life.
“One of my biggest achievements has been to achieve that balance by having a good circle of friends around me. Realising that you can step back and take each thing at the time makes my workload so much easier and lighter. It also helps with stress and mental health.”
She believes the support provided by the Indigenous Education and Research Centre at JCU has also been fundamental to her success.
“We have a couple of academic advisors and peer advisors who will be out there to have a chat. They'll ask how you are going with your work and make sure you’re ok. Everyone is really approachable, there’s no limit to who you can talk to.”
If a career with amazing skills and new experiences every day appeals to you, consider JCU Dentistry.