I am a second-year Economics and Finance student. Before you ask, no, I don’t know what stocks you should buy, so please don’t ask. Though I may not know much about economics and finance, one thing I do know is that it is possible to develop financial autonomy while undertaking your university studies.
When I first arrived in Canberra with my mum and two brothers, I had $2000 dollars in my bank account. I remember having a fight with my mum on the evening she left because she wanted to have dinner with me for the last time – I wanted to hang out and make new college friends. Unfortunately, I was to learn that, given the financial strain that I was under, participating in certain aspects of college life would be a challenge. The wild Thursday nights out that my college peers experienced were non-existent for me. I remember grocery shopping used to be a game of cross-checking catalogues to find the cheapest possible items available. I remember my shoes falling apart in second semester and having to fix them with duct tape. I remember using body wash to wash everything. Honestly, it sucked. It was the need for a change to this situation that bulldozed a path through my mind and gave me the determination to better myself.
I bought a bicycle with some of the savings I had and tried to survive while I was looking for a job. I bought a few books with my remaining money. My list included: How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Great Gatsby, How to Think like a Freak, Buffetology, How to Deal with Difficult People, Grit and The Beautiful and Damned.
I know I’m starting to sound like the ‘knaawledge guy’ from YouTube but these books taught me a fresh approach to my studies and work. I learnt to judge people by what they could create in value rather than by their job title or how much money they made. I nurtured the curiosity of a child, I steered clear of yielding to herd mentalities, remained impartial to political issues and developed a method of coherent thinking. Most of the challenges I faced at university were solved with the aid of unconventional wisdom.
I am a firm believer in the American dream. When I came to Canberra all I had was the incorruptible aspiration of reaching new heights. I didn’t have money or contacts to fall back on, but I did not let that deter me; I work hard and believe in opportunity. I managed to secure three part-time jobs at three different restaurants. I achieved respectable grades in all of my courses and developed a strong GPA. I found supportive friends who shared my view of hard work and success. I admit that I did get help from my parents on occasion, but for the most part, I got myself through the year. When I was pressed for time, I created it; I remember studying for an econometrics exam while washing dishes as a kitchen hand. I got up early every day, I didn’t go out unnecessarily and I planned my activities days in advance. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here – I am no superhero. As much as I succeeded in some areas, I failed in others; I did not get the academic team scholarship at my college that I was hoping for and my application for a Vice Chancellor course was unsuccessful, ending my plans for setting up my own society. But ultimately, my successes and failures, the opportunities I seized and those that I let pass by, have all contributed to shaping who I am at the ANU today.
I am determined to work even harder this year to maintain my grades while excelling at my full-time job. I have become financially independent from my parents and I have everything that I currently want – great friends, a world-class education and steady employment. Reflecting on all that I managed to achieve in the space of year, after having come to Canberra with little money and no contacts, strengthens my belief that with grit, discipline and hard work comes the opportunity to better oneself.
So remember, whatever it is that you’re hoping to attain this year – whether it be achieving financial independence, improving your grades or branching out to new extra-curricular activities – the opportunities are right in front of you here at the ANU. The possibilities are truly endless – just have resolve and get ready for an unconventional year!