Financial hardship continues to be a barrier for many university students. As a recipient of the Curtin University Create Your Own Future Scholarship, Taylor Clark was able to complete her undergraduate studies and begin postgraduate studies with the aspiration of facilitating social change.
Attending high school was never easy for Taylor Clark, who worked five nights a week to support herself. Although she had a burning ambition to study, she knew that achieving the marks to get into university was only half the challenge.
“During high school, going to university wasn’t something spoken about at home due to financial pressures,” Taylor recalls. “I had a single parent father who was in the military for the majority of my life and so money was definitely something that we worried about. I felt that university was something that I couldn’t do and that was out of my reach.”
Taylor successfully applied for the Curtin University Create Your Own Future Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to students who have the potential to succeed in higher education but are restricted by financial difficulties.
“Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to study straight after high school. I would have had to work for a few years to provide enough money for basic living expenses before I could think about university,” Taylor says.
For many students like Taylor, attending university is a cause of great financial stress. Over 18 per cent of full-time Australian students regularly going without food or other necessities because they can’t afford them, according to a 2012 report on university student finances by Universities Australia.
Taylor was the first person in her family to attend university, choosing to study a Bachelor of Interior Architecture. The scholarship helped her purchase textbooks, a laptop and travel for research. “Interior architecture was at the time the perfect degree for me to study after high school. I had an eye for architecture: I enjoyed technical drawing and figuring out how things went together. I would also find myself hand-drawing designs to relax,” Taylor says.
With financial pressures abated, Taylor has been able to volunteer in Fiji, become a Student Ambassador, get involved in the John Curtin Leadership Academy and ultimately graduate from Curtin with a Bachelor of Interior Architecture (Honours) in 2015.
Taylor has since decided to enrol in a Master of Human Rights at Curtin, aspiring to one day help empower and facilitate social change in developing communities around the world.
“I spent my final year of honours researching how design can empower those living in undeveloped countries. I then decided in my final year that my passion didn’t lay in design itself, but rather the communities in which I was researching,” she says.
“I would never be content or happy working a traditional high paying job while knowing that there is a large percentage of people that will continue to face hardship due to their geographic location.
“I was given an incredible opportunity to attend university and gain a higher education. I somewhat feel that I was given that opportunity for a reason, and maybe it was to be different: to break the mould, to create change and to be the voice of those who don’t have one.”