When Georgia Fletcher first began her studies at the Australian National University (ANU) at the age of 19, things didn’t fall into place.
“I found that I wasn't in a good headspace,” Georgia says. “I felt that I wasn't well suited to the program I had chosen, I struggled to connect my coursework with what I wanted to do with my life, and couldn't picture a career for myself.”
She had moved to Canberra from Cooma, where she grew up on her family’s nearby farm. In her second year, she made the difficult decision to stop studying and join the workforce.
After several years, at 25, she tried again. She re-enrolled at ANU, in a Bachelor of Arts majoring in anthropology and minoring in history. This was a perfect fit for Georgia, who loves being a generalist.
“When I was looking at all different possible majors, anthropology covered as many bases as possible for me. It has incredibly broad applications.”
She adds: “In my mind, it was the broadest category of a broad degree.”
In the weeks leading up to her first class, Georgia was very nervous. She worried that it wouldn’t go well or that it wouldn’t hold her interest. She turned up tired, having been to Sydney the night before for a concert, and her fatigue bred a sort of calm. Then as soon as class started, her concerns were dispelled.
“It was actually fantastic,” Georgia recalls. “The teacher was really engaging and I just sort of settled in. I knew it was going to be okay.”
That course, Introduction to Anthropology, resulted in Georgia’s first HD. She cried when she learned about her grade: “I had been so worried about doing well,” Georgia says.
It would turn out to be the first of many, earning her a HD average. Adding to her achievements, Georgia also landed a scholarship through the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University to study in Jerusalem. There, she completed two intensive courses: one on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the other on conflict resolution – focusing again on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Reflecting on that “incredible” experience, Georgia believes it was one that wouldn’t have happened when she was younger, during her first go at university.
“I think I would have found the idea of traveling somewhere alone too daunting,” she says. “But also, my connection to my studies, to my courses, was nowhere near as strong as at this point, so I don't think I would have been able to muster up the motivation to even seek out this kind of opportunity.”
This time, her mindset was very different. “It was very much, ‘you miss all the shots you don't take’. It's totally worth the work to even try and get this.”
Georgia is now a researcher at the Australian Parliament House (APH) and attributes her studies at ANU to helping her get to where she is today. She started out in administrative roles at APH then wanted to become a researcher, but knew that wouldn’t be possible without a degree.
“The fact that I was studying contributed to my job opportunities because by a certain point I would have the degree,” she explains.
It wasn’t about having just any degree though. Her choice of what she studied was also important. Georgia cites the research and writing skills the Bachelor of Arts gave her, and the unique nature of anthropology and history as having been valuable professionally.
“History I found very rigorous in terms of technical analysis. And anthropology was different again because it's more abstract,” she says. “You have to sort of digest the ideas. So I found the combination of those really useful.”
The intervening years has seen Georgia become more confident – not only in travelling overseas on her own, but also in being less afraid to ask for help. Whether it was applying for study leave at her workplace, letting a teacher know that she was studying part-time and would be juggling her work commitments, or seeking a second pair of eyes on an assignment.
“When I first went to uni, I genuinely thought that unless I was able to do everything on my own then it didn't count as my achievement. But now I'm the polar opposite,” she says. “I think there's always, always help around – you just need to ask. And there's no way I could have done this without support.”
“I am so proud of myself, and grateful that I was able to study a flexible degree. I could build my career while getting an education and developing my research skills. I'm really excited to see what the future brings.”
Written by Evana Ho