After over a decade spent studying, five years of which were spent at ANU, Jade Herron has emerged with a Master's of Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies. She can't help but wonder, “could I be the student who’s taken the longest to complete this degree?” If perseverance were an academic discipline, she'd surely be valedictorian. But the length of her journey doesn't bother her, in fact, she wears it as a badge of honour.
Jade carries the unique distinction of being the first university graduate in her family. An experience that was both as daunting as it was exciting.
“When you're the first in your family, you don't really know what to expect. There's a learning curve there, not just academically, but also in understanding the landscape of postgraduate studies – does earning a master's degree suddenly make you an expert in the field? How far do you have to go to feel confident in your space?” Jade remarks. Quickly finding, although you won’t come out a specialist it’s a great first step towards mastery.
“When I was approaching the halfway point of my master’s degree I felt a sense of inadequacy. I’ve come to learn you won’t feel like an expert because you’re simply not one, there’s still so much to learn. I don't think the university would have to twist my arm very hard to do a PhD... Then there’s this whole other world of post-doc studies. Although first I need some time off.” she adds.
Moving from Western Australia to Canberra, Jade landed a job in the Press Gallery at Parliament House in 2017 and began her master’s the following year. Later, she accepted a full-time position at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
“The best part about Canberra is that you are based in the political hub of the nation. That’s really helpful when studying because you're pulling in all the things that are happening around you. It also allowed me to pick courses that were the most relevant to the areas I was interested in,” she reflects.
Jade also had the opportunity to travel to Kuwait, a highlight of her academic journey that enriched her understanding of the region.
“Studying the Middle East and being in the Middle East are two completely different things. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see the political context of the Middle East taught in my degree in a real-world setting.”
Juggling a demanding job with university coursework while also contending with the isolation brought on by COVID lockdowns was challenging. However, Jade says it’s all taught her the value of persistence and patience, of taking small steps towards a grand goal.
“Balancing full time work and university is tough, and I had to accept it's okay to take my time and work through the degree at a slower pace. Little by little becomes a lot!”
Jade's ambitions are as inspirational as her journey so far. She plans to use her degree to facilitate her work as a humanitarian in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
“I hope to travel overseas with UNHCR to work as a humanitarian in the MENA region and continue working on my Arabic. I also want to do a PhD or a big research project on climate change and displacement. Who knows? It's exciting!”
With her resilience, passion, and dedication, there's no doubt that Jade Herron will make a significant impact in her chosen field.