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Christina Simon juggles a two year old, a 10 month old and full time off campus study of a Deakin Commerce degree. The young mum wouldn't have it any other way but is happy to say that if it wasn't for a Deakin First in Family grant, she would not be fulfilling her study ambitions - at least not yet.
When illness forced her to take a break from work a few years ago, Christina's partner suggested she study. 'I was good at budgeting so I tried accounting and my passion was ignited - I loved it,' she says. 'I had no idea I would be so interested in it.' After completing a Diploma of Accounting through the University of Ballarat, Christina, who lives in Horsham, was determined to continue, even though she already had one child by then.
A friend who was studying at Deakin encouraged Christina to explore her options there and she soon discovered she could apply for some financial assistance. 'I realised I would need a computer and the internet to study off campus and I didn't have any of those things, plus I would need to buy text books,' she says. Just when she was considering postponing her study plans so she could save some more money, along came news of the grant. 'It made all the difference and put me at the point where I needed to be to start the course,' she says. 'I also received a bonus, so I now have the money I will need for books and payments set aside for next year.'
Studying off campus can leave you feeling very isolated at times, Christina says, but she has developed her own ways of combating the problem. 'I always watch the video of a lecture - I can't just listen,' she says. 'And I recommend getting involved as much as possible. I would go on CloudDeakin (Deakin's online learning system) once or twice a day, read the discussions and just see what everyone is doing.' Just because you are not on campus doesn't mean you can't feel involved, she adds. 'Go onto the Deakin students' website and see what people are doing. It makes you feel more connected to other students. Christina has even spoken online to other mums. 'It helps build a bridge with others. If you start to feel isolated it can get to you, then the studying goes out the window.'
Both her children will be school age by the time she completes her course, Christina says, then the sky is the limit. 'I would love to get into honours and I want to get CPA (Certified Practising Accountant) accreditation,' she says. 'Eventually I would like to go out on my own or become a partner in a firm. It would be the peak for me if I could one day work for the Reserve Bank of Australia - I want to dream big!'