Going back to school as a mum
My name is Kathleen Habana, and I graduated from Deakin University, Australia, with a Master of Public Health in December 2020. It has always been my dream to become a doctor and help other people. Aside from working in clinics as a General Practitioner (GP), I also taught medical students during their community rotations. This paved the way to my journey in pursuing a career as a Public Health Practitioner.
Going back to school as a mum
I felt both excitement and anxiety before starting my degree. I was returning to school after already completing six years of clinical practice. I also felt that balancing family life with my husband and son would be a challenge in a foreign country. But I was looking forward to starting this new chapter.
An important consideration for us was childcare. If you are bringing your family and young children with you, Deakin provides both staff and students on-campus childcare facilities. My tip is to arrange this early on because there are limited slots. Deakin staff were kind enough to assist me in exploring other options when the facilities were full.
Another tip is to take advantage of local parks – I used to work on my readings and assessments while my son played. I balanced this by using the study support services that Deakin offers. Assessments take time to put together, so it was important for me to stick to a schedule and plot all the assessment deadlines in my calendar.
An important consideration for us was childcare. If you are bringing your family and young children with you, Deakin provides both staff and students on-campus childcare facilities.
Challenging myself to write a thesis
Initially I was a bit hesitant to pursue a thesis but as I went through the course, I realised I wanted to accomplish a capstone project. I was glad that I made that decision because it was the highlight of my degree and I enjoyed working with my mentors who are experts in their respective fields.
My thesis explored the health co-benefits of Green Prescriptions. Green Prescriptions are written instructions from GPs, which involve performing physical activities in natural environments with the aim of improving overall health and wellbeing.
It was daunting at first, but with the supervision and encouragement from my mentors, I was able to successfully complete my thesis. Compared to my previous experiences with thesis writing, my experience with Deakin positively changed the way I viewed the process.
Even though we only met virtually, I felt fully supported throughout. My mentors met with me online weekly or fortnightly, depending where I was on my thesis. Aside from my mentors, I also had the support of the Language and Learning advisors who provided comments and guidance on how to improve my writing.
The Great Ocean Road with my family
Transitioning from on campus to online
I was lucky to experience Orientation Week pre-pandemic. It was exhilarating to be on campus again – meeting new people from diverse cultures, touring the campus, and enjoying all the freebies from the different booths.
During my second year, the COVID pandemic brought about the transition to online learning. It was a bit more challenging as I had to juggle my classes, my part-time job, and my son’s online sessions as well. Luckily, classes were also recorded, in case I missed parts of the sessions and I could catch up in my own time.
Studying during the pandemic was not as tough as I thought because Deakin has a great digital platform, which made online classes very interactive. The study support services, and the schedule templates were important in balancing study and home life.
Studying during the pandemic was not as tough as I thought because Deakin has a great digital platform, which made online classes very interactive.
Becoming a peer mentor
Another highlight of my Deakin experience was the peer mentor program. I had a group of mentees during my second year, who I met weekly through online platforms and group chats. I believe this experience gave me an opportunity to improve my leadership skills.
The peer mentor program was only for the first five weeks of the term but during our last session, my mentees mentioned that they were still struggling because of the transition to online learning. I wanted to keep supporting them, so I kept our chat group active. My mentees were very happy, and we even continued our weekly video calls until the end of the term.
My advice to mums who want to go back to school
It is not impossible to go back to school and fulfill your career goals even with little kids. My son was four when I started my degree and although it was challenging, time management and teamwork (with your partner or your parents or relatives) helps a lot. My husband and I arrived ahead for about two to three months before my in-laws brought my son here. I would advise other parents to arrange things before bringing your kids, since it helps you settle in quicker and prepare everything for your new life.
It is not impossible to go back to school and fulfill your career goals even with little kids.
Learn about studying postgraduate health at Deakin here.
Find out about Deakin’s on-campus childcare facilities here.
Read about our study support services here.
Learn more about Deakin’s Orientation Week activities here.
Learn about our online to on-campus pathway here.
Find out about Deakin’s peer mentor program here.