A privileged quest

kerri-picI put a lot into my undergraduate degree. Mature-age students do that. It’s as if we have something to prove — to top the class, to get better results than school leavers. But it really was more like this. I was the first in my family to earn a degree and I felt very fortunate indeed. I conveniently ignored the fact that I would be starting my tertiary journey the year HECS was introduced — an ever-increasing cost that will probably follow me to the grave. But how can you put a price on education? I was fascinated, I was dedicated, and I lapped it up.

Raising children and living in a third world country put a hold on my career for a number of years. I thought about up-skilling before returning to the workforce. But I still felt that I had put so much effort into my Bachelor of Arts degree that I could not possibly go back to study. Was I too old (at 50) to contemplate such a thing? Would my now teenage children need me to be home for them every night of the week? And yet, this is what happened one fateful day, when I took my son to UQ for a research study. And it changed everything.

It’s funny how these things come about. One day I was happily writing short stories, and dragging my feet against the financial imperative to return to work as a journalist, the next I was enrolling in the Master of Arts’ Writing, Editing and Publishing program. It hit me like a bolt from the blue. I will never forget walking into the Great Court in search of coffee, when I made the decision to come back. I felt comfortable, I felt ‘at home’, and I was ready to start learning again.

I met with program coordinator, Professor Ros Petelin, and it was immediately clear to me that I had found my tribe. I had found a group of people who were as passionate about grammar as I was. Imagine my joy!

Now here I am, back at work full-time sub-editing and being the grammar ‘go to’ person at ABC online, the children have grown up and I only have one left at high school. I meet my daughter at Darwin’s for coffee once a week, as she finishes a tutorial and I head into a lecture.

There’s not a semester that goes by that I don’t think how fortunate I am to live a couple of suburbs away from The University of Queensland — to witness the diversity of fellow students, to smell the books in the Social Sciences and Humanities Library, to walk under a shower of jacaranda blossoms each October knowing that I’ve squared away another year of part-time study. I am now three subjects short of achieving that Masters, and I’m already wondering what might be next. But most of all, I am humbled to show my children that learning is not just about the school years. It’s a quest for life.

Kerri Kapernick, Brisbane.
Bachelor of Arts (Curtin University) 1992, Master of Arts (University of Queensland) 2017.