Julia Enter: "Just" an Arts student ... and loving it


Julia Enter

Studying Bachelor of Arts @ Melbourne University

From Stony Creek, South Gippsland but currently calls Melbourne home.

Fresh from a ‘gap year’, 19-year-old Julia Enter is preparing to begin her university studies with a very open mind.

She still doesn’t know what she wants to ‘be’ when she ‘grows up’.

She’s tossed back and forth about what to actually study.

And she’s hardly concerned by notions of ‘doing what's expected’, instead focusing on what really makes her happy.

 Indeed, when Julia finished her VCE with exceptional marks and a wave of great expectations, she was in the box seat to study Arts Law at the University of Melbourne (which is hardly something to be sneezed at).

But instead, she took her gap year and “experienced true freedom” for the first time in her life.

Julia worked for five months, saved her pennies, and then hit the road around Australia in an old van with a good mate.

What she unlocked on her journey was (as they say) the gift of time.

Time to truly weigh-up her future desires and whether or not she was prepared to undertake a five-year degree because it was the ‘smart’ or ‘eminent’ thing to do.

Sure enough, when she arrived home from her travels, Julia transferred to study “just Arts” because “just Arts” was her true preference, even if it lacked the perceived eminence of Arts Law …

Which is where we pick up our chat with Julia Enter from Stony Creek , our first Rural Inspire Mentor for 2019.

Okay. We know you were preparing to study Arts Law before you took a gap year, so I think we can safely assume you achieved an exemplary ATAR but, what does that mean to you? How do you feel about the weight placed upon ATAR scores?

It’s too much. I hate that we are basically told our ATAR will define us and that it’s hard to get a good start in life if our ATAR is bad. In reality, I think it’s very different to that. There are so many pathways to university and further studies these days, and there are so many different types of ‘intelligence’. We can’t all get the top score but that doesn’t necessarily reflect how smart we are.

Is this something you’d like to see changed within the education system?

Well, yes and no. You have to be reasonable – the ATAR system serves a valid purpose and it does it well. But I’d like to see greater support for those students who don’t achieve a high score and greater recognition that rote learning isn’t for everyone.
If I was going to ‘change’ anything it would be around curriculum and the introduction of more practical learning, like how to complete a tax return or your rights as an employee; how to manage money – real life skills.

For example, I know of a school on the Mornington Peninsula which is celebrated for finding the ‘gifts’ of each student, and the school really supports these interests to make them prosper and grow. In one instance, a student expressed a passion for photography, so the school lent him a DSLR camera to practice with on the weekends.  
I think, I guess, I would change the education system to ensure the high-achievers aren’t held back, but to also support each student in realising their own dream and to nurture the varied talents and interests of each individual. It’s a difficult task, no doubt, but a really important one, I think.

 As someone who has not long experienced the rigours of VCE, what would you say to current students going through the system?

I guess it would be something like what I’ve already touched-on, with particular reference to those students who are finding it tough. To them I would say that there are so many different types of ‘smart’, so just because you may struggle in school does not mean you’re not ‘smart’. It broke my heart in high school to see the amount of kids who didn’t succeed in the conventional school system and felt they had less worth than their more ‘successful’ peers; but these same people would be amazing at woodwork, beautiful with animals, clever at fixing things or really good at dealing with other people. Just because our school system does not reward these things, it doesn’t mean they aren’t important – in fact, I think they are valued much more once you leave school than what ‘score’ you got.

We’ve gone a bit backwards today – let’s rewind and talk about you and your education. But first of all, where did you grow up?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Stony Creek, South Gippsland. I love the area where our farm is; we’re surrounded by green, rolling hills and it’s a half-hour drive to the beach and about an hour drive to Wilson’s Promontory National Park. I was always a busy kid, there was one time in my childhood where I was involved in extracurricular activities every night of the week.

The football and netball clubs create a strong sense of community in our area. I played netball for a little while but was much more a part of the dancing community. I used to catch the bus to and from school every day; my siblings and I would stand at the end of our driveway at 8am every morning to be collected. It took about 40 minutes and I would spend that time hanging out with my best friend who got on at the stop after me.

Where did you go to school and how would you describe yourself as a student?

I was an engaged, interested and curious student. I think I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, so I was always at my teachers to keep me stimulated.

My schooling was quite varied. To start, I went to Saint Laurence O’Toole Primary School in Leongatha. It was a school of about 100 students, and I loved it because I knew almost everyone at the school, so there was a great sense of community.

I then attended Mary Mackillop Catholic Regional College in Leongatha from Year 7 to 9. At the start of Year 10 I travelled to Belgium on exchange for 6 months and then, upon returning to Australia, I boarded at Genazzano FCJ in Melbourne for the second half of Year 10. I then came back to Mary Mackillop College, to undertake my VCE – it’s a complicated schooling history, I know!
I guess I’d say I had a bit of a hard time in Year 9, which I now recognise is likely the case for many teenagers. For me, it was mostly self-inflicted because I had really itchy feet, shall we say, and I was in such a hurry to find independence, wanting to explore the world and move away from all that I knew about life in country Victoria.

So, when Year 10 rolled around I was determined for adventure. I had an amazing time learning French in Belgium and staying with a host family who owned a restaurant, which served gourmet French food. It was definitely a time of enormous ups and downs because I was 15 and staying with a family who couldn’t have been more different to my own family in Australia. But I look back with a lot of fondness at my time there and all of the beautiful people who helped make the experience what it was.

When I returned to Australia, I decided to try boarding school and it was truly amazing. I lived in the Genezzano boarding house with 40 other girls and it often felt like I was at a huge slumber party every night of the week! I used to get up at 6am and go swimming with the school swimming fitness team, three mornings per week, and I also got involved in heaps of United Nations Youth activities and humanitarian summits. The plan when I first enrolled at Genezzano was to stay for the rest of my schooling, of course, but by the end of the school year I decided to move back home for VCE, so I could be with my family for a final two years. I had also decided that the cost of boarding school wasn’t justifiable. I mean, there was definitely a difference in resourcing between my country school and boarding school, but I didn’t think that the difference was worth the crazy sum of money.

 Did any of your teachers inspire you?

My Year 12 Literature teacher was basically a real-life version of Mr Keating from Dead Poet’s Society. He had the perspective to teach us things that were far beyond the VCE syllabus and more about life itself. I think that was a really inspiring approach.

Was there ever an age when you “realised” what you “wanted to be” when you “grew up”?

I’d say I always  I felt like the work I would end up doing I either didn’t yet know about or it didn’t have a specific label like ‘doctor’ or ‘teacher’ or ‘nurse’. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to keep my prospects broad and learn more about myself, the world and the humanities before studying something more specific or starting a specific career. I still don’t know what I want to ‘be’ but I do know what I want to ‘do’ and that is to make a positive impact on the world.

Do you think your country upbringing was an advantage?

Absolutely. I am proud that I grew up in the country because I love living on a farm. I enjoy waking up to singing birds and having breakfast on our veranda, surrounded by greenery. Our garden is like an oasis. I also love farming; it’s active work in the great outdoors. Sometimes I don’t feel like I ‘fit in’ to certain country groups, but that’s life – there are places you feel at home and other places that don’t really resonate with you.