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Brittany Schultz performing

12 February 2024

‘An unexpected turn’: see how Brittany overcame serious hurdles to finish her degree

While university can be an exciting time, it’s not always smooth sailing. You might have started your course full of motivation and energy, but the day-to-day grind of study, assessment stress and juggling uni with other commitments can make graduation seem like a far-flung promise.

If you could use some inspiration to keep going as the end-of-unit assessment period rolls around again, read on to meet one of Deakin’s newest graduating students!

Brittany Schultz is all set to gown up and receive her Bachelor of Creative Arts (Dance) degree at Costa Hall on Wednesday 14 February. Here, Brittany shares the remarkable personal and study wisdom she has gleaned throughout her studies, which she had to navigate alongside serious health issues.

Make sure you also tune into Deakin’s social channels this week as we’ll be following Brittany while she celebrates this incredible achievement!

In 2019, when I was in Year 11, I started treatment for neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer that develops in nerve tissue. I was on chemotherapy and radiation therapy until January 2020.

2020 was a year faced with many challenges. Completing Year 12, COVID lockdowns and I was still recovering from all the side effects that treatment had given me. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue which made studying quite difficult. After I completed Year 12 and got my ATAR, I was contemplating whether or not to take a break from studying. I knew for myself that if I had taken a break that it would be nearly impossible for me to get back into studying. I chose to study dance because, having enjoyed studying VCE Dance in both Year 11 and 12, I wanted to study something I loved without the pressure of making it a lifelong career or the pressure of studying something purely academic considering how tough my VCE years were.

The freedom to pursue my passion without added stress was invaluable.

In 2021, I began studying a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Dance) here at Deakin. One month after I began my first year, my university journey took an unexpected turn when my cancer relapsed and I began a very invasive chemotherapy protocol. My dreams of receiving my degree seemed momentarily impossible.

One of the key elements that allowed me to keep studying while undergoing treatment was the support I received from the university community. By opening up to my tutor, unit chair and course director, I received unwavering support from the entire faculty. They were able to accommodate missed seminars with one-on-one catch-up sessions, be flexible with the assessment requirements and lenient with attendance requirements of my course. This allowed me to continue to study with my small cohort.

I dropped my load in Trimester 2 to two units, so that I was still able to study but also rest when I needed to. I spent some time in the intensive care unit, and the hospital was given permission to liaise with Deakin to keep them updated on what was happening with my treatment.

I utilised Deakin’s optional Trimester 3 to catch up on the two units that I didn’t complete in Trimester 2, so that I was able to catch up on the content and rejoin my cohort in second year.

Immersing myself in the world of dance throughout the course provided an invaluable opportunity for self-discovery. The freedom to explore my passion without external expectations proved to be a source of profound fulfilment. My academic journey allowed for a deep exploration of my identity as a dancer and choreographer, offering insights into the potential of dance becoming a part of my long-term professional trajectory.

In the final year of my studies, a compelling experience unfolded as I collaborated with a group of first-year dance students. Together, we undertook the learning and performance of a dance piece that I developed over both Trimester 1 and 2. This collaborative endeavour sparked a newfound passion for teaching dance and orchestrating choreographic tasks.

The realisation that education could be a fulfilling career path prompted my decision to pursue further studies in the field.

I am now preparing to embark on my postgraduate journey with a Master of Teaching (Primary and Secondary) at Deakin. I will be commencing next month in March, and will concurrently take on a part-time role as a Learning Support Officer in a newly developed primary school. I feel this this upcoming chapter symbolises a personal triumph and serves as a testament to the resilience needed to navigate life’s unexpected twists.

My advice to fellow students facing challenges? Gather the courage to communicate with your tutors or lecturers about the hurdles you encounter. While the prospect may seem intimidating, the support and accommodations you can receive could be pivotal in overcoming obstacles.

See Brittany’s graduation journey on Deakin Life Insta as she finally receives her degree. Congratulations, Brittany! 

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