Adult study provides life changing career turn

15 December 2021

The opportunity to turn an interest in Spanish into a new career pathway has made a huge difference to the life of one University of Canterbury (UC) mature student.

  • Michelle Hay
SDG 4

Michelle Hay will graduate in absentia with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons), majoring in Spanish and minoring in Linguistics and English, and a Certificate of Arts in Māori and Indigenous Studies. She plans to embark on a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning in 2022.

Previously a hairdresser, Michelle started learning Spanish as a hobby in 2012 and became interested in teaching English as a second language while travelling overseas, however many of the places she visited required a degree to secure a work visa.

“I was really interested in working with languages and education but wasn’t sure how to change careers. Haunted by my high school experience of being unable to write an essay, I thought I wasn’t ‘smart’ enough to study at a tertiary level.

“When I bit the bullet and returned to Christchurch to attend UC, I was amazed at all of the support available, particularly through the Academic Skills Centre and Student Services, where I have found a real sense of community.”

The Student Services team made such a big impact, that Michelle became a mentor for mature students in her third year of study. She also became an executive member of the Adult Student Association, Vice-President of the UC Spanish Club, and a regular speaker at events such as UC Open Day, and Spanish Immersion Day.

In October, Michelle was awarded the international Golden Key Undergraduate Achievement Award based on her commitment to academia, leadership and service, and has also been awarded a UC Senior Scholarship. In 2022, she will also be employed as a UC UniLife Student Leader.

Michelle says choosing to study as a mature student has provided opportunities that have changed her life.

“Thanks to the support and encouragement of my classmates and teachers, particularly the UC Spanish Department, it’s given me the confidence to believe that I could teach Spanish, which has opened my life up to pathways that I didn’t even know exist.

“I was so fortunate to be involved in so many amazing groups and networks at UC, which has really helped to create opportunities and build a strong sense of community. While I am proud of how far I have come, this was not a solo effort – there is absolutely no way I could have achieved so much without the multiple teams of people standing beside me and believing in me.”

Media contact:

  • Email: media@canterbury.ac.nz Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168
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