Setting Sail & Changing Course

AVCAT RSL Queensland Scholarship student Sarah was living right in the middle of her dream, but it wasn’t what she expected. Instead of wallowing Sarah got right down to working out a new direction.

SS 2

By Sarah Strong

I’ve dreamed of being on stage since I can remember. Growing up in Queensland, people would say that being a nurse, or a teacher, or even a dentist would pay much better. But luckily for me I had a family who believed in my passion and drive. My mum would always remind me, “Someone has to do it.”

I lived every moment of my school years in preparation for my tertiary studies. I researched the best arts school in Australia which, to my parent’s distress, was in Melbourne. I got a job where I was only allowed to clean the toilets and serve fries, so I could save every penny for a shoebox apartment. I did my Certificate III in Aged Care alongside my final year of studies, so I had a stable job lined up. I spent every spare lunch working on my studies.

Sarah at her graduation

By graduation, I had a high enough exit score to get into any degree I wanted, but I was chasing my dreams. For my first year out, I continued working three jobs, attending distant drama classes, going to university to continue developing my education and applying for the next round of interviews.

It was late in the year when the call came. I remember Mum and I weeping in the car. I was moving to Melbourne at the age of 18, to attend the Victorian College of the Arts to study Stage Management. It was all I had ever dreamed of.

Little did I know I would soon be facing the hardest years of my life. I was working on shows for 40-70 hours a week. As well as four jobs I struggled to hold down. I didn’t have time to see the shows I had dreamed of since I was a kid. I burned through my savings and rapidly losing my inner fire.

I didn’t know how to be broke in a city like Melbourne. I considered moving back home to Queensland. And I would have, if it wasn’t for the generosity of all those working at AVCAT. With the help of my RSL Queensland AVCAT Scholarship I was able to keep a roof over my head. With AVCAT’s support, I learned how to live with very little and how to budget to see a show every few months. My scholarship gave me the time to work (unpaid of course) on incredible shows that made my inner child scream and where I met people from all corners of the industry.

I graduated in 2018. I could finally hold my piece of paper. I had put so much of my life into this qualification but I finally realised that my passion wasn’t bringing me happiness anymore.

I found out the entertainment industry was a harsh one. After all the support of my family, all the generosity of AVCAT and RSL Queensland, I looked back at all of my education and thought about what I could do to get my life back on track. I worked a little with my degree, but it wasn’t right.

Sarah at her graduation

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I considered moving home again, and having an easier career, but my family still believed in me and AVCAT was kind enough to believe in me as well. I accepted my departure from my life-long dream and looked at something else that brought me joy. Writing. And, always striving for the best, Melbourne University had the exact course I needed, so my time here wasn’t done yet.

Beginning a Master of Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing was a big step. I hadn’t considered anything but the theatre in over ten years. My parents encouraged me, and AVCAT took a chance and continued to support me.. And for that, I am so appreciative. I still have to work really hard. I have multiple jobs and hobbies to keep me sane, and I must study even more, but I am closer to living my dream.

I hope for anyone reading this to follow what truly makes them happy, follow their dreams and encourage others to as well. Thank you, AVCAT, for helping me find mine.

Sarah was awarded the RSL Queensland AVCAT Scholarship in 2017.

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