HELPING HAND: Sarah-Jane Coggan has received $5,000 scholarship from Rural Bank.
HELPING HAND: Sarah-Jane Coggan has received $5,000 scholarship from Rural Bank.

Scholarship to ease university pressure for local student

WALKING down the sandstone hallways, meeting a whole bunch of new people and learning from some of the best lecturers in the field, Sarah-Jane Coggan was enjoying the beginning of her university journey.

However, the Western Downs resident’s journey was uprooted when the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing all students to work from home.

She has been learning online from the family’s 55,000-acre farm which is situation 55 kilometres from Meandarra but hopes to return to Brisbane this year.

“It’s not the typical first-year experience,” she said.

“Studying online is very different.

“There are a lot more distractions at home, such as every morning we are going out and doing sheep work, I then remember I have to go back for a tutorial I have at 10am.

“I’m always hoping that the internet doesn’t drop out while I’m doing my classes, but the university has been good with extensions and are being very supportive to everyone with the current circumstances.”

Growing up with two other siblings, all three children went to boarding school in Toowoomba and university after that so weren’t home much.

Sarah said with everyone working at home it’s the longest the whole family have spent together since she went to boarding school.

“We joke that we have to re-establish our roles as a family because we’re not used to living with each other, but it is nice to be home altogether,” she said.

“My mum was excited to have three kids graduate and off to university, and now we’re all home again.”

Despite these challenges that everyone is facing, Sarah was fortunate enough to receive a Rural Bank scholarship that will ease the pressure throughout her university journey.

“Being one of three children and having the cost of all of us going to boarding school, and then the cost of university as well, is quite a large financial strain my parents took on,” she said.

“So, the scholarship will help with that.

“I will be forever grateful for the opportunities that I have been given.”

Sarah is undertaking a dual degree in Business Management and Communications with plans to boost the positive profile of the agricultural sector.

Growing up on a farm, she has always had an interest in agriculture and said it’s something you can only understand if you have grown up in it or are involved with it.

“It is so different from any other industry, it’s always changing, always adapting and there are so many exciting things that can come out of it,” she said.

“Such as the use of science and technology that can make things easier for farmers.

“I enjoy creative problem solving, so I always look at things from a different perspective, and I would love to be able to apply that to the agriculture industry.

“Whether that be through working at home and helping by finding new solutions, or shining a light on the positive things that come out of agriculture.

“There are always new things that will come about, so by the end of my four-year degree, the landscape of the agriculture industry could have changed quite a bit, but hopefully I can change the perception.”

This year’s recipients include 14 females and five males from regional and rural communities in Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria.

Many came from communities affected by drought and bushfire.

Rural Bank CEO Alexandra Gartmann said that supporting the next generation of leaders was an ongoing commitment.

“I look forward to seeing how they will invest their capabilities to grow our agricultural sector,” she said.

The scholarship contributes to the costs of accommodation, travel, course materials, study equipment and tutoring.

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