Johanna shares her transition from school to university

Back to blog7 months ago by Renee
Will overwrite featured video.
Johanna Garvin in her wheelchair at her university campus
Will overwrite featured image.

Making the jump from high school to university can be a challenging, scary and exciting time. Our guest Johanna Garvin shares her experience and advice as many students take their final high school exams and look towards the future. 

Hi my name is Johanna. I am 25.  I have Cerebral Palsy. I use a wheelchair for mobility. This year, after five exciting years at uni, I graduated with a Bachelor of Communications and Media, with a major in Film and Social Justice, from the University of Notre Dame, Sydney.

If someone had told me seven years ago that I would get the opportunity to go to uni, let alone graduate, I would not have believed them. I wasn’t very academic at school. To be completely honest, I found learning quite hard. 

Year 10 was quite a challenging time for me because I was heading towards the “dreaded” Higher School Certificate (HSC). A few of my teachers believed that I would find it too hard to do the HSC and that I should leave school. At the time my mum was a single parent. My dad had died when I was thirteen from a rare type of cancer. So Mum stood our ground and said I would. I am incredibly grateful that she did. I still remember when she said “No, Johanna will do Pathways and finish her HSC”.

For those who don’t know, Pathways is where you can do the HSC over three to five years. I completed my second year of the HSC at TAFE.

It was around this time that things started to change for me. I had finally found a nice group of friends, started to feel better about myself and what I could do.  I started becoming more confident in myself. I am incredibly lucky that both my parents have always had high expectations of me and had always wanted, and believed, that I could go to university.

Doing the HSC over two years really helped me transition to uni. I really learnt to become more independent. During that year at TAFE, I was introduced to the wonderful world of taxis. I started to catch a taxi from home to TAFE, which was a huge achievement for me. I also got used to no one chasing me up asking whether I had finished an assignment. I had become more accountable to myself.

And it was during this time that I started to think about what I wanted to do after I finished school. In that second year of the Pathways to HSC I learnt, and is one of my big tips, that research is important and finding out more about the uni or any courses that might be of interest to you. I went to as many uni open days as I could, which helped a lot.

 A friend of mine had attended Notre Dame.  Listening to what a positive experience he had, I thought to myself ‘I would really like to go there’. What reinforced this choice even more for me was that the Communications and Media course at Notre Dame offered an internship in the final year of study. I went to the open day and I loved the atmosphere. I loved how it was small and of course accessible. While I was there I meet the Disability and Academic Support Officer. She said to me that if I applied and was successful, that I should give her a call at the beginning of the year to organise a site audit.  Doing this was useful because I found out where all the accessible toilets were and where all the wheelchair access.

It is easy to look back and see what I should have done. There is a lot of anxiety around leaving the safe structure of school and launching myself into the big wide world. All I can say is that knowledge is power. Do your research. Follow your passion and know who you can trust. And importantly, have a good network around you.

Written by guest blogger Johanna Garvin.

Johanna is a writer, film maker and this year climbed Mt Kosciusko with her support team at Krazy Kosci Klimb. She is currently chasing her dreams.