In 2017, Jemina Shrestha embarked on a transformative journey from Nepal to Australia, seeking a Bachelor in Science with a major in Environmental Management. Little did she know, this would be the beginning of an unexpected and rewarding path towards the prestigious David Barr Valedictorian Award.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Jemina faced a critical decision: to pursue an environmental degree in another country or to stay in Australia and explore a new academic direction. Guided by her migration agent’s advice, she chose the latter and enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in Counselling at Excelsia College, at the time a bridging course towards the Master of Social Work (Qualifying). It was a turning point that resonated deeply with her long-standing interest in psychology. ‘I had always been interested in psychology but thought that it was not always practical and affordable for most people from lower socio-economic backgrounds,’ Jemina explains. In social work Jemina said she ‘saw the wonderful blend of psychology theories and a practical hands-on approach to supporting people in need. I knew that I had found my calling.’

Maintaining a balance between personal and academic responsibilities was a challenging task for Jemina. She candidly shares moments of feeling overwhelmed, where she had to remind herself of her goals and implement self-care strategies. ‘Using reflective practices was a godsend as I would do weekly and monthly self-reflection to see how I was faring in my personal and academic life,’ she says. Throughout her studies, Jemina leaned heavily on her support network, particularly her mother. ‘Whenever I doubted myself, she would always be there with a counterargument on why I was amazing and could do anything I set my mind to,’ Jemina recalls. Her father’s reminders to take care of herself, coupled with the love and encouragement from her extended family, friends, and partner, provided the foundation she needed to succeed.

Achieving the David Barr Valedictorian Award was not Jemina’s primary goal; her perfectionist tendencies and commitment to excellence in her studies drove her forward. For Jemina, the award is more than just a trophy; it symbolises the culmination of years of hard work and the unwavering support of her family. ‘It is a recognition of my hard work, not only my sweat and tears but also those of my parents and family members who have kept me going in all those moments of overwhelming anxiety and uncertainty,’ she reflects. Jemina’s advice to other students aspiring to win the David Barr Valedictorian Award is rooted in her mother’s wisdom: ‘Do your duty and don’t get too attached to the rewards. Whatever you receive as a result of your duty is simply an extra treat.’ Jemina explains, ‘Even though it is hard to always follow this sentiment, I tried to emulate it in my master’s degree. I was simply doing my duty, learning as much as I could from the lecturers, the books, readings, and assignments. I believe achieving the David Barr Valedictorian Award was the simple result of doing my duty.’

Studying at Excelsia College was a transformative experience for Jemina. The passion and dedication of her lecturers inspired her to become a deep critical thinker and to work harder. ‘Everyone I have met at Excelsia has always had a smile on their face and was always so ready to help,’ she fondly remembers. As for her future plans, Jemina prefers to keep them under wraps, focusing on the present and maintaining her drive. ‘If I tell you, my brain will probably get a premature dopamine spike, the same kind you get when you have achieved something. And as a result, my motivation to get the work done will be wiped away. So, I guess we will have to wait and see. All I can say is, I plan to do my duty.’

For more information about our Master of Social Work (Qualifying) course and how you can start your transformative journey like Jemina, visit Excelsia College here!