Riley Upton’s path to becoming a La Trobe graduate has been both tragic and triumphant. His Bachelor of Arts degree has opened doors beyond what he imagined, while also helping to heal deep personal wounds.
Riley grew up in Wareek, just near Maryborough in Victoria’s alpine region. He moved to La Trobe’s Bendigo Campus when he was 18, ready to kick off his degree and make new friends. But, on his second day of orientation, he found out his father had passed away.
“University is a huge step for anyone, especially coming from a country town,” he says. “But add to that the challenge of having my father pass away, and it really put me on the back foot. I let my lecturers and tutors know what was happening and they were really supportive.”
Two weeks later, Riley returned to class. He threw himself into his studies, which were an outlet and positive distraction from his grief.
“On the one hand, I was going through a lot and felt myself wanting to close myself off from the world,” he says. “Yet on the other hand, through my course, my mind really started opening up. I wanted to give it my best shot, so I focused on my studies and it helped me get through a tough time in my life. I started learning how to think critically about the world around me and how to problem-solve. I discovered new ways to look at a whole host of issues. The skills I’ve learnt have been really valuable.”
Riley had the option to study 50 majors or minors as part of his Arts degree. He chose to pursue a double major specialising in English and History.
“Arts is a great foundation. You’ve got so many different subjects and areas of study that you can choose from. This degree caters to pretty much anything you want to do. I’d recommend following your interest areas like I did, and as long as you enjoy it, it’ll lead you down the right path.”
An Arts degree led to paid freelance work during his studies, as well as a full-time job upon graduation working in media at the Maryborough Advertiser. Riley uncovered the opportunity while chatting to an old school friend in his first year of University, who let him know the paper was experiencing a staffing shortage. Riley reached out to the Advertiser’s editor, who invited him in for an interview. He soon began producing freelance pieces for the paper’s advertising and features sections. The opportunities continued throughout his degree, allowing him to balance study and work.
“Just after I handed in my last assignment, I got a phone call from my boss and he offered me a full-time position at the Maryborough Advertiser. I took the job and I’m really enjoying it.
“I feel really fortunate to have studied a degree that opens so many different avenues, but at the same time doesn’t restrict me to one type of career. I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me next.”
La Trobe offers a range of flexible and fascinating degrees in arts, social sciences and communications. See where your passions could lead you.