Jack Parwata dreams of a career in diplomacy, and if his time at La Trobe University is anything to go by, he has what it takes.
The second-year International Relations student has wholeheartedly embraced student life at La Trobe, juggling his studies with his responsibilities as a Residential Assistant (RA) at Menzies College.
As an RA, Jack provides both emotional and academic support to his fellow residents. He acts as an academic mentor for those studying politics, philosophy, economics and international relations – meeting with students to discuss class topics and upcoming essays, as well as organising pizza nights and comedy shows to relieve communal stresses during exam periods. He is also a support network for the residents in his building – the go-to guy when they’re having personal problems, missing home or just need someone to talk to.
“I think of it as a job so I take it seriously,” Jack says. “But it’s not like a conventional job when you’re working 9-5. You’re on from the day you move in to the day you move out. It’s vital for the residents, especially for the first-years who might need support and a helping hand,” he says.
“One of the reasons I went for leadership was because I had awesome people in my first year and I really wanted to help the future generations of college students have an amazing introduction to university like I did.”
While Jack credits his time living on campus as fundamental to his university experience, there was a time in his first year at La Trobe when he wasn’t sure he would be able to stay. After finding himself in financial hardship, while living four hours away from his rural home and his government Youth Allowance application yet to be approved, he didn’t know where to go for help.
“I had taken a gap year and tried to earn as much money as I could before I came to La Trobe but it just wasn't enough to sustain my residency at that time. I have two younger siblings that my parents are trying to support as well, so it's very hard, especially if you live in the country and have siblings, to be asking your parents to provide,” Jack said.
“Ultimately it was between continuing my degree or having to stop and find money quickly.”
After a helpful recommendation from his RA, Jack applied for a bursary through the University’s Residential Emergency Accommodation Fund. The fund has assisted more than 160 students over the past eight years with one-off payments that act as a hand-up when students need it most.
“It’s a safety net,” explains Jack. “That payment was automatically allocated towards my rent for that month when I was struggling, and I was then able to get back on my feet,” he says.
Now Jack is keen to make sure other students have the same opportunities that he did.
“Money’s one of those conversations where it’s hard to admit you’re in trouble. But some students just need a helping hand at one point in their studies. I tell them that the University wants them to be here as much as they want to be here,” he says.
As Jack eyes off further studies in cybersecurity, a possible move to Canberra and a career as a policy writer or diplomat, he’s thankful for what college life has taught him.
“It’s such a huge stepping stone from high school to university and living on college has allowed me to meet so many great people who become your support network,” he says.
“It’s not just a place to live, it’s your home.”