Students in Focus
Daisy McMillan and Emilia Ambrogio
2020 has been a year of trials, tribulations, small wins and big losses. However, for many students, it has been a year to knuckle down and take advantage of the relaxed pace. Victoria University (VU) Bachelor of Business students Daisy McMillan and Emilia Ambrogio discuss Emilia’s tertiary work placement at Footscray Community Arts, and their experiences of studying in Footscray.
Footscray Community Arts: What are you currently studying?
Emilia: I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Business, HR and Marketing. I chose VU because I heard that they were introducing block mode study, which involves studying one unit at a time in short four-week bursts. I read into it and thought that it could work well for me. I had always found traditional methods of study a little bit daunting and I work better under pressure, so block mode really drew me in. I have to say, it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.
Daisy: I agree. Even though with block mode you move very quickly, you are only focusing on one subject. I think if I was doing a normal 12-week traditional style of studying, I would find it challenging.
Footscray Community Arts: What’s your Footscray experience been like?
Emilia: I am from the far north of Melbourne. I had never been to Footscray before and had no idea what it was like. But my family did have a chicken shop at the Footscray Market. My Auntie would give us the annual Market calendar every year. I would flick through it and had no idea it was a real place, which was very naive of me.
When I started university in Footscray, I met one of my good friends who actually lives in the area. She took myself and another friend out one day and I remember seeing the market in the flesh for the first time and thought “oh my god its real!”. Experiencing one place with such a massive blend of cultures is so cool. Footscray has been such a fun and exciting place to study in – I’ve loved it.
Daisy: I am from the Mornington Peninsula, so can relate. I had been to other inner Melbourne suburbs and knew of Footscray, but had never been. It’s been a great experience studying here.
Footscray Community Arts: How did you first hear about FCAC?
Emilia: I hadn’t heard of FCAC until my placement coordinator sent me the opportunity. I wish I had known about it sooner, so I could’ve spent more of my time enjoying what the centre had to offer while I was studying. When you look at Footscray, it’s such an amazing vibrant place, and FCAC brings everything within and around it together. They showcase the west in such a wonderful way. I am so happy I know about FCAC now and have enjoyed my experience here.
Footscray Community Arts: Has working with FCA impacted on your future career direction?
Emilia: Working with FCA has definitely changed my mindset. I had this image in my head that I would graduate and then get into a job that was a bit boring. With FCA, I have been able to incorporate a lot of me into the work I have done for them. It’s really made me focus more on how I want to feel in my future workplace. I want look for a job where the workplace culture is a fit, and find ways to incorporate pieces of me into my work instead of just being a robot.
Daisy: Same! I thought I would just finish uni, get a job and sit behind a desk like everyone else. Then I realised there are so many different aspects and elements, and so much fun involved. You don’t always see that from studying alone.
Footscray Community Arts: Is working in the industry what you thought it would be?
Emilia: No, not at all. I am a lot more confused, I feel like such a rookie! But it has been a lot less daunting. FCAC have given me a really unique experience in the sense that they have made it feel like I’m joining a community, working amongst that community and becoming a part of it to help create or work on something bigger than us. It’s completely shifted my mindset.
Footscray Community Arts:What have you enjoyed most about your placement with FCA?
Emilia: What I have enjoyed the most is what I have learnt about my abilities that aren’t just ‘monkey see, monkey do’. It has really taught me how to come up with my own ideas and be creative. Also being able to focus on the consumer and target audience in real time to create a unique experience for them. I have enjoyed exploring my own creativity in business, which I didn’t think was possible this early on.
Daisy: Yes, it is definitely like that when you are doing all these assignments and theory work, and then you go into practical work, which involves a lot more intuition and personal insight than expected.
Footscray Community Arts: How has lockdown affected you?
Emilia: I am a very social person, I really thrive off social interactions. So for me personally, while it has been a great reflective year, I’ve missed out on so much and I also think students have missed out on a lot of valuable face to face education.
However, VU have been great during COVID. They have been quite diligent in making sure you don’t feel isolated and their communication has been really good. Most teachers I’ve had have put a lot of effort in on zoom, encouraging students to turn on cameras and participate in discussion etc.
With FCA, I really wish I was there in person to scope out the environment and gain all of those obvious face to face experiences, but they have given me the best exposure possible under these circumstances. FCA have involved me in all of their team meetings and many marketing projects, and I have really been able to see how as an organisation they have adapted to 2020.
Daisy: It’s been good doing presentations on zoom but being able to do it in person teaches you a lot more. Also at uni, you are around so many different types of people and learning from them as well. But as far as actual classes, I feel like the teachers have been awesome and I feel very supported.
Footscray Community Arts: What role do you think art and education plays in society?
Emilia: Working with FCA has really shown me how art is important in bringing people together and sparking conversations. For example, there is a Disability Pride Mural in Footscray. I used to drive past it every day and it would spark this internal discussion about the lack of disability representation. That scenario really proves how art can influence people and provoke thinking.
Education keeps us ticking and evolving. Without education, we wouldn’t have as much substance in our lives. My mum came from an immigrant family and, for a few reasons, her and some of her siblings couldn’t finish high school. After she got married, she went back and studied VCE English in night school and every time I speak to her about that, the way she depicts gaining that education is similar to a young person speaking about backpacking around Europe. For her, it was such an enlightening experience. Because education is so accessible, especially in Australia, we lose that understanding of its value.
After going back to university, I’ve realised how much I love learning and expanding my pool of knowledge. I think VU offering block mode study has really encouraged people, who normally wouldn’t go into further education, to take that leap and go for it.
Daisy: I agree, because we don’t have to pay for our education straight away, I think it can be taken for granted a little bit. I’ve also met people who left school early to just go and work and they haven’t studied since. They always say to me that they couldn’t do further study as it would be too hard.
Sometimes you don’t realise what it’s actually like, until you are learning and studying something you can relate to and really enjoy, how much it actually brings out in you.
Well thanks Emilia, it was lovely speaking with you!
Emilia: You too Daisy! All the best with your studies!