University of South Australia scholar Foster Cunningham shared how his GAF scholarship is supporting his studies.
How did you feel when you were awarded a George Alexander Foundation scholarship?
The confidence and backing of The George Alexander Foundation ignited an increased sense of purpose and resolution in my academic endeavour. GAF has given social and psychological support as well as economic. It really surprised me how much I would feel and benefit from this.
What will a George Alexander Foundation scholarship make possible during your time at university?
GAF funds have taken the financial stress out of living away from home and given me the freedom to have a balanced lifestyle and sense of security while studying. With the scholarship, I can prioritise studying without putting my back out to accommodate unnecessary work hours. The latter half of my Physiotherapy degree involves a lot of clinical placements, which I anticipate will be quite interruptive to any work schedule, it will be really liberating to focus on these experiences with a clear mind. Also, the connections between fellow scholars and alumni in Adelaide and around the country is an awesome source of inspiration and I’m grateful to be included in this community.
What motivated you to study a Bachelor of Physiotherapy?
I’ve always been interested in a variety of subject areas. I was a classic sport obsessed kid and loved the idea of making a career in the industry. Throughout high school, I really enjoyed maths, English and science subjects. Physio seemed to be a harmony of interests. I did work experience in a private practice in 2016 which was great, and I’ve always heard that demand for workers in the health industry will be ever-increasing which is encouraging. I appreciate the clear vocational direction of the course, and I think the everyday challenges of trying to improve the quality of life for clients will be fulfilling.
What does your course involve in a typical week?
In a full-time first-year program we have four subjects to complete each semester. These are Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Physiotherapy Studies and a generalised health theory subject. Each subject has 1-3 hours of online lectures to watch, and a 2-3 hour in-person tutorial/practical/workshop class (during Covid-enforced lockdown these in-person subjects are generally taught via Zoom). I like to get stuck into the week early and scheduled my classes to be all finished by Wednesday. This does mean that I’ve got a bit of a scramble on Sunday night and Monday to get through all my lectures before the class, but it’s worth it for a more relaxing end to the week (with maybe a few hours available to work). This semester has been really stimulating and I’m super excited about future subjects.
How are you going in the current COVID-19 pandemic?
Until only Tuesday last week, Covid-19 has had minimal impact on my regular routine. I’ve cancelled a few holidays, and last year I changed my gap year plans in order to stay in SA. However, where some opportunities have been curtailed, others have risen in their place. I’ve been lucky to be able to spend time at home with my family in the Clare Valley. The opportunity to be in the country with my family has been a gem, and it’s not lost on me how fortunate I have been throughout the pandemic. I look forward to when Adelaide opens up again and we can hop back in the classroom and go to the movies again, I also can’t wait for NSW to recover ‘cos I want to go and see Hamilton!
What are your goals for the future?
With accreditation as a physiotherapist, I have the initial goal of working locum contracts in various regions to fill gaps in health services where required. I believe this will be a fantastic means for personal and professional growth. I don’t have money-oriented goals, research ambitions, or aspirations for a high-profile job, but will not rule out developing these goals in the future. As a young person today, I find it hard to think “long-term”. I hope to be involved in a more sustainable and inclusive society and will try my best to promote this change wherever I may be.