Samantha Southgate

Samantha’s Speech – a real highlight

Our guest speaker for the 2022 Scholarship Presentation Ceremony was former scholarship recipient, Samantha (Sam) Southgate. Her speech captivated the audience and Sam kindly gave permission for us to print her story.

First, I would like to thank the Mentor Support Network for organising such a wonderful ceremony and for extending the invitation for me to come and speak today. I want to reiterate the congratulations to the recipients; your achievement is no small feat, and you should be very proud of yourselves.

I was sitting in those exact seats where you are now when I received my first scholarship 10 years ago. I’ve been invited here today to share my story, pass on some wisdom and hopefully empower today’s cohort. If we rewind 10 years ago, I had made the difficult decision to move out of the family home to escape the alcohol fuelled violent environment it had turned into and I luckily had a friend who was kind enough to provide a space to lay my head, albeit a two and a half a metre space behind the couch, as the couch was already taken.

When I returned to school, as it occurred in the holidays, I was a shell of myself, because me being me, I didn’t ask for any support or help. It took my teachers to notice my change in demeanour and I wish I had asked for help earlier, which is my first piece of advice, it’s okay to ask for help, in fact its expected, everyone needs help at multiple points in their lives. You have a community around you, whether that’s your school, your friends, your family or even the Mentor Support Network and it’s okay to ask for help. Which each of you have already done by being here today, so keep asking for help when you need it.

After my I spoke with my teachers, I really understood the value in education, and knew that it was one of the most effective ways to change the path my life was taking and so I hit the books harder than before. I was the one the librarians would be shooing out the door as it was closing time, I was the one sitting in the staff room going over my essays with my teachers, but I also made sure that I spent time with my friends outside of the classroom. Achieving a healthy balance is important as you need to make those cherished memories, which is my second piece of advice, be sure to make those memories along the way. Life is more than just school, university, TAFE or work.

Receiving support from my friends and teachers had a more profound impact than I was expecting, as it gave me a sense of empowerment and self-belief. If my friends and teachers are taking the time out of their day to help me, they must think I am worth it, but to start with I didn’t think I was. It’s quite common for people to feel a bit of imposter syndrome, which is the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved because of one’s own efforts or skills. I certainly felt it when I received my scholarship, I thought, surely there are people more deserving and need this more than me and it took me a while to be able to say to myself, I am worth it. Honestly, the first time I said that out loud and meant it, I got goosepimples. Which takes me to the next piece of advice, is to remember that you are worth it, your teachers believe in you, I believe in you, the Mentor Support Network believes in you, the list goes on.  

Thanks to the support from those previously mentioned, I was able to achieve the AATAR I needed to get into the Bachelor of Business and Commerce at the University of Newcastle. I was on track to my dream job of being the chief economist of the RBA, ambitious I know, but this leads into another piece of advice, dream big, as I say, aim for the stars, land on the moon.

One of the quotes from a seminar I attended last year that has stuck with me, is that if the likelihood of your goals being achieved is more than 60%, you are not dreaming big enough. So, I am on track to be chief economist right, but then I hit 3rd year courses where I start learning about the theory of land taxes, while simultaneously learning about international marketing. I quickly realised that I did not want to be chief economist anymore, and that economics was a passion, but not something I wanted to pursue further for my education and career. So, this leads me to dropping my commerce degree, minoring in economics and pursuing a major in marketing. Which relates to my next piece of advice, it’s okay to change directions, it’s okay to pick up other interests and passions. Be curious, follow your interests, your passions, find your purpose and seize the opportunities presented to you.

But guess what, 9 years later, I still haven’t finished my degree and it will probably take me another year or two, only 3 courses left! This is because I said yes to amazing opportunities presented to me, such as working in Sydney as a sales manager at the age of 20 for Optus. I mention this because it reaffirms a couple of points I have mentioned, that it’s okay to change directions and to seize the opportunities that are presented to you, but also to remind you that sometimes things take time and that’s okay, I know I will finish my degree soon enough.

Now I work at EY, which is a global professional services organisation and employs over 340,000 people across the world, and my job is to recruit graduates and interns for the company. One of my favourite parts of the role is speaking to students about what they love learning and how they can incorporate that into their career post university, or even sometimes during. I give everyone the same underlying message which I have already mentioned today. Be curious, follow your interests, your passions, find your purpose and seize the opportunities presented to you with tenacity and determination you know you are capable of.

Now to finish off, I want to recap my pieces of advice.

  1. Ask for help.
  2. Life is more than just school, university, TAFE or work. Make those memories.
  3. You are worth it and you have people that believe in you.
  4. Dream big.
  5. Be curious and follow your passions.
  6. Things take time.

 And remember the Mentor Support Network believes in you, believes in your ability to succeed, in whatever shape or form that may come in. It doesn’t mean you need to be the next chief economist of the RBA, a CEO or working for a global organisation, we want you to be the best version of yourself that we know you are capable of.

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