Burgmann College PRINT 80

Sai Campbell's Story

A dream to attend ANU

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Hi, my name is Sai. I grew up in a single-parent household with a younger brother, having been born in Thailand and moving to Melbourne where I completed my high school certificate.

My family back in Thailand live in a small village working on rubber farms and the life I live in Australia is a significant contrast from that of my relatives - a fact of which I am quite cognizant.

For my family and myself, education is the golden ticket and a distinct privilege.

I was incredibly fortunate to receive financial aid and to have a parent that was willing to sacrifice a lot to allow me to attend an amazing high school whose commitment to encouraging its students to pursue their varied academic interests was unparalleled.

My school took good care of me - I was on a free meal program, needs-based scholarships, and my teachers lent me books to help me get through my education. Outside of school, I helped my mum clean hotel rooms to save up pocket money for textbooks and college.

My dream was to attend ANU. Having won the chance to attend a science summer Olympiad program at the university, I found myself energized and excited by the college environment. It was a very different world from the one I had come from and I was enraptured by this academic sanctuary where you had the freedom to study whatever you were interested in.

ANU, however, seemed like a pipe dream due to my financial circumstances. Despite that, I quietly saved money from my part-time job at Woolworths. I distinctly remember trying to sneak a peek at notes in my drawer in between serving customers during the five-hour shift the night before my final English exam. I also remember looking at my measly savings and realizing that it was never going to work. My only realistic shot at getting to ANU was if I got a really high leaving score at the end of school. So, I applied for the university not thinking I would be able to go. On the day that our high school results were released, I sobbed violently when I finally opened my grades – I had earned my golden ticket to access tertiary education at the ANU.

It was thanks to the bursary and scholarships that I received that I was able to take up my ANU place.

I started at ANU in 2019 and am presently (2022) an Honours student in the Bachelor of Philosophy (Science) program with focus on infectious disease epidemiology and immunology. My Honours is in infectious disease epidemiology where I examine interventions that address inequities in COVID-19 outcomes. I currently hold positions as a researcher at the ANU and in government looking at largely public health problems like COVID-19 and working with the World Health Organisation on pandemic preparedness and capacity building.

Some of my most rewarding work has, however, been in the field of equity in education. I am employed as a Research Assistant by the university to examine the experiences of low-SES students and to examine policy interventions to increase their representation at elite universities. It is incredibly gratifying to help – if only in a small way – remove the barriers that prevent the participation of incredibly talented and deserving young people in tertiary education. I would love to pursue further postgraduate study through a PhD and I am committed to pursuing a career in research.

I decided to apply for Burgmann because it was the only residential college to offer needs-based scholarships and a commitment to diversity and supporting its residents.

Burgmann is an incredible place with an incredible range of supports for residents including academic, financial, and pastoral. I always felt that I had someone to go to for help - if I felt lost about my course or was worried about how I would pay for college. I am incalculably grateful to Burgmann for how diligently it has taken care of me and given me a place to call home.

Living with Residential Fellows – academics from the university that also reside at the college – was also an important grounding experience and has led to a lot of advice and guidance on what can be an intimidating journey at university.

College is such a special and privileged experience and I think that it should be something that is accessible to any prospective student.

I received a Burgmann College Scholarship in my first year at Burgmann followed by a Burgmann Bursary in my second year. I then received the C.A.S. Hawker Scholarship which provided me full financial support for the rest of my studies. The impact of these scholarships was incalculable. I was on the verge of leaving ANU due to the immense strain of being financially independent and supporting my family back home. My Dad and I cried when we found out I had received the C.A.S Hawker Scholarship and it was the first time in my life that I thought I was going to be okay.

Such scholarships allowed me to live on campus and explore my academic interests without the cloud of anxiety around financially supporting myself. They have left an indelible mark on my life that that of my family.

Burgmann’s needs-based scholarships and bursaries change lives and enrich the college community. Such financial aids support some of our most vulnerable residents and afford them the freedom to dream big and make immense contributions to their community. A needs-based scholarship never goes to waste and has such an immense impact on young people – it is an affirmation of our value as a person and tells us that someone believes in us and our potential to contribute to the university and beyond.

When I received my scholarship, it felt like I was being told that I was wanted here and that I could make a difference to my community and help bring others like me into these spaces.

I think a lot about how much my life has changed from cleaning hotel rooms with my mum to studying science at a wonderful university.

Needs-based scholarships are a gift with long-lasting and indelible impacts for their recipients. Such supports have completely altered the trajectory of my life, that of my family, and have instilled a commitment to paying it forward. I see these awards as a debt I know owe to others in hopes that I may play some role, no matter how small, in bringing the same opportunities to far more talented and deserving students than myself.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had, but I think a lot about my peers that weren’t so lucky. I find it amazing how much the generosity of even just one person can really change the course of someone’s life. Thank you for choosing to make a young person’s dream a tangible reality.

Sai Campbell (2019 - 2022)
Burgmann College Bursary & Scholarship Recipient, C.A.S. Hawker Scholar, Rhodes Scholar