Tessa Moon faced a common conundrum when deciding what to study post-high school. Should she choose a degree based on her grades, or her interests? Should she narrow herself into a particular field, or allow career flexibility? In the end, Tessa found a path that kept her options open – partly thanks to a fortuitous accommodation decision.
‘When you’re from the west coast you’re very isolated, so can look at the east, and think “that would be pretty cool”,’ says Tessa Moon of her decision to move to Melbourne after graduating from PLC Perth in 2014. ‘I also wanted some independence as an 18-year-old and Melbourne is often voted one of the best cities for students to live.’
With the support of her parents, Tessa set off for the opposing coast to study biomedicine at the University of Melbourne. She had decided biomed was preferable over science, simply because it was more competitive to get in.
On reflection, perhaps this shouldn’t have been the primary driver behind her choice…
‘In hindsight, I don’t think you should let your marks dictate what you study – I fully believe that,’ says Tessa. ‘You’ve got to choose based on what your interests are.’
Despite going on to become a metadata analyst at a digital consulting firm, not a doctor, Tessa doesn’t regret her decision, mostly due to the fact that she proudly completed what she describes as a ‘very tough degree’, and had her mind opened to a new way of thinking in the process. And she largely puts that down to her decision to live in residence at Trinity College while completing her undergraduate studies.
‘I didn’t have any family or friends that went to college, but I thought [moving to Trinity] would be something that would help aid in my transition from Perth to uni life,’ she says. ‘I thought it would be a lot easier to get a sense of belonging and community at college than it would be if I just moved into an apartment and went to university.’
Community is what Tessa wanted, and community is what she got, with her fellow students at Trinity not only becoming friends, but also her motivation and inspiration during one of the most formative periods of her life.
‘At college you meet such like-minded people, who are so driven and switched on. I saw that they had so many interests and didn’t close off their paths for one particular career, which was new to me, as I always studied thinking I’d just be a doctor,’ Tessa remembers. ‘I realise how closed-minded that sounds now, but it didn’t seem like that at the time – I thought that was normal. [At college] I began questioning why I was closing myself off to other industries.’
Being surrounded by students pursuing many vocations and passions gave Tessa the confidence to put her medical career on hold and pursue a career as a data consultant. The idea of trying something different seemed even more feasible because of the ‘breadth’ subjects she’d taken under the University of Melbourne’s ‘Melbourne Model’. This initiative allows students to take a range of subjects as part of their undergraduate degree, which aren’t necessarily related to their major.
‘The [breadth] subjects are an opportunity for you to try new things,’ explains Tessa, who studied Japanese and mental wellbeing while completing her biomedicine degree. ‘It let me try things that weren’t biomed related, but I had an interest in.’
Tessa’s interests extend beyond academia to music and sport, and by living at college, she was able to continue many of the extracurricular activities she loved at school.
‘I was arts captain in year 12, and was heavily involved with drama and the school plays and musicals,’ says Tessa, who also played the oboe and piano, and picked up voice training at school. That was in addition to tennis, netball, soccer, softball and community service, and Tessa wasn’t keen to drop the ball when she transitioned to university.
‘Everyone tells you that university will be the best time of your life and I was like, how am I going to optimise this time?’ Trinity College seemed like the ideal avenue to facilitate this, and once living on campus, Tessa threw herself into many sports (‘I think I did most of them,’ she quips) and musical pursuits, including the Candystripes female a cappella group, which she became president of in her third year. ‘I felt like such a nerd, but everyone really gets around you so it was fine,’ she laughs.
That feeling of support and the personal connections formed during her formative years at college were what really took the cake. ‘You’ll never lose touch with the groups of friends you have at college because you live together and spend the most precious years of your life together. You get to know each other on a different level to if you were just friends at university.’
And as for a career? There’s always time to learn and explore. In Tessa’s case, she plans to circle back to the medical degree she initially set out to do – but with a broader mind and in the knowledge that she doesn’t need to have a linear career. ‘I realised there was more than just one pathway in my life and that I could try other things. And that’s a realisation I got from finding my community at college.’