As an introvert, Steven Banh wasn’t sure if college life was for him – and he knew that paying full-price college fees was out of the question for someone in his financial position. However, a scholarship and a ‘give everything a go’ attitude saw him land on his feet.
Steven Banh was lucky to have a close relationship with his school, Braybrook College in Melbourne’s western suburbs, during his final years of high school, saying that the school was always there for him when he needed support. It was through his experience at Braybrook that he ended up at Australia’s number-one ranked university, the University of Melbourne, living on campus at the university’s oldest residential college, Trinity College.
Steven was introduced to Trinity College via the Skyline Foundation, an organisation that supports highly determined students who face financial or social challenges through their final years of high school. He stayed at Trinity during an orientation camp organised by the foundation, so when he later found out that Trinity offered scholarships, he recognised the college.
While Steven admits his initial thought was ‘Is this scholarship opportunity real?’ he knew he wouldn’t be able to live on campus without financial assistance, so decided to give the application a go … and was successful. ‘And now, here I am,’ he says, sitting in Trinity’s café.
‘I'm not going to lie, it was a big culture shock for me,’ he says, reflecting on his arrival at Trinity in February 2020. ‘It's like you're back at square one again, having to meet new people and stuff. I’m quite introverted and it takes me a bit of time to warm up to people, but everyone was really lovely when I first came in and everyone wants to make friends. I’ve found my confidence in talking to people has since expanded, and I’ve got a deeper insight into the many backgrounds and cultures of the students here.’
Despite college being a social place, Steven says it’s also easy to find quiet on campus. ‘I'm comfortable finding my own space, and if I want to do something that no one else does, it's completely fine,’ he says.
At the University of Melbourne, Steven is studying a Bachelor of Commerce, and likes the flexibility that the institution offers, given the university’s ‘Melbourne Curriculum’ allows students to try a range of subjects in their first year before having to decide on a major. ‘In first-year commerce, you get to dip your toes into all fields of commerce,’ Steven explains. ‘Firstly, you do a finance unit, an economic unit, and an accounting unit – those are compulsory. But then you can also take some electives, like marketing, which I took last year and really enjoyed.’
Between university and college, Steven says his post-school experience has been positive, and encourages other school students to consider taking the leap, even if they’re not sure if university or college is attainable due to personal or financial circumstances.
‘When teachers, or anyone else, tell you to take every opportunity you can, they really mean it and you won't believe how much can change in the span of maybe a year or two. You may not be able to imagine yourself doing certain things, until a few years later, when you're actually in that position, and you look back and think “wow, I never thought I’d be here”,’ he says.
‘Take every opportunity you can. I’d say always take a chance.’