Trinity’s Foundation Studies has a way of pulling you back in – from Foundation Studies student, to College resident, and then, sometimes, to Foundation Studies teacher. For Steven Ng, this unbreakable pull has been ebbing and flowing since the early ‘90s when he entered the then-new Trinity Foundation Studies program.
‘Three of my teachers – the teachers I had in ’93 – are still at Trinity,’ smiles Steven, who, like these teachers, has been pulled into a decades-long relationship with Trinity since becoming a teacher himself in 2007.
So, how did this relationship begin?
‘I originally chose Trinity’s Foundation Studies program because my parents both graduated from Australian universities and felt tertiary education here would give my sister and I the best opportunities in life,’ explains Steven.
‘Trinity stood out because it was one of the few pathways programs, plus the fact that it was affiliated with the University of Melbourne was a huge draw.’
But even with two Australian-educated parents, Steven says coming to Melbourne to study was a huge leap.
‘Coming from an Asian country [Malaysia] – the Foundation Studies program was a huge eye-opener. The culture was, of course, different. Then there’s the language. But, subjects like drama were totally foreign. I had no idea what a drama class was,’ says Steven.
‘I really benefitted from those kinds of experiences. Drama taught me how to present myself and voice my opinions, it taught me the history of ideas and thinking.’
Any discomfort Steven felt at the start of the program quickly dissipated, when he discovered that he was part of something bigger – a collective experience shared between his entire cohort.
‘My entire year was made up of like 120 kids,’ he says. ‘And we had people come from everywhere: Nigeria, Japan, Fiji, even the Solomon Islands. All from far, far-away places. I was in awe. But Trinity felt more like a community, rather than an institution.’
‘In fact,’ laughs Steven, ‘it turned out my chemistry teacher, Cheng, was not only from Malaysia too, but she was from the same tiny island as me. Our home districts were literally neighbours. So that made me feel at home!’
After graduating from Foundation Studies, Steven entered into a chemical engineering and computer science double degree (‘They were popular back in the ‘90s!’). After a series of twists and turns that included working as an IT consultant during the heady Y2K days, Steven was invited to start tutoring chemistry at Melbourne University.
‘After tutoring at the University of Melbourne, I realised I wanted to get into education. I found it really rewarding,’ says Steven. ‘I felt the best place would be an institution that has helped me, so I looked at Trinity. Being a student there totally informed how I taught.
I had a first-hand experience of what [the students] were going through – the loneliness and growing up, not just into adulthood, but into a whole new culture, lifestyle and education. It’s a lot of growing quickly. I understood that and was able to reach them more than I would’ve without that experience.’
Now, as the eLearning Manager for the Pathways School, Steven’s role is helping to expand Trinity’s reach, but that one-on-one contact is gone.
‘I miss being challenged and learning from the students,’ says Steven. ‘They’re students that want to be there, to learn, and to get into university.’
And when they succeed, and graduate from Foundation Studies, then university, Steven says it’s the most rewarding feeling. But even more special – when the students come back to share their knowledge with the next group of equally driven kids.
‘Three of my own students eventually came back to teach,’ says Steven. ‘It’s an incredibly fulfilling cycle to watch.’