ARJ WIJEGUNARATNE & KATE BEIRNE
Volume 10, Issue 6
A couple of our LSS representatives sat down to chat with our new Graduate Services Coordinator.
How did you come to be the Wellbeing Officer at Melbourne Law School?
My official title is actually Graduate Services Coordinator (Wellbeing), I started my career in higher education working in student support at the University of Melbourne, and I have a background in social sciences. After I finished my degree, I did an internship with an education services provider and started working at the University of Melbourne. I began working in the Faculty of Sciences, covering the Biomed, Science, Engineering and Environments departments. In this role I was the primary student equity officer for a few 1000 students – it was pretty demanding but also really very interesting as I was able to work with students from lots of different backgrounds.
I stayed in this role for a few years and then moved to Darwin to work as an International Student Support Coordinator, managing student support across the different campuses in Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin.
I then moved to Saudi Arabia to take on a role at a science university where I was primarily involved in developing policies around course progression support and student recruitment. This university was actually the only co-educational university in the country, so I also had some amazing opportunities to work with some fantastic progressive Saudi women, who were promoting women’s rights in the sciences.
I then took a year off and moved to Scotland doing some work at the University of Edinburgh whilst also having the chance to do a lot of travel.
After my year off I began to miss working in the wellbeing space and was really keen to work back in wellbeing services. I moved back to Australia and wanted to come back to the University of Melbourne. Luckily, a spot had opened up at the Law School and I jumped on it.
What do you do for your own wellbeing?
I’m interested in mindfulness meditation even though I’m not very good at it. It has great benefits, so I try and do a little bit of it every day. The main thing I do for my own wellbeing is exercise. I try to exercise at least four times a week, although since starting the semester I haven’t necessarily been keeping up with that schedule (laughs).
What type of exercise do you do and do you enjoy any other activities?
I really love to run and spend time with friends. I find that having something to do which is outside of work and studying is really great for your own personal wellbeing.
What does a regular work day look like for you?
My regular work day starts with me usually getting into uni and deciding whether or not to buy a coffee or try and save my coffee money for something else. I then have to deal with the wellbeing inbox, which typically fills up very quickly overnight. This usually takes up a lot of my time as most of my days are spent dealing with student enquiries and following up on matters discussed in student appointments. For example, queries around course planning and progression, or whether a student should underload or not etc.
How would you like to see the wellbeing space at the law school improve?
Well, in addition to directly helping students with their queries, part of my role is to also to help plan future wellbeing strategies to improve how students manage their stress, health and wellbeing. My main focus is on improving communication on what students can do for their wellbeing. For example, through increasing awareness of the university’s wellbeing initiatives and through using technology to improve awareness of the initiatives. I’m really keen on implementing these new processes! Hopefully, once I settle down and get to know the wellbeing systems a bit more, I can start getting some of these new processes in place to help students.
What things should law students strive to do to help themselves in times of stress to improve their wellbeing?
The most important thing in my experience, is to focus on managing your anxiety around study. I think this is one of the most important aspects of being a successful law student. Also, like I mentioned earlier, I think it’s really important to do things which manage stress like exercising and meditation but also to have things which are separate from the law school. I think this idea really applies to everything in life, whether it be study or work, having activities outside of your study gives your mind a break.
I also think that it’s important to avoid the spiral of negative thoughts when something doesn’t go as planned. Allowing yourself to have those little setbacks every now and again can help you grow. Being able to accept that you will experience setbacks or understand that things won’t always go as planned is good. It’s how you pick yourself up and learn from those experiences which helps you improve.
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