When Chandu de Silva was on maternity leave caring for her one-month-old son, Riyon, she decided, when the time came, she wanted to return to the workforce as a biomedical engineer.
However, before Chandu could apply to study a Bachelor of Engineering Honours with Charles Darwin University, she needed to brush up on her study and maths skills to meet the course requirements. It was CDU’s Tertiary Enabling Program (TEP) that gave Chandu the knowledge foundation she needed to gain entry to her chosen degree.
“When I was considering a career change I thought ‘it’s now or never; I’m not getting any younger!’,” Chandu said.
With a background as a nurse, Chandu is keen to use the knowledge she will gain from her Engineering degree to create advancements in the medical engineering world, and to contribute to a better future for people with disabilities.
“I decided to look into the possible pathways into university because it had been a while since I studied, so I decided to enrol in TEP as an external student,” Chandu said.
“I set myself the challenge of completing TEP to see if I was ready to commit to university for the next few years. I took on a full-time study load and managed to maintain good grades while balancing my family commitments – I had a four-and-a-half year old son and a newborn when I started.
"TEP gave me the required maths knowledge for my course and the academic writing and computer skills to be successful in my studies at university."
How did you stay on track during your studies?
Planning ahead was key for me. It’s important to prioritise your responsibilities and not let yourself get overwhelmed with less-important tasks.
Also, make a timetable and stick onto it. Write down your goals and reflect on them from time to time to keep you motivated. And only take on a study load that you can handle.
Attending the live lectures and asking questions along the way was very helpful in keeping myself on track. Sticking to my diary and semester planner, and getting ready for upcoming assignments early helped me succeed in my TEP studies.
How did you find time to study?
My older son Dihain was in preschool when I started TEP, so I managed to fit in about two-and-a-half hours of study a day while he was there.
I did a lot of study on the weekends, when my husband could look after our older son, and while the youngest was napping. I completed assessments at night after the boys were in bed, and even participated in lectures while I was nursing the baby.
Being able to access the recorded lectures anytime I want and submit assignments online also helped me manage my time.
How did the support from your lecturers and fellow students help you succeed in your TEP studies?
Even though I was an external student, the support I received from staff and from CDU was tremendous. The friendly atmosphere, approachable staff, smaller class sizes, and one-on-one and timely feedback from my lecturers were a real advantage.
The online study groups that I formed during TEP also motivated me to persist with my studies. My peer network supported me when I was up in the middle of the night working on assignments, and sometimes wondering if I would finish my work on time.
Chandu aims to complete her Bachelor of Engineering Honours by 2020.