Victorian native Matthew Cartwright was on a road trip from Darwin to Katherine in July last year, when he saw a sign on the road for Charles Darwin University. At the time, Matt was in his final year of a Bachelor of Psychology down in Melbourne, and was planning his next move.
Before this trip, he’d only been to Darwin a couple of times. He’d always loved the NT; the weather, the lifestyle, the people – but it wasn’t until realising he could pursue his Psychology Honours research up here, that he seriously considered making the move. After some back and forth emails, Matt was offered early admission to CDU's Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours) program in November last year, and he hasn’t looked back!
We caught up with Matt to hear how he's enjoyed living and studying in Darwin.
How have you found your first year in Darwin?
I have always loved Darwin; I’d visited three times before I moved here. A big part of my decision was due to lifestyle; I was sick of Melbourne’s cold weather and traffic jams!
The NT offers a wonderful lifestyle and terrific professional development opportunities. It’s very multicultural, and there’s a healthy investment in the arts. It’s Australia’s best kept secret.
As a uni student, it’s also a fantastic place to study – there’s a really good balance between work and life. Being an Honours student can be gruelling; self-care is incredibly important. The weather here makes it easy to get outdoors, and this has really helped me to do well in my degree.
I’ve also found in Darwin, that the sky is the limit in terms of how far you can go, in regards to both your personal interests and your career. I've been here for less than a year, but I can confidently say I’ve become a proud Territorian!
What led you to choose CDU?
When I saw that CDU offered a Psychology Honours program, I emailed the course coordinator, Professor Petra Buergelt. After speaking back and forth with her, I was offered early admission to the program.
I finished my undergraduate degree in Melbourne in January and less than four weeks later I was disembarking a plane at 11pm on the 22nd Feb, ready to start my new life in the NT.
What do you like most about studying with CDU?
One of the best things about doing my Honours here at CDU is how incredibly easy it has been to develop a strong rapport with the academic staff. There’s a sense that you can take your studies as far as you want, but you have to be the driver of that; we aren’t spoon fed.
All my supervisors are very open to providing feedback; they are honest, genuine and most importantly, they push me to challenge myself. Being an Honours student at CDU has been less of a student experience, like my undergraduate degree was, and much more of a professional development experience.
Lastly, throughout my undergraduate degree, although I found it interesting, I never had that ‘zing’ moment where I realised, ‘this is exactly what I want to do.’
It wasn’t until this year, when I was in control of my own project that I’ve realised that this is exactly what I want to be doing. It’s been really empowering. I have had the most phenomenal year.
What has been the most challenging aspect of studying for you?
In the early stages of the year, loneliness was a challenge. When you move across the country by yourself, loneliness can be really tough.
When I arrived in February, I only knew one other person in Darwin. I’ve had to create an entirely new network. I have met some wonderful people up here. The transient nature of the city means that people are always open to new friendships. I live with a great bunch of housemates in Nightcliff. You need to be open to different kinds of people, and it’s important to be optimistic – it might take a little while, but eventually you’ll find your group.
Cast your mind back to this time last year – you’re in Melbourne, and deciding on what to do in 2018. What advice would you give your former self or someone else, in a similar situation?
Honours can be hard. My advice is to go full throttle at it. It’s just one year, it’ll set you up for so many things in life. I've been provided with some amazing opportunities - many of which have come due to being here on campus at CDU.
I’ve been offered the role of a research assistant, engaged with politicians, had face-to-face meetings with senior government officials regarding my research, connected with CEOs of multiple research organisations, and developed a diverse professional network very quickly. In short, my career has flourished.
Lastly, what’s next on the horizon for you?
I'm hoping to be back at CDU in 2019. I have applied to undertake my Masters in Clinical Psychology... and from there, I might even go on to do my PhD. Before beginning my Honours this year, I questioned whether the program would be a good precursor to a PhD. I have found that at CDU, this transition is absolutely possible, due to the knowledge and skills developed during Honours.