THE family that studies together stays together - or at least that's the case for Noosa mother Sue Arnold, 53 and her two daughters Lisa, 32 and Lauren, 25.
Sue is studying a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) while daughter Lisa is returning to a Bachelor Digital Media after trialling a term in the Bachelor of Information Technology course and Lauren is currently undertaking the Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS) program to enter into a Bachelor of Learning Management (Early Childhood Education).
The family who all gained entry to university through the STEPS program are studying via distance education but make regular appearances at the CQUniversity Noosa campus.
"They often say here come the three girls again! I am sure we take up all of the space," Sue laughed.
"It is fantastic to make use of the facilities. The CQUni Noosa campus is a hidden gem. The people are so welcoming and friendly, even though we are distance students."
Though education is now a family affair, Sue was the first in the family to commence study after a touching personal story inspired her to pursue a career in social work.
"My son was very sick, and I worked closely with the social worker when he was in hospital," Sue said.
"I realised there weren't as many social workers available to work with the families, only the patients. The families in those circumstances do suffer too, and they need that support."
"Now I know this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing in life - helping others".
Their Mum's desire to dedicate her life to helping others inspired Lisa and Lauren to strive for more out of life too. Having not studied since high school and making the big move from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast, Lisa said she had never considered university study until her mother encouraged her.
"It was the best thing Mum ever did for herself. I didn't know what I wanted to do in life but Mum convinced me to give it a go and it's been great," Lisa said.
Lisa brings the third generation of the family into the study equation, often bringing 10-month-old son Alec on campus while she studies, and he's a hit with the Learning Management students.
"There are lots of Education students on campus and they absolutely love to play with him. He's a very social boy and he runs up to them and talks in his own language. It's very cute," she said.
"The Noosa campus have been so welcoming. I've never felt like it's been a burden bringing him here to study. He loves it and I can concentrate better at the campus than I do at home."
Youngest daughter Lauren also manages the juggle between motherhood and study, with two-year old-daughter Alexandria, but said her mum and sister have been integral in guiding her through the ups and downs of University life.
"It can be a handful, but having Mum and my sister studying with me makes it easier. They understand what I'm going through," Lauren said.
"I think I probably I annoy them more than anything by asking lots of questions all the time. But they are always there to help me".
Sue believes being able to spend time together, whether it be in the Library studying or taking a coffee break, has united the family in a special way.
"Studying together has brought us so much closer. We now realise we're all on the same path. We all want to better our lives and we're doing it together."
Sue also has another daughter studying a Certificate III in Business with CQUniversity in Gladstone.
The family say it's not just each other that makes CQUniversity feel like home.
"Everyone at CQUni is so welcoming. It really is one big family here. The teachers and professional staff are so supportive and are always here for you through the ups and downs."
The tight-knit family are bonded by their love for education, helping others and of course, each other.
After sharing their study journey with each other, it's only fitting the family are looking forward to one day celebrating graduation together too.
For more information on the STEPS program, visit cqu.edu.au/steps or phone 13 27 86.
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