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Words of Wisdom from Gabby McDonald

Not knowing what you want to do when you leave school is relatively common. And as Gabby McDonald (Class of 2019) explains, it’s ok to change your mind.

Gabby McDonald was pretty sure she wanted to study biomedicine when she left PLC Perth. She’d enjoyed science and thought there would be good career prospects. But at the end of her first year studying a Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne, she realised she just wasn’t into it.

“I wasn’t enjoying my course as much as I thought I would, so I thought, I need to give something else a go,” Miss McDonald said.

Gabby turned to Trinity College’s academic advisors for advice, then confidently made the switch to a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in politics and psychology. “[Those conversations] cleared up what my options were exactly and what I should do,” she said.

Since moving on campus at the University of Melbourne in 2020, Gabby has found that academic advice is just one of the many things that Trinity College offers, and that, in some ways, life at college is not dissimilar to her high school experience.

At PLC, Gabby was part of the school choir and a cappella group, and was always a part of the musical, along with the rowing and volleyball teams. “I was one of those people that probably spent more time at school doing co-curriculars than doing actual schoolwork,” she laughs. “I just love doing everything. I think I’m a lot more productive if I’m way too busy than if I have nothing to do.”

This ‘get involved in everything’ attitude has served her well at college, where she’s involved in many sports and clubs. “There’s something to do every day – lots of stuff to keep busy,” she says.

And the action-packed schedule began in week one. “It was pretty full-on, but I really loved it,” she says of O Week. “There wasn’t a day that I got to the end of it and thought, ‘Oh, that was boring’. I had a lot of fun.”

When it came to choosing a college, Gabby knew she wanted to move to Melbourne after spending many family holidays in the city, and toured a number of on-campus accommodation providers during an interstate open day. It was on this trip that Trinity College really stood out.

“I was amazed that in the middle of the city there was a college with a huge oval. It’s crazy,” she said, referencing Trinity’s big central lawn, known as the Bulpadock (a name that morphed from ‘bull paddock’, as it was indeed once home to cows that supplied the college with milk and a bull). Gabby was also drawn to Trinity’s internationally renowned choir, which she auditioned for, and successfully joined on a scholarship.

Though she’s well and truly settled in now, Gabby admits that moving to college in Melbourne from interstate did come with its challenges. “It was a bit hard, especially at the start,” she says. “I didn’t know most people, and a lot of them already knew each other from school or Melbourne. So obviously that created a bit of a barrier at first … but it was pretty easy after O Week because of all the activities everyone does together. You kind of find your people.”

“It’s also been good because I have never really had a clear idea of what I want to do in the future. But I think there’s a really good system [at Trinity] that encourages you to try out different things and follow a path that will provide the means to achieve what you want to achieve, even if you don’t know what that is.”

Her advice for anyone thinking about moving to college from interstate?

“Just go for it. There’s so much to learn from putting yourself out of your comfort zone and going to a completely new place with different people. And even if it’s not wholly what you imagined, I think there’s still so much you can gain. It can really take you places and show you where you want to go in the future.”

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