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Learning never stops - but it starts at Open Day

25 August 2016

Like so many high school students in their final year, Denise Ong had a head full of questions. Little did she know at the time that one question she asked would later lead to a major turning point in her story.

Got a question? Denise Ong: The questions she asked at Open Day changed the course of her career.

As a keen athlete and a self-proclaimed science nerd, she knew she was on the right track by pursuing a sport science degree. However, she wanted to find out important things like which rooms might she have classes in? Were there any scholarships? What opportunities were there to get involved and make friends?

“Throughout high school I had this really big dream where if I went into sports science I would work with one of the Australian Olympic teams. So I wanted to ask one of the professors this key question: ‘will I achieve my dream by doing this?’”

While this dream was far in the distance, she didn’t have to wait much longer for another to come true. A couple of short months later, Denise found out that she had been successful in her application to study sports science through the Early Offer Year 12 (E12) Access scheme, which included a scholarship.

Denise says she didn’t really fit in at school. However, she has enjoyed many opportunities at the E12 orientation day, and since then, to meet students from different backgrounds, bounce ideas around with her peers and learn more about uni life.

She has created these invaluable opportunities herself by:

  • taking up a role as a student ambassador
  • being involved in a number of committees to help shape and improve the experience of her peers as a student representative
  • being a mentor and mentee, including working with Olympian Michael Dickson.

“I grew so much from those groups of people who were totally different to what I was. In high school you’re stuck with the same people, same culture, same opinions and then you go to uni.

“I think the best thing about uni is the people – growing from them and developing myself by learning from other people. You learn from them because they have such different interests and ideas.”

But it wasn’t just her extra-curricular involvement that detoured Denise’s learning curve outside the classroom. While she was in the field at her first clinical placement she found herself asking that same question from Open Day and making a decision that would see her pursue a different answer.

“I was placed in an on-site clinic on the Cumberland Campus, where we were working with patients with medial knee osteoarthritis. I was there for several weeks and I remember having this one client who had 10/10 knee pain at the start. Her first week was my first week. I assisted her through a few different exercises and programs to help her.

“Before going away after seven weeks I thought I should ask her about her pain scale again. She said it was ‘zero out of 10’. I’m like ‘wait! I did something!’ So that was actually a real turning point for me. Ever since then I’ve just wanted to improve any patient’s quality of life – not just elite athletes. There are so many people that I can help, so that’s why I switched over to exercise physiology.

“Making connections with all these different people shaped my experience in such a big way. Something that I’ve learned is that you constantly have to ask questions if you want to learn something.”