The Stand.

Stories from UOW

When life deals you cards you’re not happy with – you throw them back. That’s the attitude of Jesse Edwards who is proving uni is achievable, but like any student you’ve got to work for it.

Uni wasn’t always on the cards for Jesse, who was born with a vision impairment known as Peters anomaly. The condition means he has about 5 per cent vision. With the help of electronic text books, his support worker and his guide dog, Onyx, he is defying the odds to study his Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Wollongong in Bega.

“You just have to deal with the cards life throws at you and if you’re not happy with them, throw them back,” he says.

Jesse walks with his guide dog Onyx in his home town Merimbula.

Jesse catches the bus from Merimbula to Bega of a morning for his classes at UOW. Photo: Paul Jones

While procrastination, late nights and last-minute assignments are rites of passage for most university students, for Jesse, university is all about organisation, time management and hard work.

With a dream to work in Human Resources, Jesse gets up at 6am, boards a bus at Merimbula and makes his way to the Bega campus for class. To the delight of other students, he arrives with his main study buddy Onyx by his side and goes about his day.

It is a challenge, but it’s meant to be a challenge. If it was too easy there wouldn’t be any point going.

Jesse EdwardsUOW Bega student

“If you really want the degree you will do it,” he says. “It is a challenge, but it’s meant to be a challenge. If it was too easy there wouldn’t be any point going.

“You really have to treat it like you are learning a new job, you are learning how to be a successful uni student – your job is to actually learn.”

Jesse works on his laptop using electronic textbooks to complete his uni work.

Jesse uses electronic textbooks to complete his uni work. Photo: Paul Jones

After completing Year 12, Jesse undertook an administration traineeship for two years, which led him to study his Certificate IV in Business Administration, igniting his passion for HR. But it wasn’t until he applied for a cadetship that he really set his sights on a university degree.

“I went to apply for a cadetship, but it required a uni degree and I didn’t want that to happen again,” he says. “Then I realised I wouldn’t get too far up the HR ladder without a degree. I wanted to be higher up in training, development, employment and things like that.

“I do like working with people, I also like working with policies and procedures, and I like to work with a structure.”

Onyx the guide dog walks alongside Jesse.

Jesse and his trusty guide dog Onyx. Photo: Paul Jones

Jesse studies part-time with his career goal clear in his mind. He says being part of a small community and being organised are the key to managing the workload.

“Because it’s a smaller community on campus, you get a lot more individual attention and the staff have been really supportive,” he says. “We also have a disability liaison officer who I can go and see at any time.

“For me a lot of it comes down to being organised and knowing what you’ve got due when. One of the things about uni is a lot of people will say its stressful and hard, but they are sometimes the people who aren’t organised.

“With a vision impairment, you have to be aware of things that will take a bit longer – so you do need to be a little bit more organised to make sure you can get it all done. You can’t leave things to the last minute.”

So, when you catch yourself Facebook scrolling, Netflix watching and doing anything BUT the work that is due tomorrow – remember Jesse’s advice.

Home town is a series dedicated to telling the stories of students at regional UOW campuses.

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