Tegan Clark travelled 2,500 kilometres to start university, but for someone who spends her nights staring up at the stars, that hardly seems any distance at all.
Tegan has always had a fascination with space, she says, spurred on by watching National Geographic documentaries from a young age.
“How could you not be curious as to what’s up there?” she says, incredulous. “You see it every day and every night.”
This interest pushed her to enrol in an additional subject in Year 11 and 12, studying online courses in astronomy and astrophysics outside of regular schoolwork. The Online College of Advanced STEM helped her realise she wanted to be involved in this field for the rest of her life.
“I attended AstroCon in Brisbane with other students from across Queensland and Australia and it was the best experience of my life,” she says.
“We went on a tour of an observatory, worked with actual astronomers, did some solar imaging and it was just a really great experience.”
Tegan tackled the university application processes from her home in Cairns, choosing a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) (Honours) at ANU, in a city where she knew no one.
“There are now Year 12 students at my school this year who have messaged me asking how to apply for ANU. It feels good that I can helpful to them in some way.”
Tegan is only 17 years old and as the first in her family to attend university says she’s making the most of the opportunities available to her.
“What I’ve been learning this year is that if you ask for help, people are going to help you 99 percent of the time.”
Through asking for help from others, Tegan has also realised the power of giving back to the community.
“I’ve been very active volunteering this year and next year am the President of the ANU Vinnies group.
“I also volunteer at a primary school working in an English intensive class with refugee and asylum seeking children who are learning English for the first time.”
In addition to her commitments to ANU societies and volunteer organisations, Tegan supports herself away from home working as a tutor.
“I’m in such a privileged position where I get to go to an amazing university, I have a job, and can also give back to the community. I get to do all the things that are important to me.”
Want to shoot for the stars like Tegan? Find out about the brand new major in Astronomy & Astrophysics.