A few minutes with Paul Galea

Former IGS student Laura Hobbs (Class of 2016) has some advice about the HSC and going on to university. Laura is currently studying part time while pursuing a varied career.

Paul Galea: Hello? Laura Hobbs. How are you? It’s Paul Galea from International Grammar. Laura, it’s lovely to hear from you. I am going to ask you a few questions, and I believe, if I remember correctly, you’re a pretty good talker. So you’re going to tell us a little bit about what’s going on with you? First of all, when did you leave IGS?  And tell us what you’re doing now and basically how you got there?

Laura: OK, so I graduated, in 2016, which is crazy to me because I still think I finished High School about two years ago. And everyone’s like, “No, it’s, like, six or five years ago,” and I’m like, “No, it’s not!” So there’s that!  I study part time at UTS. I’m doing a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Communications. I’m in my second last year; I’ve got about a year and a half left to go, and I have just finished a contract with the Department of Justice with the New South Wales government, and I just got offered a role which I’ve accepted with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which is a federal government agency. And I’ll be starting that in early August. 

Paul Galea: Can I stop you there? What are you actually doing in those jobs? Explain to me, because I’ve got no idea.

Laura: So I guess with the Department of Justice, I had worked with them before at Burwood Local Court. But in my most recent stint with them, I was basically a legal admin assistant. So I was working in two different units with solicitors that were working for the State government and I basically provided administrative support, by doing data entry, file maintenance, any kind of requests that solicitors had, as well as responding to correspondence from different agencies like Legal Aid and police solicitors. That’s what I was doing most recently and then I did that with two different units, one that was to do with high risk offenders and terrorists. So that was pretty intense. And then the second unit was in the same department, but with the civil litigation unit, and that was helping them with the data entry project that was to do with getting all the data ready for filling in all the missing gaps for cases of historical child sex abuse that we had finalised and we had paid out claims for.

So it was a bit of intense work, but I really enjoyed it while I did it. I was happy to wrap it up at the end of June and I haven’t started yet at the Age Commission, so I still don’t really know what I’m going to be doing, but it’s going to be a bit different. It’s going to be like a risk assessment officer. So basically I’ll get reports coming in from state based aged care homes, and I then review the incident that occurred and I basically either follow up for more information, review it and pass it to a supervisor and say yes this is been adequately assessed and the aged care facility responded correctly, or if is “No, they didn’t,” we need to get in contact with them and explain why. So that’s my basic understanding of the role but pretty different than when I started.

Paul Galea: Pretty different, but very interesting, both of them, by the sound of it. Pretty intense, too.

Laura: Yeah, definitely. 

Paul Galea: Very nice. With the law and the communications, I mean, I know that you’re very articulate, and I know you’re smart . Was there anything in particular that drew you to those courses?

Laura: Yeah, it was really interesting because you asked me, I guess, the journey of how I got there. And I definitely wasn’t one of those students who, at the time, knew what I wanted to do. For the longest time while I was at IGS, I pretty much wanted to be a Pastry Chef. When I finished, I wanted to go to culinary school. I wasn’t really interested in uni, but then eventually I kind of didn’t like that idea as much because everyone was like, “Why would you ruin a hobby that you have by making it your job?” That’s kind of a good point because I like baking and I liked making pastries, but I don’t think I wanted to do it for work. So I kind of moved away from that choice.

And then I think maybe in Year 12, that’s when I started thinking a lot about the subjects I did. Basically all my subjects, except for Maths, were all in the HSIE department. So it was English, two Histories and Economics and so I was very into those written subjects and those heavy kind of reading subjects.  I still didn’t really think Law. I didn’t think I would get in or be smart enough to do it, but then I kind of just thought about it and decided to give it a go and see how it goes?  I definitely didn’t get the ATAR.

So if anyone is looking at this now and is a current student, do not worry. I did not get a 99.95. I got a very kind of standard ATAR, and I was just lucky in that Notre Dame had an early acceptance programme, which was before it all came out. Because that was interview-based and I’d done okay in my assessments, they gave me an offer of Law, so I actually did my first year of Law at Notre Dame. I didn’t like Notre Dame but I liked the course so then transferred to UTS. 

Paul Galea: That is a really important lesson for anyone , particularly our younger students, who are still wrestling with what they want to do. There’s about a million ways to skin a cat. You’ve just got to basically be persistent. Would you agree with that?

Laura: Yes, I would. One hundred percent would. I was just like all the other students who get told by all the students that have graduated and by adults that the HSC is not the be all and end all, but it’s very hard not to see it like that when you’re in the middle of it, when all you’re talking about is that, when everyone around you is doing it, when you’re talking about whether subjects scale well, what’s a good ATAR, what the bad ATARs are. It’s really hard to kind of block out that noise, but I would definitely just say follow the subjects you’re passionate about.

Don’t listen to what other people think you should be doing. Do what you’re passionate about. Keep your mind open. I think I definitely would have done different subjects if I had my time again, based on the fact that I just kind of had, I guess, pre-based assumptions that I think I thought from very early on in High School – like I wasn’t good at Maths and I wasn’t good at Science. And unfortunately, those kind of thoughts kind of stuck with me and then when it came to picking subjects, I was just, “Well, I’m not good at them”, but I don’t think that’s true. I think I just kind of got in a negative headspace, and I didn’t think it through. I, one hundred percent, would say to all students listening, to just keep your options open, keep your mind open, and the HSC is not the be all and end all. But I understand that when you’re in the middle of it, it’s very hard to not feel that way!

Paul Galea: Well, unfortunately, you’ve jumped to the last question already! So good advice! We’re going to backtrack a little bit. So you’re at school, you’ve decided there’s a chance that you might want to do law and you’ve obviously put down for law at Notre Dame and you got in and you went for it. And then you realise that you liked the course but not the uni. Tell me what it was about the law that you liked. I’m just interested in knowing what it was about the law that you enjoyed.

Laura: Well, so after that, then there’s probably a second part to that. So I definitely actually have a changing relationship with my degree At the end of my law degree or close to the end. I definitely am a lot stronger in and have always preferred the Communications part. So I still do like the Law degree but I definitely have no interest in practising law which is pretty common. A lot of law graduates do not practise law. I have no interest. I think it sounds like the worst thing in the world. I would much rather go into policy and working directly for government, in kind of helping create change legislation or working for a non-government organisation and lobbying for changes to policy, because I also quite like politics, and I’ve always been a bit nerdy about that, so that’s what I would like to do. But I definitely wouldn’t want to be a politician if that was what you were wondering, because that also looks terrible.

I think I definitely had a kind of weird ebb and flow relationship with my degree where I’ve definitely had periods where I liked the Law degree and periods where I definitely didn’t. But back to your original question about what was it about it at Notre Dame that I liked that made me continue it. I guess I liked that it was definitely a different way of thinking that took a bit of time to wrap my head around, and I guess university is a lot less opinion based, and it’s more about your opinion that is based on the evidence and the readings that you do and your own research that you do for assignments. How can you form an argument? And that’s not just for Law. That’s also for Communications or really any degree you do and it was kind of putting on your critical thinking skills and using them and actually kind of digging deeper to an argument than rather just going with your gut reaction to reading about something. They use that phrase a lot in university. I agree or disagree, and you have to basically delve a bit deeper, do a bit more reading, a little bit more research and go, “Why is it that I react this way and is the evidence, or does the kind of research or academia support that point? “ So that’s kind of what I got out of Notre Dame, and I could quickly tell that’s what I liked about the Law degree. 

Paul Galea: It sounds as though it was stretching your intellect, which you’ve got-a very good intellect. And it sounds as though that the Law thing was exercising it all and you are getting a chance to really delve in there deeply.

Laura: Yes, I think that’s what I really responded to about University. I can definitely see that, and even my parents have commented about it when they’ve proofread my work. They obviously proofread assignments when I was in High School but they’ve also still subsequently still proof read my assignments I do for university and they say to me now that the quality of my writing and how I structured my writing and also speeches and just general kind of reasoning and argument in any kind of written piece has dramatically changed. Even I can tell when if I pull up an old assignment, I can see the clear differences in the skills I have developed across the years of being at school and doing assignments and then going to university and slowly progressing through the degree.

Paul Galea: A bit of that is to do with you maturing as well. Very nice. Now I’m going to ask you about school. Did you enjoy school? Have you got any happy memories or things that you remember really fondly?

 Laura: Yeah, I’m really happy that my parents sent me to IGS, really happy that I had the privilege to go there and obviously that I was lucky enough that my parents could afford it, but I’m really happy I went there. It was such a fantastic school for me and I think it really fitted my personality. I will be honest that I didn’t feel like that at first. I didn’t really particularly enjoy myself in Year 7. I really struggled to make friends, and I did actually spend a lot of lunches alone. It was actually only in Year 8 that I kind of got up the courage and developed the social skills to talk to people and kind of found a group and found some friends, and finally felt, like I found my people, I guess. But I loved it. And there’s very few days that I can remember from being at IGS where I didn’t want to go to school.

I liked going to school. I liked my classes. I liked lunch times and I just liked the general atmosphere of the school.  I loved ArtsFest! Still the best thing, it beats all the other carnival ones. Great, if you love sport, that’s great but ArtFest is the best hands down! I also just have great memories of particularly being mentored by older students and all the older students that gave me advice. I guess one example that really stood out in my head as someone who had a big impact on me and was Lauren Biss, who was in my House, Bamal; she was so lovely to me in Year 7 when I was feeling kind of a bit out of sorts, and I didn’t know where I really fit, and she really kind of showed me that you can get involved, there’s loads of things to do at school beyond just your classes, and it showed me that you should put yourself out there and kind of get involved and then from there I made some really, really close friends. One of which I actually still with and are best friends with today. That’s Zelda Weinstock. So we’re still very close, and we live together now.

Paul Galea: Zelda, is she still doing weird and wonderful things with her hair?

Laura: Yes, her hair is probably even wackier than when we were at school. She definitely dyes it more often. She’s doing great things, as she was back then. And she was also a role model for me because she was someone who I really think personified, I guess, getting involved in clubs and societies. I’m pretty sure she was on The Honour Board. She kind of encouraged me to do that and that’s what I did a little bit. I definitely wasn’t as involved as I might have been. That’s probably something that, if I had my time again, I would follow your advice, basically, which is get involved, be a part of the community. They were very funny speeches at the time, but it was definitely a smart message and a very true message. I would definitely get involved more in extracurricular stuff, but the extra curricular that I did get involved with, I loved and I think just made the school experience richer. And I guess the other happy memory which I should just say is, and I think made a massive difference to my time at school, is I can’t really say I had a negative experience with any of my teachers.

So many of the teachers made a massive impact and built my confidence, helped me out with advice about subjects and just generally and were so lovely and made a massive impact. And I still think about some of the lessons and the things that they taught me to this day because they were so encouraging and supportive.

Paul Galea: That is just beautiful to hear. Laura, you picked two absolutely champion mentors; Lauren Biss and Zelda Weinstock-just two quality human beings. So you’re  pretty good chooser of people to hang out with and look up to! Laura, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you. You didn’t lie to me. You can talk very well, probably with a mouthful of marbles underwater. It makes you a very good person to interview. So I thank you very much and hopefully we’ll see each other around at some stage.

Laura: Definitely. I will be visiting back in September when Lucy Sensei gets back from Long service Leave.

Paul Galea: Oh, that’s good to hear.

Laura: Thanks so much, Mr Galea. Speak to you later. Bye.