Life beyond Radford

Last updated 10.04.2017

Mhairin Hilliker

Class of 2011
OCCUPATION Environmental scientist
Lives Canberra, Australia
Attendance at radford Years 6-12
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What does life look for you now?

Life now is busy, fun and exciting! After graduating in 2011 I had a gap year where I worked and then backpacked around Europe for 4 months. I then launched into my B Science at the ANU which wasn’t at all what I expected it to be and I think I enjoyed it more because of that. I managed to land a Graduate position with the Department of the Environment at the start of this year which has been a total dream and it’s really exciting to be able to start putting into practice the skills and knowledge that I learnt at uni. I live in a share house with my partner and an old high school friend which is really fun, ridiculous and hilarious. I play lunchtime soccer to socialise with my new colleagues and spend my weekends catching up with friends or planning my next adventure.

What is your favourite Radford moment?

Year 9 camp. I think I will forever laugh with old friends at how much fun we had on a camp and be surprised that we somehow survived it. I also look back on the entirety of senior school with great fondness – it was a busy, stressful, exciting, challenging and really fun time where everyone started to work out who they were and what they wanted to do.

Do you have a particular role model or inspirational figure from Radford or now?

I’m constantly inspired by the people I surround myself with. I’m very lucky to have an incredible group of kind, fun, hilarious, motivated, intelligent, passionate and hardworking friends who actively pursue their dreams and inspire me to do the same.

How easy was it to decide what to do in life?

It was hard! I knew I liked science so did triple science in senior school (though I will forever regret tackling chemistry!). Applying for university I felt a lot of pressure to look at degrees based on my ATAR estimate instead of my interests. I had a lot of people tell me that I should do a certain degree just because I had the marks for it, which is in no way good advice. In the end, I went with what I was passionate about and genuinely interested in. I was tossing up between astrophysics (because I had so much fun in senior school physics) and environmental science. It was a hard choice but I made my choice by imagining myself at 80years old and asking what would I be happy to reflect on in my older years. With climate change as one of the most if not the most pressing issue facing the world today, my decision was made and I launched into my environmental science studies.

Did your further study or career go exactly as you'd planned?

Not quite… I entered university knowing that I really enjoyed biology so I planned to major in biodiversity conservation. Upon some good advice from a professor in my first year, I branched out and took first year as a chance to explore a number of avenues of environmental science. I found myself really drawn to climate change science and policy and that became the focus of my studies and I’m working towards it being the direct focus of my career.

What do you know now, that you wish you'd known when you were at Radford?

You can change your mind. For your degree, your university or your career. Change is allowed and often it’s good. I think it’s hard to pick your degree when you’re forced to think about “what do you want to do for the next 40years of your life?”. I wish I took some pressure off myself by just focusing on what I enjoyed and thinking a little more short term. There’s no way to know where you’re going to end up so chase what you’re genuinely interested and passionate about. It is relatively simple to change degrees, careers, education options. Don’t feel locked in to university or into a specific degree. There’s no point wasting your time pursuing something you don’t enjoy.

What advice do you have for current students?

Know that the choices you make in senior school do not have to dictate your life. I’m still passionate about what I was passionate about in high school (environmental science) but for lots of my friends their interests have changed. I’ve seen a friend go from a finance degree to high school teaching to law and he’s loved all of them. Chase what you’re interested in, think for yourself about what you actually want to do and don’t feel the need to follow other people’s paths.

Where are you now?