Meet Heidi Reid, a globe trotter whose travels have led her to the Master of Arts (International Relations), a better understanding of the world, and a break away from the family farm.
“I have a really strange life,” Heidi Reid says. “I work in shearing sheds half the time.”
The other half of her time, she’s studying international affairs at ANU.
Heidi isn’t what you’d think of as a typical candidate for a Master of Arts in International Relations. She has two undergraduate degrees in unrelated fields – accountancy and medical science – and has spent four years working in accounting in London, and one year working for an economic development agency in East Timor. Now back in Canberra, she shares her time between study and work on the family farm near Jindabyne.
“I think people think my life is really funny! But, it’s good to have diversity," she says.
“I’m really glad I had this change of career but I think everything I’ve done until now has been really helpful. Having a different background and then working in a professional career for a while, it’s such a good thing to take back to something like graduate studies. It gives you a different perspective.”
Far from being the only student with life experience, Heidi says the diversity of her classmates’ backgrounds is actually one of the biggest selling points of the master’s program.
“It’s a fairly competitive course so it attracts some really high-calibre students. You get a really good mix of domestic students, and international students who might be working in diplomacy in their own countries. There are some people who have come straight from their undergrad, and there are also people from all different types of careers who’ve been working for 10 years and decided to return to uni, so some of the discussions you have, in class or out, are really interesting.
“I think that’s important, because it starts to challenge your ideas and that’s what you want from doing something like this. It’s pushed me to think more. That’s the best thing about the course.”
Heidi says she’s always been interested in politics, and decided to enrol in the program to “broaden my understanding of what’s going on in the world”.
“I was looking for something that had a good balance of history and politics and philosophy, which international affairs does. And also, ANU has such a good reputation, particularly in this area.”
She says the Asia-Pacific focus of the course was also relevant to her. “Particularly after having twelve months in East Timor, you start to become more aware how important our next-door neighbours are. The program offers some really interesting courses on Asian issues.”
Heidi says the program structure is “very different” from her undergraduate degrees “which were like sitting in a lecture hall with 900 students learning about debits and credits or how a chemical pathway works”.
“Most of my master’s courses had maybe 20 people in a class and it’s quite interactive with students discussing readings and sharing their opinions. There have been some brilliant lecturers too. If you’re willing to be engaged, they’re so happy to talk to you about essays or something you’ve read. They’re really approachable and knowledgeable.
“Also, the classes are flexible, so you can be working full-time. And if you take night classes, you get loads of Tim Tams!”
After completing her Master of International Affairs, Heidi transferred to a Master of Arts (International Relations) to pursue a research project that manages to combine her experience in finance, development and agriculture.
“I really want to write my thesis on food security issues and governance issues in terms of agricultural policy and financial policy,” she says.
But for now, she’s taking six months off from study to spend on the farm, and learn Bahasa Indonesia in her spare time.