Hello, how are you going? Would you like a cup of tea? Sit down and let me tell you a little about myself.
My name is Ebony, I’m 27 years old and currently residing in Melbourne. At the time of writing this I am eagerly awaiting placements to begin for the final year of study for my Master of Nutrition and Dietetics. The road to this end has not been entirely linear but it has always had a common theme… I absolutely love food.
It’s funny the way things happen, I’m not sure I believe that everything happens for a reason, but every experience contributes something to your life and that may have a profound impact. Where you find inspiration may not be where you expect. For me, I probably wouldn’t be the creative and passionate cook I am if I hadn’t grown up in poverty. The kind of foods that people donate to charities, mostly canned goods, are very practical… if you know how to use them, painfully useless if you do not. Before the internet was in every home and hand, and without a substantial amount of cook books I had to figure it out myself with critical thinking and experimentation. In addition to being poor of money my parent was also poor of health, when she was well she cooked, and she actually did a fantastic job, but more often than not she was too ill and dinner was something from a jar, packet, or the freezer…
I remember the first can of crushed tomatoes I’d ever seen, it most certainly wasn’t pasta sauce but I recognised it must be the foundation on which pasta sauce was made. So I grabbed an onion, garlic, and some dried basil and oregano, threw it in a pot and made my first ever pasta sauce from scratch. I have not bought a single jar of pasta sauce since. I couldn’t believe that you could make delicious pasta sauce for less than $1 when the jars were 3-5 times that cost. These little adventures in cooking from scratch were so exciting to me, my sister was pretty thrilled with what I churned out too so I continued.
From the minute I was able to study cooking, or food technology I elected those subjects. I consistently performed at the top of the class on anything related to food, but with a complicated home life I fell behind in other areas, especially mathematics which came back to haunt me years later. While simultaneously studying full time at high school I did my first ever vocational training in hospitality, completing a traineeship which earned me certificate III in Hospitality (operations). In my final two years of high school, I juggled a total of four jobs, a traineeship, and challenges at home, finishing up as one of the top performing food and technology students in the country (attaining 42/50).
I was immediately and enthusiastically accepted into the William Angliss Institute of Technology to study a Certificate IV in Hospitality (Patisserie). The next 18 months are among the best times of my life. Studying at William Angliss was incredibly fun, the institution hosted teaching staff who are some of the best chocalatiers and pâtissiers in the world and it was a true honor to study under them. However, I realised about half way through this qualification that I missed studying food science and nutrition. I didn’t just want to know how to make delicious foods, I wanted to know why certain foods were delicious, and how they affect the human body. It was after I was awarded my qualification that I first considered studying nutrition, however, looking into the requirements I was faced with the reality that due to never completing VCE math or science I would be required to do another certificate to gain these competencies before I could pursue degree-level study, which I was told wouldn’t be funded by the government due to my two prior qualifications. Lamenting, dismayed and struggling financially after just moving out of home I decided to take some time off to gather my thoughts. Soon after this decision I was involved in my first major car accident, where I was struck as a pedestrian and left in significant amounts of pain, additionally, I was suffering badly with my wisdom teeth coming through and having to wait for an extraction through the public system (which literally took over four years). Not being able to work many hours due to the pain I was stuck being unable to save for my future study or anything else, so just kept on working as much as I could, not really knowing what else to do. One night months later a friend suggested that I look at Deakin University, who, she said, are notoriously supportive in helping students transition into higher degrees, even if they didn’t have the right background. I found that they had built their Health Sciences degree with people like me in mind, offering introductory units for those of us who had not completed this field of study in senior high school. This initiated the start of my current journey.
I enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Sciences and assigned myself two majors, Nutrition and Food Studies, as well as all the electives required to get into a Master of Dietetics. The next three years were extremely rewarding, I was constantly amazed by everything I learned and greeted every day and every task with enthusiasm, but it was also very difficult, not only academically, but also medically. Half way though my second year I was in a second major car accident (can you believe my luck?) which resulted in a spinal injury and chronic pain that I carry with me through to today. In spite of this adversity, with the help of an amazing biochemistry tutor, the student led Peer Assisted Study Session (PASS) program, and supportive academic staff I made it through my undergraduate degree never getting below a distinction.
Having consistently high achievements under my belt I was given my pick of the litter for which university I’d like to study my Master of Nutrition and Dietetics, with a “don’t knock it til you’ve tried it” attitude and the eagerness to get away from the big city for a while, I opted for a tree change, leaving the big city of Melbourne to study at the University of Canberra, the countries only university to exclusively offer commonwealth supported places for this course of study. My year in Canberra challenged me to step far beyond my comfort zone and encouraged me to grasp every opportunity with both hands. With this in mind I applied to be a student representative on the Dietitians Association of Australia’s (DAA) engagement and development committee where I helped to organise events and improve engagement with DAA activities, all while building professional and social networks with some of the most kind-hearted, intelligent, and dedicated dietitians in the country. Throughout my year in Canberra I found myself facing unprecedented difficulties, including being unable to access the health care I needed to manage my pain. Ultimately, I have realised that in order to really thrive I need to get back to the big city of Melbourne. The staff at UC took my health needs on board when assigning placement and found me placements in rural Victoria and border Vic/NSW, 3-4 hours closer to home in comparison to Canberra.
And that’s the story so far. The next chapter begins. Over the coming months I will live and work in four different towns, gaining insight and experience into dietetic practice in a range of settings including community, clinical, and food service. By 2018, I will have made it to the end of an academic journey which started over a decade ago and will be able to apply to become an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.
This blog will follow me through the end of my academic life and well into my professional career, providing you with practical nutrition insights and delicious recipes that I’ve developed over a lifetime. Thank you for reading.
Until next time,