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Generally speaking, how have you found the first few months of Staff College?

I’m pretty happy. I came here very excited and terrified of how hard it would be learn all these new things – and I wasn’t wrong! It is a total change in focus for me, which is what I wanted.

What have been the highlights?

Probably all the people I’ve met at the college across the board. We are all mixed in when we’re placed in syndicates and conference groups – a mix of all three services and international students as well. It’s new and different for me and I am loving that aspect of it. Hearing all about what the overseas students are doing is fascinating – not just their home countries and militaries, but how they are finding life in Canberra. I don’t think they are overly impressed with the winters, although the Canadians think we’re all soft!

We had an international day at the college in March that was a brilliant event. Each of the nations represented at the college had a table with information about their country and culture and, most importantly, their food! The food was amazing, the people with kids brought them along, and it was a great atmosphere.

What have been the challenges?

The main challenge for me has been getting used to studying again, and at the masters level. There is a lot of reading to do and it can get away from you if you’re not diligent with it. I am pretty good at prioritising and multi-tasking but, as the year goes on, it’s important to give yourself a chance to re-energise.

How are you finding the academic workload?

It has been non-stop since the year started – the assessments, like essays and exams, never seem to end! It has been an exercise in time management and keeping on top of the workload – it can overwhelm you if you’re not careful. Also, doing exams is new for me – I literally hadn’t done any since I did my HSC (which was a long time ago).

But I keep it in perspective that this is what I am currently paid to do, so it’s what I’ll do. You just have to keep that work-life balance.

How are you dealing with the predominantly military environment?

I have had no issues with that whatsoever; it has been very positive. My Army colleagues in the syndicate were very helpful in explaining concepts like ‘JMAP’ to me when we were studying operational art – it was all new for me and I found it hard to wrap my head around. They were able to dumb it right down for me so I could grasp it conceptually, then go from there.

The only time I’ve been really aware of my non-military status was at our commencement dinner. They have so many rules and conventions for those events. I only made one minor faux pas (I went to sit down before we were allowed to) but I think I covered it!

What is the college’s social life like?

Every day there is a social occasion in the form of morning tea in the mess. For me, that’s a great chance to catch up with people over a coffee. I have found people here to be extremely friendly and keen for a chat. It makes it really easy to get to know everyone.

Socially, it has been good but the workload is so intense that a lot of people have focused on keeping on top of their work. We had a week-long capability tour of Sydney and Adelaide and that had a real ‘bonding’ element. We all travelled and worked as a group and, after the day was over, our time was our own and it was great. I got to know a lot of other course members that way by going out for dinner.