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Your Stories – Meet Gemma

Gemma sitting in the courtyard near the Shortland bridge smiling at the camera

Name: Gemma 

Degree: Bachelor of Communications majoring in Public Relations 

What made you decide to do this degree? 

I originally started in media production. In high school I wanted to be a librarian, I was really set on that but all of my teachers said go to uni, aim higher ad keep your options open. That’s when I found the Bachelor of Communication. In year 12 I studied a digital media class and I really enjoyed it. With that course still fresh in my mind I decided to major in media production but I found out quickly that I didn’t enjoy the filming and behind the scenes aspect. From there I looked at public relations and honestly, I really didn’t know what it was to begin with but going through the process it has worked out really well. 

Gemma at the Mount Tomaree lookout, on a day excursion with the Uni Newcastle Exchange Student Network. 

Do you have an idea where you’d like to take uni? 

No, not yet to be honest. This is my final year, I only have one semester left, so I have the next six months to try and figure it out. At the moment I’m looking at a position overseas so I’m really open to going anywhere and doing any kind of niche. I don’t have anything set but I’m just going with the flow. I came back from a semester exchange to Canada last year and that really spurred my desire to travel. I came back from exchange with just one elective left, and I contemplated fitting in the last short course overseas, but I decided instead to stay local and just get the year done. 

Did you enjoy your exchange experience in Canada? 

I absolutely loved it. I went to Victoria University on Vancouver Island and it was amazing. I made an awesome group of friends during Orientation week, we all just clicked. Every weekend or break we would go off travelling to explore the island. 

Gemma on semester exchange at the University of Victoria, Canada. 

Are you involved in any clubs at the uni? 

I started the Sign Language Club at the end of 2020 after finishing the two Auslan courses. At first it was quite difficult due to COVID, things were slow moving and learning club guidelines and rules took a while to get our heads around. 2021 was our first year running events but unfortunately a lot of them were online so they didn’t receive a lot of engagement which was a bit heart breaking. In 2022 however, we started doing more events in person, engaging with our members and building a loyal base which was really good to see. Since then, it’s really taken off. The sign language club would not be what it is without the other executive members pulling their weight and making it all work. 

What do you do when you get together? 

A pretty popular one is movie night, we’ll choose a movie that incorporates deaf culture and/or sign language, have some pizza and popcorn and just watch movies with subtitles. The Belier Family, a French movie from back in 2014 features a hearing daughter in a deaf family that becomes their translator so that was quite eye opening for a lot of people who hadn’t considered the deaf/ hearing family dynamic. 

The Sign Language Club stall at O-Week 2023. 

(Kaitlin’s note: I went and watched this movie after speaking with Gemma, it was exceptionally heartwarming, funny and informative. As someone with little knowledge and experience regarding deaf culture, it was eye opening and I highly recommend watching it.) 

Is there anything you’d like to share? 

Get involved. A lot of students come to class, do the minimum and go home. I know we all have busy lives but join one club, come to Orientation or different events on campus. You’ll have a more positive, community-focused uni experience and not just the ‘education’, that’s what university is all about. Joining a club whether you’re a member or executive is something you can put on your resume. Teamwork, event managing, all of these different skills come from that.  

If you’d like to share your student story, comment below or send an email to 

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