Many students come to tertiary studies with the dream of heading overseas to make it big but it can be daunting, and the path unclear.
Griffith University Journalism graduate Sarah Binney has shown how that can be done, leaving the comforts of home to rub shoulders with the best in the world.
“It was always a dream of mine to move to New York,” she says.
“I grew up in central Queensland, in Gladstone, so it’s a very small industrial town; all through high school, I was plotting my escape.
“I had never visited, I had never been out of Australia; I just had it in my head that I wanted the complete opposite of where I grew up and I was like, ‘What’s the opposite of Gladstone? What’s the biggest city in the world?’ I just always wanted to come here.”
“Without having that degree … I wouldn’t be in New York at all.”
Sarah says her Griffith degree was pivotal in making her lifelong dream of living and working in New York a reality.
“I think having that foundational education in journalism has been crucial to being where I am now, and I think having the amazing professors that I had at Griffith had a huge impact on that as well,” she says.
“I honestly feel like having the journalism background has been really foundational for the work I’m doing now.
“Without having that degree, I would never have been able to have the J1, I wouldn’t have qualified for the Green Card; so really, without that, I wouldn’t be in New York at all.”
Sarah is now a public affairs specialist for New York University, and is also combining that with completing a master’s degree at NYU’s prestigious Gallatin School of Individualised Study.
“I cover the arts and music programs for the Steinhart School, so we have a lot of amazing programs, amazing events, amazing faculty,” she says.
“There’s always really interesting projects happening, so I’m always connecting with professors and finding a way to get them media exposure.
“I’m also a student here at NYU doing my graduate degree with the Gallatin School of Individualised Study. Gallatin is a build-your-own-degree type of program, so I’m doing a mix of journalism, multimedia and international relations, so every semester I work with my adviser to choose my courses and, at the end, I name my degree.”
“I do think that interdisciplinary study is the future, especially in the media industry,” she continues. “I feel like that’s evolving so quickly that we need new approaches to education to keep up.
“For me, it felt like the natural course of things to be able to pull in these aspects that might not be offered in a traditional journalism degree.”
Sarah spoke to me in the shadow of the arch at Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, one of the great meeting grounds for NYU students and staff.
“NYU is in and of the city, we often say, so it’s quite different from other US campuses where they have these big sprawling grounds and huge lawns,” she says. “NYU is really like in the middle of New York city, which comes with major advantages and benefits.
“Washington Square Park serves as the quad, so to speak, but it’s just an amazing place to be. You feel the vibe of the city; it has such life and electricity. There’s always musicians playing, and dogs, which is my favourite part of coming here.
“I think that’s a misconception of New York as well – that people are just packed on top of each other and there isn’t space to relax – but I think what New York does so well is its green spaces.
“My mum will often say, ‘I don’t know how you can stand living in the city,’ and I’m like, ‘This is my backyard, it’s amazing!’
And Sarah thinks she’ll be staying in the Big Apple for sometime now.
“I love Australia and I love Brisbane, but I really wanted something more,” she says.
“I don’t really see myself leaving any time soon.
“I can’t really identify another place in the world that has everything New York has.”
She encourages other students to never lose sight of their dreams or why they started studying in the first place.
“I think anyone has those opportunities but it’s tough; you really have to want it,” she says.
“As much as New York is a dream and I love living here, it’s obviously very tough as well. You have to leave behind your friends and your family and things that are familiar, so you really have to want to step outside of your comfort zone and force yourself to engage with the world in completely new ways.
“Jump on every opportunity, even when things feel scary. Trust your instincts. I’d never visited New York. I had no idea know what to expect, but something felt right about it and, when I first came over here, everything fell into place in a way that I wasn’t quite expecting.
“I think it’s because my gut was telling me that this is where I should be. If you have that feeling, even if it is scary, then it’s really worth pursuing.”