Gavithra Sivabalan was 26 when she left her family and friends, packed up her life in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur and made the move to Tasmania, pursuing her dream of becoming a pharmacist.
What she didn’t know was that in her final year of study, she would be sent on a placement to Oatlands, a rural town in the Tasmanian midlands with a population of 683 people.
That’s a pretty big difference to Kuala Lumpur’s 1.8 million…
“I had never been in a rural area before in my life!” Gavithra said. “It wasn’t a planned thing for me, I just wanted to try something new.”
It turns out, this was exactly what Gavithra needed.
She had spent the first two years of her degree at the International Medical University in Kuala Lumpur before transferring her credit to the University of Tasmania through our partnership program.
“Studying in Malaysia was overwhelming, with long hours spent on lectures, workshops and learning sessions. I had no time to myself, so I decided to come to an island to focus on my studies and all the different opportunities,” Gavithra said.
“I loved Tasmania from the first day I arrived – it’s so beautiful, pristine and breathtaking.”
During her placement in Oatlands, Gavithra worked alongside the only pharmacist in town, getting first-hand experience servicing the pharmacy, multi-purpose health centre and respite care facility.
“I learned so much – where do I start?” Gavithra said.
“Firstly, the importance of being flexible with timing and being accountable, especially in a rural community.
“Although Tasmania can be slower in pace, I, as a pharmacist, must be on time – many people depend on us and every minute counts.
“You must also cater to everyone’s needs, be attentive and patient-centred – sometimes it’s the questions that aren’t asked that make all the difference.”
Gavithra embraced life in Oatlands and the locals embraced her right back, kindly gifting her fresh produce and sharing their travel tips. She even attended the annual Heritage and Bullock Festival, spending time with everyone she met in her three weeks.
“There’s a severe shortage of pharmacists in rural areas at the moment,” said Gavithra.
“It’s a special feeling to work somewhere that you’re really needed and wanted.”
Although Gavithra leads a busy life with study, her research project, working at a local pharmacy in Hobart and representing students on the Tasmanian Association of Pharmacy Students (TAPS) Committee, she still finds time to soak up history at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, cook with friends and go along to university events.
She’s also an adventurer at heart – her top hiking spots include the Tarkine, Dove Lake Circuit and Mount Field for the turning of the fagus.
“The placement really encouraged me to get back in touch with my community,” Gavithra said.
“I’ve only got a few more months, and I’ve got to make the most of it.
“I encourage all pharmacy students to choose something that’s going to challenge you, not something that’s going to keep you in your comfort zone.”
Gavithra is set to graduate later this year with a Bachelor of Pharmacy with Honours before starting her career as a fully qualified pharmacist.
Our Bachelor of Pharmacy with Honours allows you to enter the workplace sooner with Australia's only 3-year fast-track Pharmacy degree. Plus, you can make a difference in rural communities as part of the journey. Learn more