St Columba

St Columba College


Foundation Student Success: Dr Patrick Korbel

I have fond memories of my time at St Columba College and I can’t believe how much we’ve both grown since I started there in 1997! I still remember my first day when everything was brand new – the students, the furniture, the buildings and the teachers. There were some things we didn’t have yet, like a proper canteen or sports oval, but it was a great time to be at the school. What made it most was the people of St Columba – the students, the teachers and the rest of the staff – that’s what made the College special.

One of the most important contributions that St Columba College made to my educational journey was recognising and celebrating academic achievement. I remember when I was in Year 4, we had an end-of-year presentation ceremony and I was awarded the Academic Achievement Award for my class. I don’t think I even knew what it was or what it meant at the time, but it had a profound effect on me. I took pride in my academic achievements and tried to the best that I could do at school.

The other important part of my experience at St Columba were the teachers and their passion and drive to help us succeed. In particular, Chris Russack, Joanne Livingstone, Neralie Forbes and Nathan Lane were important influences on me. They were always engaged and helped me to recognise what I could do and what I could become. They all fostered a great learning environment, which was fun and interesting, and challenged their students to do better.

One of my fellow students at St Columba once asked me, ‘Why do you always do well at school?’ Back then I said I just always listened to the teacher – I think I still agree with that answer. If you can genuinely listen and engage with your work, you can achieve so much. You won’t always be good at the things you try, but the most important part is to give it a go. This is also true throughout secondary school and further study.

If I could give only one other piece of advice, it would be to find things that you are passionate about and keep pursuing them. When you’re picking Year 12 subjects, University degrees, TAFE courses or careers, make sure that it’s something that can interest you and excite you too. It’s always easier to motivate yourself when you’re doing something that interests you.

One of my biggest passions has been volunteering to help children in need. At the beginning of University, I started volunteering for Toc H Camps because my friend had volunteered and said they needed help. Volunteering for the camps has brought great personal satisfaction and life-long friendships, but I have also learned and grown so much as well. From my start as a fledgling newbie who didn’t know his way around, I’ve since started running the camps with my friend and I’m now the director of the Toc H in South Australia.

Your time at university can be great if that is the right path for you. It’s your chance to choose your own direction and find out what really interests you. You might know exactly what you want to do and how you’re going to get there or, like myself, you find your own path along the way by following your interests. You get to meet and study with people interested in the same things as you, but also with a whole range of other people that can teach you new things. If you decide to go to University, go with your eyes wide open and ready to try new things.

In Year 12, I studied Specialist Mathematics, Mathematical Studies, Physics, Chemistry and English. When I first started at University, I decided to pursue my interest in politics, but kept up with Mathematics – intending one day
to switch back to studying Science full-time. I enjoyed it so much, I ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Politics.

From there, I was fortunate enough to study an Honours years in pure Mathematics. After that year, I decided I wanted to keep my connection with Mathematics, but I didn’t want to be a mathematician. I chose to do a PhD on Mathematics Education, which combined my interest in Mathematics and my desire to make a difference to children’s appreciation of Mathematics. After finishing my PhD, I was employed by the National Centre of Vocational Education Research to do research on vocational education and training.

On Thursday, 28 April, I received my PhD from the Department of Mathematics & Engineering from the University of Adelaide.

As you can see, I never had a firm plan or idea of where I was going to end up – in fact, I still don’t really! Further study can take you to many interesting places, but I’m a firm believer in taking it all as it comes. Always be ready to try something new and take a chance on something that interests or excites you!

Dr Patrick Korbel Foundation Student