From hardship to triumph, graduate shares her unconventional path to success

From hardship to triumph, graduate shares her unconventional path to success

Growing up, Lauren Watson didn’t think higher education was an option. Now, she’ll be among the thousands of RMIT University students graduating this year.

Reflecting on her upbringing in a low-socioeconomic household, Watson recalls experiencing bouts of homelessness, hunger, and limited access to essentials such as running water for showers. 

She left high school early to help her mother financially by taking on waitressing and cashier jobs.

“Education wasn’t something that was quite valued at home, so university was never discussed as even being an option,” Watson said. 

Watson’s mother was an immigrant and had been supporting the family by working as a cleaner her entire life.

“One day at work, we don’t know what happened, but my mother went unconscious and suffered a serious concussion,” Watson said. 

Watson’s mother's cognitive ability suffered significantly, forcing her to become the unofficial carer for her mum and take a more serious role at home. 

“I realised there weren’t a lot of options available that were going to keep me financially secure enough with my current academic background,” Watson said.

“That’s when I came across RMIT’s pathway to go from a diploma to a bachelor’s and I was like, oh, hang on a minute, I could do that. There’s a chance I could get a degree and I got excited.”


Lauren applied to the Diploma of Business and started the pathway program in February of 2021.

The sudden jump back into education was a huge learning curve as she had to relearn the basics of education, such as how to study, write an essay, and analyse case studies. 

However, once finding her footing, Lauren regained her love of education and felt as though she had found her place – a place where she belonged.

“Starting with a diploma was a good introduction back into study life, and I like how there’s an option for you to opt out of the pathway after two years if you didn’t want to continue into higher education,” Watson said.

Watson decided to continue her pathway into the Bachelor of Business (People & Organisation). She noted how RMIT’s pathway options for an undergraduate degree are unique in Australia and was surprised more people weren’t utilising it.

Watson is thankful for her tutors who created a supportive space where students who come from a rural, low socio-economic background can learn and feel included.

Dr Patricia Dina Pariona-Cabrera, who teaches RMIT’s People Analytics Course, found Watson’s perseverance to achieve academic goals during her studies truly inspiring.

“Lauren has been an outstanding student demonstrating a keen understanding on any subject matter and consistently producing high-quality work,” Pariona-Cabrera said.

“I am confident that she will find many job opportunities due to her skills, knowledge and experience.”

Reflecting on her time at RMIT, Watson said it has been one of the most eye-opening, soul-searching and unbelievable experiences of her life.

“Too often, people with backgrounds like mine find themselves victims of a perpetuating cycle related to these circumstances, and often do not know how to break out,” Watson said.

Whilst the journey has not been easy, Watson noted that it has been extremely fulfilling through meeting many incredible people who have shaped her outlook and future, coming out on the other side as a better person.

“This is not a sad story; this is one of triumph,” Watson said.

“One that I’m proud to share, and one that I hope could somehow, someday, inspire others with difficult backgrounds to go after the things they want in life.”

Learn more about the various pathway options offered at RMIT University.


  • Alumni
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Student experience

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.