Victimised, suffering from anxiety and depression, dropped out of high school – and told she wasn’t smart enough to go to university.
Then Danielle Bowering chanced across an online ad for Flinders University’s Foundation Studies Program … and everything changed.
Two years later she is a member of Flinders’ Enhanced Program for High Achievers, and last month she was accepted into the Golden Key International Honour Society, the world’s largest collegiate honour society.
As Ms Bowering shares her story, perched on a seat in Flinders Laneway, it’s clear that she still can’t quite believe it has happened.
She shows her certificates as she speaks, thoroughly checking all of the dates, making sure she gives the right details; articulately describing a difficult but triumphant journey that most people don’t have to, and many lesser people couldn’t, make.
“I dropped out of high school in Year 11 because I was being bullied, and although I always had the support of my family and close friends, a lot of other people told me I wouldn’t be able to get into university,” she says.
“But I never gave up, even though I had no idea how I would get here.
“Then I came across Flinders’ Foundation Studies online and I noticed that I didn’t need Year 11 or Year 12, and that was a life saver for me.”
Her battle simply to make it through the front door of Flinders is proof enough of Ms Bowering’s determined nature, but the strength of her character becomes even clearer as she describes the struggle with low self-esteem that followed.
“When I left school I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and for a long time I felt like I had to be the least intelligent person in every room, and I struggled even with the most constructive criticism,” she says.
“But thankfully I had two really great tutors in the Foundation Studies Program who were really understanding of my issues.
“They made me feel valued in a way that I never had before, and I realised over time that they were trying to build me up, so slowly my anxiety eased and my confidence grew.”
Graduated from FSP and finally confident enough to undertake a BA, Ms Bowering’s academic ability was soon recognised by an invitation to join the BA High Achievers Program, majoring in English and minoring in Sociology and Philosophy.
Any lingering doubts about her potential were finally dispelled last month when she was accepted into the Golden Key Society.
Of course it’s not all about academic success, and she says one of the biggest differences in her life is that she also finally feels like she fits in.
“I discovered at Flinders that there were a lot more people like me than I thought. Before, I didn’t really feel like I was fitting in, because I wanted to study and wanted to do something in life that I was really passionate about.
“Here I found a lot of people who are just as passionate as I am, about a whole range of different things, and that has been so positive for me.”
While still not sure exactly what she wants to do, she knows it’s something that will make a difference for other people in a similar situation to the one she once faced.
“When I left high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and for a long time I didn’t really care, but the Foundation Studies Program changed that,” she says.
“When my tutors told me that I was capable and that they believed in me, I saw in them the kind of person that I wanted to be; and in what they did for me, I saw the kind of difference I wanted to make for others.
“I’d like to have a job like that. I think I’d even like to have it at Flinders.”