Date posted: 30/07/2021

Business student Oscar Cheal on why rural and regional students should say yes to opportunity

We speak to Oscar Cheal, business student and inaugural recipient of the Chartered Accountants ANZ-CEF Scholarship, about his journey as a student growing up in rural Lightning Ridge NSW and his advice for other students who are in similar positions.

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According to Oscar, growing up in a small country town suited his personality well. He has always enjoyed the tight-knit nature of his local community in Lightning Ridge NSW Australia and knowing that anyone in the area would give you a helping hand if you asked.

"It's definitely very relaxing and quiet where I'm from. Sydney and other cities can get really full on sometimes and there's always something happening, but out there it's pretty quiet and calm, and you can get some fresh air and relax," says Oscar.

At the age of 12, Oscar moved 800 kms away from home to Sydney's North Shore where he attended Knox Grammar School as a full-time boarder.

Oscar Cheal
Oscar Cheal, business student and inaugural recipient of the CA ANZ-CEF Scholarship.

"My parents have always been extremely passionate about securing educational opportunities for us that far surpass the ones locally available in our region. They work their absolute hardest with the resources they have, but sometimes we have to look a little further for greater opportunities," says Oscar.

Reflecting on his boarding school experience that brought a wealth of challenges and learnings his way over six years, Oscar says there's nothing quite like living with 50-odd brothers.

"I really didn't know what to expect at first but what I do know is that you get to know people pretty quickly. What makes them tick, what invites chaos, and how to support those around you who may be going through tough times," says Oscar.

The structured learning schedule and collaborative environment allowed Oscar to thrive. Set study times and exciting school commitments also helped to develop his teamwork abilities and appreciation for the strengths others can bring to the table - among other skills.

"I have a tendency to take on more than I can handle alone, so being in that kind of learning environment allowed me to develop a deep set of organisational and time management skills that forged my path to excel," says Oscar.

"I am a very driven person and am aspiring towards a big future for myself. In doing that, I can't forget about my country roots and doing what I can to give back to those who have educated, uplifted and inspired me to succeed."
Oscar Cheal, business student and inaugural recipient of the CA ANZ-CEF Scholarship.

What people find most surprising about Oscar is that he studied drama in his senior years. He believes this experience enhanced his ability to present himself in front of people without fear.

"I was more of a rugby player as opposed to a drama student at heart, but I can't deny the confidence it's given me, even today. It's a skill that has really helped in my most recent endeavours where I have opportunities to grow my network, engage with potential mentors and take on new experiences in the accounting world," says Oscar.

Oscar was lucky enough to have his older brother with him while at boarding school which helped to combat some feelings of homesickness, but when his mother was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer it really tested him.

"It was a serious challenge knowing that I was so far away from my mum and could do nothing to help. But it definitely put me in a situation where I relied on my boarding school family for support, something I wouldn't have been able to learn if I was at home in Lightning Ridge," says Oscar.

"Thankfully, my mum is cancer free today and doing a lot better. I'm so proud of her and look up to her more than you can imagine. When you find yourself in a situation like this, it teaches you to be resilient and ultimately selfless in the care you can offer to those who are most important in your life."

Oscar wants to encourage any young person living in rural or regional parts of the country to seize every opportunity that comes their way.

"Thanks to the opportunities provided by my parents, I am now studying a business degree at St Andrews College in Sydney and working towards a life where I can give back to my rural community and make a true difference," says Oscar.

Here are Oscar's tips for how other rural students can make the most of their situation and pursue their dreams like he did:

You might live in a small town, but you can still think big! Be brave and bold in your decisions, especially if they take you out of your comfort zone or away from home for a time to gain new experiences.

Take everything you can out of each and every situation you find yourself in. This applies to the people you interact with, too - absorb their knowledge, experience and insight.

Employ a growth mindset and investigate opportunities like scholarships, internships and seek out mentors to set you on your career path.

Reach out to your local Country Education Foundation (CEF) and collaborate with them on potential learning opportunities.

CA ANZ-CEF Scholarship

At CA ANZ, we want to inspire the next generation of accounting professionals to succeed. To learn more about the CA ANZ-CEF Scholarship.

Find out more

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