Savannah Hughes, 18

Savannah Hughes, 18

Student / University of Technology, Sydney

Student

Design, brand, business, work, and study… as if Savannah Hughes didn’t already have enough plates in the air, she’s also an active member of her high school community. Because unlike history would like us to believe, high school really does rock.

In between the classes and exam prep and assembly’s, there is community, and friendship and learning and organised social events… Ahhhh take us back. 

Savannah is the second part of our “Life After School Series” – in this interview she takes us behind the scenes to her time at high school, what impacted and drove her, and why she came to the conclusion that life really is what you make of it. 

We love the way that Savannah talks about her current Uni course with an air of “Trial and Error”, because despite knowing what she currently loves, she is also real enough to understand that this might change. 

Savannah is cut from the same cloth as some of the most incredible women that have graced the screens of this website, but on a personal level, what I find most endearing about this woman is her impeccable taste in podcasts and magazines (yep, we have the exact same favourite podcast right now… scroll down to see what it is).

Savannah is all that and more. Let’s dive in…

Hey, tell us a little about yourself, where do you live and what are you obsessed with right now? 

I’m Savannah and I’m from Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Right now I’m obsessed with bullet journaling.

What do you want to be, or do career wise right now? Has that changed since finishing high school?

I’ve just started studying design at UTS, and I’ve been considering going into business branding. I’m sure that’ll change a hundred times before I graduate, but for now that’s the dream, and has been for a little while now.

Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?

I went to two different high schools but I finished up at Barker College. I did the whole elite private school thing, complete with blazer and prefect badge. And yes, a lot of my friends are now studying law at Sydney Uni. Sorry to confirm the stereotype! But honestly, I loved it. I was (potentially still am?) obsessed with my school. I loved getting to know such a huge group of people and I was given opportunities to do everything from drama to debating to musicals to public speaking and everything in between. It really taught me to be a ‘yes’ person and just put myself out there, which I think is an important lesson we all need to learn.

Savannah interning at a branding agency!

Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?

Yeah, it did actually! Before I started at Barker I’d always kind of expected myself to follow the family path and go into business.

My Year 11/12 dream was actually to study marketing so I applied for early entry at Macquarie. I missed out on early entry and basically went to my career advisor like “my life is over, send help!!!” and he led me toward my current degree. (Thanks Mr Moody!!) I love what I’m doing, and I’m so thankful for that because it’s pretty unusual to love the first degree you try.

Who was your favourite teacher at school and why?

MR EASTMAN! Eastman was my Year 10 History teacher, and because I was pretty much the only 15 year old history nerd in the class we got really close. I had him again for Extension History in Year 12, and it was my favourite subject. Maybe it was my teacher, and maybe it was the subject (probably both), but I sat in class feeling like I was just having a good debate with my friends and then went home to study and realised how much I understood and how well prepared I was.

Basically, the history department is the best department of any high school. Fact.

Savannah and her mates at schoolies!

Did you complete any internships or work experience placements in high school? Or are you doing any now? Tell us about that experience. If no, tell us why?

I did an internship between graduating and starting uni at a major branding agency called Principals, and I found it absolutely invaluable. It’s honestly such a long break after graduating, I’d really recommend finding something productive to do with it. It’s hard to go from such intense study to just… well… nothing, and it might not be the blissful relaxation you expect.

I got really bored really fast so I found my internship was really helpful to keep me grounded. Internships are also an incredible way to get to know different industries. I’d had this idea that I wanted to go into branding, but I didn’t know what branding really was until i’d finished my internship.

This really confirmed that branding was something I could see myself doing. And on the flip side, I did my year 10 work experience in fashion and found I hated it, which is equally as useful. After that, I knew I didn’t want to pursue fashion further. Basically, all experience is good experience.

Couldn’t agree more! Are you in Uni or College or Tafe? What are you studying and why did you choose that course?

Yes! I am living the uni life! I currently study a double degree of Visual Communications, and Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII). I honestly kind of fell into studying design. I loved Design Technology in high school but it was always my ‘fun subject’, more of a hobby than a viable career path. As I said, business was always the expected and sensible option.

Eventually, I started looking for a way to combine the two, and was led to branding, which will basically allow me to design for businesses. That’s the best of both worlds, right?

Savannah after getting her license.

What’s the hardest thing about the course you are in?

The hardest thing about studying a creative degree so far is the comparison, and the subsequent insecurity. I know that sounds cliche, but it is for a reason.

So for example, our first assignment was in sketching. I can’t draw and I put my work up on the wall next to a friend of mine in that first week and genuinely thought “I’m going to have to drop out.” but then the week later, we did a photography assignment and my friend experienced the exact same feelings I had the week before.

It’s all strengths and weaknesses, and the hardest part is convincing yourself that you’re good enough despite all that.

Do you have a part time or full time job?

I recently started working part time at Bailey Nelson. I quit my old job to start at BN, which was big because I’d never quit a job before and I had no idea what I was doing but the risk paid off. The job is incredible, the people are incredible, the location is incredible and life is good!

Do you miss High School? If yes why? If no, tell us why?

I miss my high school a lot, honestly, and I know that’s really weird. I was heavily involved in my school, and I thrived there, so it was hard to let life take me to new places.

That said, my high school friends are still my best friends and I’m still an active member in my school community. I volunteer and speak there sometimes, and I go to all the plays and musicals. I’ve probably been back 5 times since graduating last September.

I honestly love going back to visit, it feels like coming home. That’ll sound crazy, I know, but that’s just the kind of place Barker is.

What does a day a typical day look like for you in your world? Take us on a day from the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to bed!

Ok! My life is crazy! Currently I’m working at Bailey Nelson 4 days, tutoring English, doing 4 days of uni and somehow keeping healthy and having a social life? I’m sure you all relate to that! Every day is different but I’m writing this on a Monday so here goes!

  • I got up around 6:15 this morning for a 9am lecture. It takes me about an hour and a half to get to uni, but it’s a beautiful bus ride along the coast so I don’t mind! This morning’s lecture was on ‘active observation’ for a subject called Thinking Through Design. It’s all about noticing and seeking inspiration from the little things, which I love.
  • The lecture is followed by a 2 hour tutorial where we discuss and sketch our ideas. From there, I get the ferry to work for my afternoon shift. I help people pick out glasses, take all their measurements, make and receive orders.
  • After closing the store, I grab a burrito from Guzman (read: bae) and head to my bible study. There’s about 15 people at my church in first and second year uni so we get together on a Monday to pray and read the bible. It’s a real highlight of my week, it really helps me put things in perspective.
  • From here, I’ll drive home and head to bed around 10. So welcome to my crazy life!
Who is your current hero, or someone you look up to?

Oh so many people! Strong women! Particular shout outs to my fave female pod-casters Bridget from Stuff Mom Never Told You and Jen Gotch from Jen Gotch is Ok…Sometimes. I’m also really into female produced music, so artists like Camp Cope and Stella Donnelly really inspire me for clearly laying down the law in terms of discrimination against women. (Welcome to my inner angry feminist side hahaha!)

Jen Gotch from Band.do and her podcast “Jen Gotch is ok… Sometimes”

What advice would you give girls who are in their final year of high school?

People always said to me your ATAR doesn’t matter. While this is probably true, it wasn’t comforting for me. It extracted even more purpose from all the study I was doing.

My advice is to do what you want to do, not what you think people want you to do.

Don’t do something to impress your parents, they love you anyway. But more than that, don’t study law because you’re the dux of your high school. Don’t study music because you’re the choir captain. Don’t study physio because you’re the captain of the netball team. Don’t let what people expect of you become what you expect of yourself. Sit yourself down and ask yourself what you actually want to do.

I wasn’t the best in my design class by any stretch of the imagination. I was the Crusader Captain, so I ran the bible studies and the lunchtime talks. My year group wouldn’t have been surprised if I went to bible college, or started working at a church, and yet here I am in design school absolutely loving life.

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