Maggie Zhou, 19

Maggie Zhou, 19

Student / Monash University


We’ll warn you now – the interview you are about to read gives a snapshot into the life of Maggie Zhou, a student at Monash University in Melbourne, a Year 12 English Tutor, not to mention freelance writer, designer and communicator. This interview will most definitely push you to raise the bar in your own life, as Maggie has the grit of a seasoned woman in the work force, despite being only 19 years old.

I first met Maggie two years ago at our very first Cool Career event. Maggie, surrounded by her posse of mates sat intensely in the audience. From the get go you could see that this girl was going places, but more importantly, you could feel her effortless, fierce but friendly vibe… yes, she practically shone.  

This series is called “Life After School” because yes, it is important to learn from those women living and breathing remarkable careers (such as the 100’s on this website), but it’s also intrinsically important to document the start of the journey, the life after school,  and whatever that looks like.

We couldn’t think of a more booming way to start this series then with Maggie Zhou, let’s begin.

Hey Maggie,  so pumped that you have allowed us to tell your story. Tell us a little about yourself, where do you live and what are you obsessed with right now?

Hey there! I’m Maggie, a uni student born and bred in Melbourne (Australia’s best city, duh). Currently I’m loving chai lattes (leaves, not powder please!) and nights where I unwind by taking a bath, watching Netflix and completing a long skin care routine. Bliss.

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

I’ve always said I just want to do something that I love – anything else is just a waste of time. I don’t know exactly what I want to be and find it rare that people my age do. I do know that I am super interested in the fields of journalism/communications/design. One of my dream jobs would be a magazine editor. I have the deepest love for writing, photography and design so to be able to combine all my passions would be amazing.

In high school, I knew I was vaguely interested in these areas – it made sense that English, Media, Studio and Business were my favourite and highest performing subjects. But with my further studies, it’s made me really realise that this is the path I want to go down.

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

I went to McKinnon Secondary Collage, a high calibre co-ed public school. I was super fortunate to attend such a wonderful school and have nothing but fond memories. I’m a pretty academic person and the school system worked for me, but I’m well aware that it privileges certain types of learners over others. I had great teachers, great friends and picked subjects which I loved. Of course, it wasn’t all rainbows and cupcakes. Like everyone else, I had my fair share of tears, break downs and shit days. There was drama, changed friendship circles and a lot of insecurity. I’ve since grown from that and I do believe it’s helped to shape me today.

Who was your favourite teacher at school and why?

Too many! If I had to choose one, it would be JJ, my Year 12 English teacher. He is the smartest, kindest, most humble, funny, flamboyant man to grace the school. I would meet students from other schools and they had even heard of him! His English skills are extraordinary, I think he instilled a love for English in so many of the students. We wouldn’t just be learning about grammar or analysis or whatever, he would be teaching us life lessons as well. He’s just marvellous.

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

Yes and no – I’m so sorry but maths methods has been utterly useless to me! But knowing what subjects I did enjoy and was good at definitely shaped what I wanted to do. What was more important though, was what I did out of school. I found myself Instagram and blogging constantly throughout my final years and eagerly waiting my subscriptions of Frankie and Yen magazine to arrive in the mail.

It’s what I did outside of the compulsory 9-5 which really showed me where my passions laid.

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?

In year 10 I (regrettably) opted out of the Central Australia camp and had to do work experience instead. It wasn’t related to my immediate career but I volunteered at a kindergarten for a week (the one I went to, in fact!) It was super fun and I came back with lots of glittery artwork. My goal this year was to hopefully score an internship. I had applied to a few before and heard radio silence. I was then lucky enough to land an editorial internship at one of my favourite media publications – Broadsheet!

Maggie already has a very impressive online portfolio, care of her role at Broadsheet.

Applying was stressful enough, I spent three hours one Thursday night instead of going out working on it. I just finished my three month stint there where I went in one or two days a week. It was bloody fantastic. Yes, it was unpaid but yes, I learnt so much. I got to work with such a cool team, write (actually write!) articles and conduct interviews. I left with heaps of new skills, friends from the fellow interns and by-lines and stories for my writing portfolio.

I also just begun a new internship, this time focusing on social media and content strategy. It’s at a company called Liven, a dining rewards app where you eat and earn at selected restaurants. It’s pretty cool. I’m learning a wide variety of skills – from writing newsletters and blog posts to curating an Instagram feed… it doesn’t feel like a real job!

Entering new workplaces can be pretty daunting but I think it’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone and embrace the whole experience.

Are you in Uni or College or Tafe? What are you studying and why did you choose that course?

Last year, I was doing a double degree of communication design and business at Monash University. Business was okay, I only did one subject but I was dreading micro-economics and other jargon-y subjects. This year, Monash began a new bachelor degree – media communication! It encompasses journalism, media, film, public relations and digital humanities. I was actually tossing up between that degree at RMIT but was won over by Monash’s double degree program. Now, I’ve kept design and have picked up media communication instead of business. And it’s perfect for me.

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

The workload is quite heavy for design.

There’s basically weekly assessments due and it’s pretty mentally tiring forcing yourself to think creatively 24/7. Because design and art can be really personal, it’s quite nerve-wracking sharing and being marked on your work. There’s a saying that goes,

“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

And that’s very true for me, I’m always juggling five things at once. But as a busy person, you gotta look out and make time for yourself.

Sometimes, all a busy person wants is a cup of tea and a long nap. Please and thank you.

Do you have a part time or full time job?

No, but I do work a few casual jobs. I just quit my retail job a couple weeks ago but I’m still regularly tutoring Year 12 English. Aside from that, I just picked up a small communications manager role for my friend’s business. I also occasionally design print ads for a family friend’s transport company. On top of that, I sometimes receive paid influencer opportunities.

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

I really loved high school – I had a really great group of friends and enjoyed learning. So yes, I miss it in a way. But I don’t ever think of going back. I love the lifestyle of uni and how my life has expanded since leaving school.

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!

I love planning my week in advance so here’s what my Tuesday coming up looks like:

  • 7:30am: Wake up. No Maggie, don’t press snooze – get up! I get ready for uni.
  • 9am-11am: Editing and Design class. It’s super basic and fun.
  • 11am-12pm: Quick lunch break. I meet up with a friend who I did a shoot with on the weekend to grab the photos off her SD card. I then meet up with my university magazine’s editors to grab a few copies of the latest edition.
  • 12-2pm: Another class – practice of journalism. Last week we had to go around campus interviewing strangers. I don’t have enough self control so I’ll probably get a chai.
  • 2pm: I hop on a train to a local café. I get there early to snap some photos before sitting down to conduct a face-to-face interview with the owner. This is for one of the magazines I volunteer at, our next edition is about Heroes.
  • 3:45pm: I rush back home. Probably eat something. I tutor at 4:30pm for an hour.
  • 5:30pm: I get to R E L A X… for a second. I’ll take a hot shower and chill before dinner.
  • 6:30pm: I chomp down my dinner (thanks mum).
  • 7:30pm: My boyfriend picks me up so I can watch him and our friends play futsal.
  • 9pm: I get home. I’ll do some work – either for uni, my blog or emails and such.
  • 11pm: I’ll get ready for bed and spend too much time on Instagram.
  • 11:30pm: I set my alarm for 6:45am (way too early in my opinion!) I conk out before another big day ahead.
Who is your current hero, or someone you look up to?

My answer is always my older sister Cindy. I think she’s ace. She’s 24 (I think) and the smartest person I probably know. She’s a teacher and also is just super empathetic and strong.

In the creative industry, one of my biggest crushes right now is Daphne Nguyen. She’s a Sydney based photographer around my age who is KILLING the game. Her work is super quirky and she knows her way with a camera. Recently, she travelled to New York with Sarah Ellen which is a dream.

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

Slow down and enjoy it. I know exams are coming up and I know they’re important but frankly, in a year’s time you won’t even be thinking about it. Do try hard, do put in your best work; it’s an accumulation of your past thirteen years of schooling, I would want something to show of that. As you’ve read from other Cool Career interviews, there are endless pathways into doing what you want to do, this is just one of the ways.

Enjoy the short time you have left. Enjoy the Year 12 centre which constantly smells like grilled cheese sandwiches (or was that just my school…), seeing your mates every day and the little community you formed over the last few years.

I’ll let you know something else. I actually got 99.6 for my ATAR and no one cares! Honestly. I don’t think I was ever asked at uni and definitely not in a work environment. At the end of the day, it’s simply a number. Nothing more.

Maggie’s Resource List

  • Favourite Website: Broadsheet (biased – sorry!)
  • Name an Instagram Account that you can’t go a day without checking: @therealjadetunchy
  • Favourite Podcast: Do Go On
  • Favourite Netflix/ Stan Series: Gilmore Girls
  • Favourite all time book or mag: Frankie Magazine
  • Favourite Fashion Brand: Current inspo via Verge Girl
  • Favourite Stationary brand: Give me any paper or pen, it’ll do the job

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